Hot Desking with my husband: 4 etiquette tips for a shared workspace

by Mama Loves Home

I used to hate hotdesking. A necessary evil of working for a large business in a big city, it had to be done. For many years of my career like a forlorn lamb, I would wonder the cubicled floor looking for my daily workspace. The day I hit an internal office role, heavily pregnant with my first child and confined to desk work I was allocated a desk of my very own by HR, possibly the happiest of my career.

I now have the luxury of enjoying a home working space. Again, a battle I fought hard for over the years. Firstly, in a tiny London flat where daily decisions had to be made between where the drying rack could fit vs upgrading to an ergonomic desk over a corner on the dining room table.

Roll on a few years, I have the perfect little cubby. Tucked away from the daily coming and goings of a full-sized family household it’s my little sanctuary of productivity and peace of mind. And it has a door! My fingers fly across my keyboard as I adore my light-filled nook on my work at home days running my own business.

And then came the call for as many people as possible to work from home.

Ideal in theory right? No commute for hubby. No morning school runs.

No more nook.

The main breadwinner of our household had unceremoniously decanted the entire contents of his office working life into MY space. Cords and wires were shuffled around the house and within the space of an hour, my delicate, light-filled, pastel-hued retreat looked like a chaotically slapped together man cave.

Tight-lipped and all too aware that his day job brings a greater portion of our family income, I felt resigned to this change.

Mutterings of hours when he may not have conference calls or he could probably work from his laptop were made as I was shunned once more to my corner of the dining room table between this morning’s soggy Cheerios and last night’s popsicle stick project.

I had to reclaim my territory. If there’s one thing years of hotdesking did teach me, in times of need you CAN make this co-working arrangement pleasant for everyone.

Here’s how I went about reclaim (some!) of my valuable workspace.

Flexibility is key

My husbands work timetable is incredibly fluid and across many timezones. He cannot easily predict one day to the next when his calls will be or when something needs to go out urgently, whereas my work is set by a publishing calendar and more definable client deadlines.

In a typical working week, our days are usually structured around school start times and office hours. When everybody is suddenly home, you need to be more creative with the use of everyone’s time. I am better at working first thing in the morning, so I have set my alarm earlier to have “first shift” with the home office; Hubby can take care of breakfast and we switch over when most of his colleagues are then online.

I have also started working some hours on the weekend which we would normally try to avoid, but we are making up for this with more family meals together during the week.

Each evening we do a quick diary check on when his most important calls of the day will be and when silence will be needed so I can arrange household activities that are noise-free (at present this is when we have our kids set up with online learning via their tablets).

When my husband has downtime between meetings, this is when he actively sits with the kids doing their math work or worksheet activities – he then hands over the creative sessions to me, which I much prefer, even if they’re a little messier!

Staying Organized

The most important thing when working flexibly is to also work organized. Organized files online, organized record-keeping of where tasks are up to. My work has become a lot more sporadic, so I need to keep clear points in my daily organiser where I am up to on each project, this religiously follows me around the house!

Many prefer to keep an online organiser that can be easily accessed from any device such as Slack or Asana.

We are fortunate to also have a small laptop that we use when travelling so when the main family computer and desk is in use in the home office, the other can still work from the smaller laptop while supervising the kids, or worksheets can be downloaded for the kids.

Switching between devices means your online file organization between devices needs to be spot-on.

I use Microsoft OneDrive to keep all the files I am working on, and DropBox for shared projects I am working on with teammates, so whatever device I am logged into, I can work flexibly. Many others work with Google Docs.

Equally, my husband’s work is dial into a network, so neither of us is tied to one device. Make sure when finishing on one device everything has been saved to the Cloud or whatever back up network you use, rather than the one home device.

Keeping it clean

At this important time, we’re not just talking about paperwork and organization but cleanliness too!

For organization, make sure the desk space is kept clutter-free ready for the next person. If you haven’t got a separate shelving unit, create one! This will be vital for each of you to have the flexibility to work in a shared space.

When you know your desk ‘shift’ is due to end, clear coffee cups and notepads, move paperwork to your designated shelf. As well as organizing your online work as mentioned above, allow yourself 5 minutes from your allotted work space-time for organization at the end.

And talking of cleanliness. Our keyboards are a breeding ground for dirt and germs, not to mention slimy streaks on touch screens and leftover cookie crumbs… urgh! Some old habits will never change! But you can be as courteous as possible to the next person and do a basic desk equipment wipe down when you’re finished.

We talk in more detail about germ-tackling techniques for your home office here.

Doors closed, please!

If it’s your productive time, where possible, have a complete closed-door policy. This means no interruptions, no jar lid opening, no news updates and other countless random enquiries, for all of you! It falls on the off-shift parent to make sure this is enforced!!

And for the person working, attempt to minimise household disruption and background noise by taking calls with headphones.

Help each other when it comes to your private working time – you’re in it together!

These are just a few small examples of how you can make hot-desking and shared home working spaces work for you.

Everyone’s home set up and family arrangements will differ. You may find you can both work in a room together at the same time, or simply splitting your day in two works for both of you.

If working from home is something new to you or you’ve not yet set up a work from home space, you may like to pop over and check out our tips for setting up a home office. And if you’re already settled into the work from home routine, see our top tips for keeping your home workspace clean and clutter-free.

The important thing to remember is being flexible and practical; it may not be ideal, it most likely won’t be forever, but we’re in this together. Make guidelines early on that work for your family and your collective businesses and income.

Have you suddenly found yourself sharing your workspace? What arrangements have you decided on are tips and hacks other busy work from home moms could try? Let us know in the comments below.

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