Last week, two of my good friends – a lovely couple – set up their own company. Perhaps sharing a home did not seem good enough, and they will now be sharing the business as well. Together, the two of them will help young graduates to submit winning job applications and impressive CVs. They will wake up, make their way to the office, share a morning coffee and get straight to business – together. At the end of the day, they will return home and shift back to their domestic routine. The next day will see the pattern repeat. And so on. And so on.
Co-working husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends are in no short supply in many professions – and almost unavoidable in show business. The examples are endless. John Travolta met his wife of 19 years, Kelly Preston, while filming a movie. Celine Dion has been married to René Angélil, her manager, for over 15 years. Show business aside, co-working couples abound in other professional segments as well. Bill and Melinda Gates are co-running the Gates Foundation, the largest philanthropic foundation in the world. Jack Welch’s third wife Suzy co-authored his 2005 book “Winning”, co-wrote their BusinessWeek column and co-launched their online MBA programme. Indeed, powerful couples seem to be moving mountains.
Duly congratulating my friends, I could not help thinking about how I would not like to be in their shoes myself. Personally, working with a partner has not seemed too good an idea – despite a number of benefits.
Some obvious advantages of working with a partner include sharing a daily routine. That means getting to work together and finishing at around the same time – provided that the working hours are comparable. Also, the opportunity of watching the other half around the office is invaluable. Those “office relationships” so popular in a modern office – yet sometimes strongly discouraged by the official partner – could easily be identified and brought to attention – as could real work affairs.
Another undisputable benefit is sharing insider jokes and gossip from the working place. The underlying danger here though is potentially deteriorating non-business conversations. The temptation to throw in a work-related remark is too strong – even in the middle of an activity as mundane as dish-washing.
Finally, co-working means seeing your partner more. Given the notoriously long working hours in London’s financial sector, this could indeed be a major issue – though I would recommend changing the job for a more humane one and spending more time with your loved one outside the office instead.
Clear disadvantages of working with a partner include higher risk of simultaneous redundancy should market conditions worsen. Putting all eggs in one basket is the nightmare of every portfolio manager. If you are working closely together, taking joint holidays may be problematic as well, as one will always have to cover up for the other. The absolutely worst scenario, however, would be to continue facing each other at work even if the relationship goes awry. It may be difficult to keep up a straight face – especially while your colleagues are closely watching you two.
While looking for interesting reads on the subject, I wandered into issues more dramatic. One fresh college graduate was after advice whether to work not only with her boyfriend, but also at the company owned by his parents – while staying at their house. Another young lady found it problematic to tolerate her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend as part of her colleagues’ ranks. Finally, echoing the above discussion, the third fellow female needed tips on working with an aggressively minded ex-boyfriend. With this in mind, routinely working with a partner may indeed be a trivial issue, if one at all.
Personally, I know what I would do. As said, working together means seeing each other more. I would take it one step further and find someone within an easy walk from the office, but outside its walls. Frequent encounters and shared lifts to work would still hold while the danger of being stuck together under one roof should things reverse – if they really should – would be eliminated.
And my “office boyfriend” would be safe, too.