Love and laptops: Tips on conquering work and romance as a team

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

Relationships can be hard enough at the best of times, but add the additional dynamic of working together, and you have to balance two partnerships: the business and the relationship, which can sometimes seem impossible.

I’m Hayley Knight, co-founder of PR and marketing agency BE YELLOW, and you may ask why I’m qualified to comment on this. Well, I can speak from experience, and lots of it, as not only do I run a business with my husband Marcus – pictured above – we also travel the world as digital nomads. So we also have the additional pressures of travel planning, always being on the move and spending a lot of time in each other’s pockets.

It’s not always easy, and it can be stressful, but we always work hard to ensure that we do it as effectively as possible. I have detailed five tips on conquering work (and romance) as a two-person team. If you follow these, you’re sure to become the next power couple.

Boundaries. Setting boundaries between each other is essential in understanding each other’s expectations when running a business together, and in figuring out a work life balance that suits both of you. You have to mentally and emotionally separate your personal and professional lives, and treat each other as you would in any other working environment – this is essential in safeguarding your relationship. Defining and understanding each other’s roles in the business can help you know where you both stand at all times, and understanding boundaries, means you won’t overstep them, or ask too much of your partner.

How we manage: We set separate weekly focus periods, where we each work with disruption, use ClickUp to manage tasks, have weekly reporting meetings and where possible, work away from our home base to differentiate physical boundaries. We also work four-day work weeks, so each of us takes a separate day to work on personal and professional development, ready to bring fresh ideas and new tools into the business.

Communication: Clear, honest communication is key in working together effectively, and helps. prevent or tackle any problems or concerns that may arise. It also keeps each other informed and on the same page, allows you to support each other, and set boundaries. Don’t be afraid to over-communicate, or give constructive criticism. Never shy away from difficult conversations, and try to tackle any problems in a professional manner, leaving your personal relationship at the door.

How we manage: We communicate as soon as it’s needed, and we have weekly meetings and set goals to work towards. We also have couples counselling each week, which allows us to actively communicate or address any problems in a safe and controlled space, and we implement the tools that we learn into our personal, and professional relationship.

Space: It’s not healthy to constantly live in each other’s pockets, so when you can, try and take some form of space away from each other. Whether you work in a different location, or book a weekend away separately at the end of a particularly tough week. As long as this need for space is effectively and honestly communicated, and the boundaries are set (and respected) (see why the above points are so important), this time apart can be incredibly healthy for both your personal and professional relationship, and more often than not, you’ll return feeling refreshed and ready to go.

How we manage: Sometimes we work from separate locations, and we even book into separate accommodation for a long weekend on occasion. We try to take separate, regular breaks throughout the day, and have some evenings dedicated to our own personal time.

Priorities: It can be easy to push your partner’s requests to the bottom of the list and take longer than needed to complete them (guilty!). This isn’t helpful, and can cause delays in workflow and business development, and will make your partner feel disrespected, undervalued and isolated. Prioritising tasks from your partner, and completing them in a timely manner, or communicating timelines with your partner can reduce stress, frustration and arguments.

How we manage: ClickUp is great for this. I have ADHD, so I often forget things, or miss things, and this can cause problems between us, and I can often prioritise clients over Marcus. ClickUp helps me keep things organised and I can prioritise tasks, and I get email notifications and reminders to help keep me on track. We also openly communicate tasks and timelines so we both know where we are at, at all times with tasks, and spend time planning each morning.

The little things: These are what makes it worth working together. A well placed kiss, an offer of a cup of tea, acknowledgement of stress, shoulder massages, offer of making dinner or lunch, and small presents can make your partner feel appreciated, and valued. Obviously, not always appropriate in an office environment, but it’s the little things that say ‘I see you’, and ‘we got this’ and ‘well done’. It’s a constant reminder of why you’re doing this together.

How we manage: We make time for each other during the day. Whether that’s having lunch together, a pause to give each other a hug or a kiss, or even just a ‘how was your day’ at the end of it can help bring an element of nurturing and love to the role, and keep us going through the day.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024