How to separate work from home life

Feb 7, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. ET

Working couples already know the challenges that go with trying to balance professional and personal lives -- especially when there are school age kids in the mix with their own agendas of homework, extracurricular activities and friends. If all of that wasn’t hard enough to organize, then there's the fact that you're a couple and, most often, a couple with no private time for each other even if one or both of you work in a home office.

Couple having coffee at home

Whether you work together as co-CEOs, like we do for our two companies, or one or both of you operate your businesses from home, the key to a happy marriage is making time for each other by creating separate work and home lives. This column offers some of the tips we found have worked well for us and other dual-income couples.

Establish boundaries

Decide in advance what the boundaries are in terms of working hours, business travel and professional commitments that each of you want to make when operating home-based businesses. Then, make sure you stick to those boundaries so that work time has its time while the rest of the time is family, couple and me time.

Also, decide how other home commitments like chores will be shared between you so that you ensure you have "couple time." This may mean reaching an agreement to not take phone calls or check emails after a certain point in the evening or to turn off all those devices on the weekend. It's up to the both of you, but just reach those terms together. If something has to change, discuss it. Just remember to shut the office door at home and don't be tempted to sneak in there to send a quick email or leave a voicemail with a client.

Schedule "play" time together

While it sounds formal and business-like to put couple time on your calendar when you're working from a home environment, it may be necessary. In fact, by making an appointment to spend time with your spouse, you're showing that it's just as important as that client conference call or business meeting.

Think about times where you can meet up for an hour or two a few times a week while the kids are in school and you can carve out some special time with your spouse. Make it a lunch out or a matinee, or, if it's not in the budget, just schedule a lunch at the dining table (not your desk!) for some "alone" time. Maybe you can make time to go to the gym together or take care of errands together.

You don't always need to have thrilling or passionate moments (but those don't hurt!), but what is important is that you are spending time together as a couple and enjoying each other's company. At the same time, you're stepping away from work, which can often clear your head and put you back in the right frame of mind to finish the day.

Communicate about anything and everything but work

They say all work and no play make Jack and Jill a dull boy and girl. Same goes with communication. If all you do with your spouse is replay all the stresses and irritation with work, it makes for a dull relationship. While there may be times you want to bounce something off your mate or vent because you know they will sympathize (maybe even empathize), what you want to do most is talk about everything but work. Remember when you were dating and could talk on the phone for hours? Well, it shouldn't change.

To do this, you can take that designated non-work time, turn off the television and enjoy each other's company. Talk about something you read or reminisce together. Discuss upcoming plans for vacations or things you would like to do. Philosophize or pick each other's brains about things that interest you. Finally, write notes to each other. It may sound corny, but putting a love note in their pocket, handbag or briefcase just might brighten their day.

Have fun

Life was not meant to be about work, work and more work. Being in the fast lane means you often forget to slow down and enjoy what makes life so great. And, your life partner should be the one you should be having that fun with. Don't forget to laugh. It's okay to be silly. Send each other jokes. Whatever it takes, use that sense of humor to your advantage. It's really the best medicine even for a relationship. Plan getaways and holidays together as a couple and as a family. Celebrate all the successes and achievements you make as a duo and power couple.

A power couple operating a home-based business knows that they have the strength and the know-how to succeed in business, but they also know they need to use their superhero traits to keep their relationship happy and healthy.

The CEO Couple Ed and Ellen Schack are living examples of work/life/family balance based on key principles that foster a healthy marriage, business growth and managing the rigor of everyday life: Respect, Communication, Partnership, Fun, Family, Faith, Balance, and Well-Being combined with many operational components of business like Strategy, Vision, and Competition. They may be reached online at and via Twitter #theceocouple.

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