07 September 2011

Are you Married to a WAHE? {aka a Work at Home Entrepreneur}

While there are many factors that affect Entrepreneurial Marriages, a key point that differentiates Entrepreneurial Marriages from one another is if you are married to a WAHE, also known as a Work at Home Entrepreneur vs a WAFHE, also known as a Work Away From Home Entrepreneur. {yes, I just made those up and yes I just jumped on the make-an-acronym-up-so-it-is-easier-to-text-or-put-on-a-t-shirt bandwagon.}

The Way of the WAHE

For many, the idea of working from home sounds like the ultimate dream. Visions of enjoying a relaxing breakfast, waking up after 8 hours of sleep because you don't have a commute, working in pajamas if you want, making it to every family event because you set the schedule... yet, it is not uncommon for the real picture to look a little more like this:

or this:

Why it's challenging:
  • It is hard to find a balance between work time and participate-in-the-daily-routine-of-the-family time, for both the Entrepreneur and the spouse.
  • One of the biggest problems spouses of Entrepreneurs cite is that their Entrepreneur always works. When you work on your own, it’s no longer a matter of dutifully logging your 8 hours/day. You work for deadlines in which your name and your company is on the line, and if that means working a 16-hour-day, then so be it. When working from home this can imply that anytime the Entrepreneur is home they should be working.
  • Working from home can be lonely because you don't have the opportunity to build personal connections you would typically make when you work with the same people every day {which for some office spaces could be an advantage}. In a very real sense, however, the water cooler is gone. Without that interaction, it's easy to feel isolated. 
Let's not forget to mention the nontraditional work hours, multi-tasking, having to live in two worlds at the same time, adjusting schedules to react to business needs and adapting the family rhythms to the work environment. It can be exhausting!

Need some help? We all do...here are some tips:

2 Tips for the Spouse of the WAHE
  1. Give them space. Literally. Just because they are IN the home doesn't mean they are checked IN to your needs, schedule or priorities. Having your Entrepreneur working from home doesn't mean that they are at your disposal. Allowing an WAHE space to work may mean you have to remove yourself physically, mentally or emotionally at times. Which I find beyond difficult to do. I tend to just start talking because my Entrepreneur is around and I want to visit not realizing that he may be right in the middle of a new development or chatting with programmers or a myriad of other things. Creative minds need to have room to let the creativity flow and when you are able to exercise your independence it will help to set the framework for a positive and productive energy that the whole family will appreciate. If you don't know how much space your WAHE needs ask them.
  2. Respect their work. A lot of non-9-to-5ers find themselves in awkward positions when answering that staple of chitchat at parties: “So, what do you do?” Some people see Entrepreneurs as admirable risk-takers and self-starters. Others see them as lazy loafers who can’t handle a “real job.” Always indicate that you support your work at home Entrepreneur, regardless of the challenges. If you spin it in a positive light {that being self-employed is actually liberating and brings joy} then people will respect that and your Entrepreneur will appreciate it more than you know. After all, wouldn’t you rather be known for what you are passionate about, rather than who you call boss?
2 Tips for the WAHE
  1. Create a workspace. Settings for WAHE's range from having an actual home office/desk to working from the living room couch or kitchen table. If there is not a space which will allow for you to work productively and allows your spouse to work productively without bumping into each others world 24/7 then it is time to create one. As the Entrepreneur, it is important to create some structure for your day. Even small distractions can add up to big losses in productivity. You don't have to work there full-time, but creating a space that is yours will help to mentally check in and engage in your work. It also helps your spouse know which areas of the house to avoid. :)
  2. "Clocking In" Communication.  One of best thing you can do for your marriage is to communicate when you are "clocking in". Even a small level of communication will help to set a boundary that will alleviate stress on both sides of the equation. Spouses don't want to bug their Entrepreneur when they need to work and the Entrepreneur doesn't want to be bugged...so... if you set a clear understanding about when you are available and when you are not that will provide a gauge for the spouse. This tip also goes both ways. Sometimes your freedom can be a distraction for your spouses' routine, so keep that in mind.
When the line between home and work gets blurred, things can get complicated. There are several obstacles that make working from home more difficult than it seems, and it actually requires a lot of understanding to make sure you and your Entrepreneur are both able to be productive. 

So, whether your Entrepreneur is bootstrapping it, working from home to be closer to the family or whatever the case may be, remember, that the point is to set up boundaries to increase balance not to separate the worlds. One of the greatest blessings of working from home is to allow those worlds to interact as often as possible {we just don't want them running over each other!} It's about finding a system that works for your family and somehow...amazingly...we all figure it out.