More than a decade ago when I took the plunge to become a full-time business owner, I experienced all of the excitement and challenges that come with creating a productive home office. It took a little while to find my groove and create systems and layouts that complemented my working style. Then a few years ago, we moved and I was faced with setting up a new office, one that I would share with my husband, who worked from home a few days a week at the time. It was a bumpy ride and I learned a lot from the process. Here are some things you should figure out if you are considering sharing your home office space, either with a spouse or an employee.
First of all, as nice as it is to have an officemate right there in your home office to chat with during downtime, you need to be realistic. Can your home office really be shared? Here are some of the most important questions to ask yourself:
- Is the office big enough for two?
- Do you have adequate space for equipment and storage?
- Do your working styles mesh (i.e., it’s a red flag if one of you like background music on all day, and the other likes silence or if one of you is primarily on the phone all day)?
- Does either one of you get easily distracted?
Think through your day-to-day activities and make list of the things that would prevent you from working productively. Have your potential office partner do the same, then compare notes. Watch for red flags that scream: “Office sharing will not work here.” If this happens to you, it’s time to find another nook in your home to be a second home office, or find an outside placement for one of you.
Determine the Must-Haves
Okay, so you make it past the first checkpoint and there are no glaring signs that sharing the home office is a bad idea. Now, you need to figure out what it will take to get two workspaces set up and fully functional. Consider this list of possibilities:
- Two desks and possibly an open workspace for writing or equipment
- Two business-only computers with multiple software licenses
- A phone system with multiple lines or potentially conferencing functionality.
- A printer that can be set up on your home network for joint use
- Shared files via the cloud or networked server
- Storage for supplies and other equipment
These are commons tools that are essential for a shared home office, but be sure to add any additional must-have tools to your own list. Your list of must-haves will be specific to the type of work you are doing, and it is likely to change over time. Since you won’t necessarily know what needs will be coming in the future, make sure you can at least accommodate the must-haves for right now.
In the case of office sharing with an employee, you may be able to share some of the same equipment by creating a schedule that has you working on different tasks at different times. Think through a typical day to figure out how you can balance your workload with one shared workspace.
Make the Space Work
Since most home offices are limited in space (many being the size of a guest bedroom), it will be important for you to maximize the space you have by making each area accommodate several different functions. You’ll need to consider the space you have available and then figure out how to make it as useful as possible, in terms of function, storage and usability. Here are some inspiring ideas to consider:
- One wall with side-by-side desks
- U-shaped desk areas and countertop
- Home office cubicles with privacy wall
- Creative wall storage to save desk space
As you create your plan, keep in mind issues that may come up when sharing a home office with an employee (i.e., coordinating work hours and providing access to the office when you’re not there) so you can head off any challenges before they cause problems.
In my case, we were able to create a productive and functional shared home office. It was great to have a partner right next to me to bounce ideas off of and brainstorm together when needed. In the end, our office-sharing days were short-lived when my husband changed jobs and no longer worked from home, but it was nice to know we could revert back to a home office for two if we ever needed to.
Remember, that even though you are sitting in the same office, you can ramp up productivity even more by using digital tools to streamline your work when it comes to file sharing, collaboration, data backup and more. For more information on productivity-enhancing home offices, check out this article.