Covid lockdown forced many couples to suddenly work from home, together, often from a spare room or corner of the living room. For many this was at first quite a positive experience yet for others it soon became a cause of conflict.
Like many married couples running a business together we’ve been sharing a workspace for years and went through the pain of figuring out how to make that work quite some time ago. We now feel like old(ish) pros at this!
Working together has become a very interesting topic of conversation that often comes up as an aside when we are talking with clients. They often ask is working with your partner really a good idea? Are there tax benefits to working with your partner? And Perhaps the big question is… how do you work together with a spouse without wanting to kill each other? :-)
Let’s share some of our personal experiences of working with your partner, alongside some professional tips too…
Working with your spouse in the same company
There is quite a difference between both working alongside each other in a shared space and working together in the same business.
The former essentially means you are hot desking in the same space - and may still answer to someone else, the latter means you are in the same business together answering to yourselves.
We are specifically addressing working together in the same business throughout this article.
Is working with your partner from home a good idea?
That’s not such an easy question to answer because it really depends on your dynamic and how you both like to work. The flippant response would be, why wouldn’t it be a good idea if you have already decided to spend the rest of your life together? However, the rest of your life doesn’t have to mean 24/7 and this is what it almost becomes when you work and live together too so it does require some careful consideration.
Let’s take a look at a few pros and cons to weigh up the argument:
What are the pros of working with your partner?
Reach goals faster
If you are both working in the same business then it’s probably fair to assume you have aligned your business goals and values and have a good idea about where you want to take your business and how. By working together you can get there quicker for sure. Two people that are motivated to work towards the same goal is a huge benefit.
If you are smart with your company structure then there are considerable tax benefits to be made, as well as cost savings. See our tax benefits section below.
Reduce hiring stress
The pain of recruiting is acutely felt by small business owners where the time and energy required to hire and train is often overwhelming. When your partner takes on a role, they are usually already knowledgeable about the business, your market and competitors. It’s like hiring another you!
Keep it in the family
There is something quietly reassuring about working alongside someone you trust. You don’t need to worry about company secrets or intellectual property.
What are the cons of working with your partner?
It can become easy to get into a rut of work, work, work and defined working roles.
Lack of diverse relationships
Humans thrive on having different dynamics for relationships roles in our lives. We become richer through the diversity of our interactions, which can provide a wider perspective on many topics professionally and personally. If the two of you are hunkered down together all the time without any additional interaction then it can affect not just your business relationship but also your personal one too.
No work colleagues
Specifically, the lack of work colleagues is not to be underestimated. These are fairly important relationships that often are the basis of lifelong friendships and wider social connections. However, it is also true that once you are the boss, these relationships are less straight-forward anyway. What is for sure is that it is hard to have a moan to your partner/colleague if they are the ones you want to let off steam about! :-)
So there are plenty of these in a personal relationship but if you don’t actually go to work separately and cool off, talk to colleagues, get some space and perspective… they can really fester and cause greater conflict when you carry them with you all day.
When one of you goes down with illness then it can be additionally difficult at work as you probably also lose your child-care support system too. Then if that illness is easily transmittable (let’s not mention the C-word) you end up taking out your full management/workforce/home-support in one go too. Very tricky!
Are there tax benefits when working with your partner?
Yes there are many tax and financial benefits of working together with your partner in the same business. We’ve included links to a few other blogs we have written in the list below which will provide further information.
One disappointing point to note is that entertaining costs are not tax deductible, which means you cannot claim a deduction for your working lunch or breakfast. Such a shame…
You can however make excellent use of home allowance for both of you.
A limited company can be an extremely tax efficient structure for a married couple running a business together.
For a smaller business, a partnership can be a simple structure to run a business together. The flexibility of a partnership means that you specify any profit you like in the partnership agreement. For example, 80% - 20% or 50/50.
Should your partner be a business partner or employee?
Even if you do not co-own the business together, you may consider employing your partner for the work they do in the business. Their salary would be a tax deductible business expense (although if they also have an income from elsewhere this might not be as tax efficient, so seek advice from your accountant before you commit to this).
If your spouse does not work in your business, you might consider making them a shareholder to improve tax efficiency.
What are the personal benefits of working with your partner?
Sharing or avoiding the commute
Sharing the travel to or from work saves costs and makes the commute less of a trudge. Or perhaps you will have no travel at all if you work from home.
Being flexible because you both share the same goal of having a balanced family life and a successful business means you can decide between you what is the right thing to do and when. That might mean one of you starts later to take care of household or personal chores. Or it might mean one finishes earlier to ensure dinner is prepared for some family time. This doesn’t mean the business suffers, it means you are using flexibility to ensure all aspects of your life are balanced. It’s honestly life-changing.
For us, the overwhelming benefit of running our business together is childcare…sick kids, school holidays, dentist appointments can all be covered by one of us while the other holds down the fort in the office (with a few evenings worked to catch up). In fact it was the birth of our daughter Scarlett which inspired us to set up on our own and with each other. As self-employed parents of a child with SEND, we know that WE are the best partnership in life and in business to provide the support our family needs.
Tips for working from home with your partner
This isn’t an exhaustive list but from our experience these are the best tips that make working together work for us:
Separate work/home life
Have a dedicated area for work - a spare room, converted garage or garden office. If you are using your dining room, clear work away at the end of the work day.
No work chat after hours
This can be tricky, conversation can easily drift back to work over the dinner table but try to keep work chat for work hours so that you get a break and some proper family time.
Keep it professional
Be professional during work hours, don't bring personal disagreements into the office and communicate with each other as you would any other professional. Your customers deserve professional service and there is nothing worse than feeling like you just walked into the middle of a marital dispute in a work environment.
Define clear responsibilities
If you are running a business together, agree who is in charge of what. This way nothing gets missed and you are both clear on what you need to do. Play to your strengths, work out what you are each good at and what you like doing
Vary work locations
Consider hot desking, working at friends houses (if they also work from home). I sometimes base myself from my Dad’s office for a change of scenery.
Create strong social relationships
It’s important to also have friendships and connections outside of work so that you don’t become incredibly consumed by it. No one likes a one-trick pony so make sure you have other topics of conversation when you do socialise other than your business.
Leave the house
No seriously, LEAVE the house. Get some fresh air, a little exercise, get out of those slippers. It's not healthy for your mind, body or your relationship to spend day after day at home with each other. Use the benefit of working together to get some flexi-time into your days.
Enjoy the perks!
We love to pop out for a cheeky breakfast after the school run every now and then. And, if we have time, our monthly planning meeting is done over a nice lunch. Working for yourself as a couple means you can grab a bit of time to yourself when the kids are at school without having to find a babysitter.
If you need help or advice about working with your partner and how to manage the structure to best benefit your business, please get in touch.
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