by Janice Henshaw –
Working at home has many advantages: savings in commute time, gas, flexibility in your work day, lower office space expense, clothing costs, healthier food and more family time. Some people love it and never want to return to a formal workplace, while others can’t wait to go back. To find out how couples are faring, I interviewed businesspeople in Sidney, Surrey, Vancouver and Toronto.
Steven Haley-Browning, Account Manager at Seaside Magazine, says that space is their major issue in working at home. Steve makes do with the kitchen table as his husband James needs their home office for his work. Steve recounts how one day he was enjoying some time off by watching a zombie movie. “I didn’t realize how loud it was in James’ office during some of the action scenes; there was lots of screaming and gunfire.” At the time, James was giving a video conference to his district and could clearly hear the noise, but since he was on camera, couldn’t do anything about it. “We can thankfully laugh about it now,” says Steve.
Despite the “coziness” of their Vancouver apartment (585 square feet), Marsha, a musician, and Devin, an architect, have managed to make their space perform like a “swiss army knife.” At her second job as a yoga instructor, Marsha switched her classes over to Zoom and so she needed to create an at home yoga studio. “We move our bed out into the hallway when I get ready for a class, add a few carefully placed plants, and our bedroom is amazingly transformed into a Zen yoga studio!” says Marsha. “If you turned the camera in any other direction, you would notice the clothes and messy desk, but my students don’t know the reality!” One day her husband flushed the toilet while the class was meditating. It was very loud and the whole class erupted in laughter! “While it is isn’t perfect, we are making it work and enjoy the extra time spent together by working at home.”
Husband and wife Larry and Andi Hook operate Hook & Hook Designs and have worked together since 2006. “Our toughest challenge has been expanding our showroom in Sidney and then having Covid hit.” On occasion, the couple finds it hard to separate work life from home life, but they have found that an effective way to deal with the overlap is by enjoying outside activities together. They like to hike, bike, kayak, camp and, as a special treat, travel to international home design shows like High Point Market in Las Vegas.
Mary, a relationship consultant in Surrey, has worked at home alone for years and thoroughly enjoys her solitude. Gordon, her husband, is a manager who prefers his workplace; he is energized by socializing with his coworkers. In his first few days working at home, he would barge into Mary’s office to share a story or a joke. “After experiencing my startled reactions and ensuing verbal responses, he has learned to tap very gently on my door.” The best part of working from home, says Mary, is being able to prioritize exercise before work instead of facing commuting time. She and Gordon also share in an outside activity at noon.
“We have played lots of tennis, and on rainy days we go for long walks, which we really enjoy.” Mary adds another helpful benefit in Gordon working from home: “He is awesome at solving my IT problems!”
Derek and Donna Finlayson, owners of Wine Kitz Sidney for 19 years, each previously had professional careers where they learned the importance of separating work issues from home life. “Covid brought other challenges but through the cooperation and loyalty of our customers, we have worked through them and kept our business running.” Derek says they share a lot of the same interests and because they are so compatible, they find life together pretty easy. “In all honesty, it is love that makes our relationship what it is today. Honesty, sincerity, compatibility and happiness are the most common measures of success for us.”
Most people have had an eyeful when someone on a video call’s partner walked by (with or without clothes) thinking the video camera was off! Travis, a Toronto lawyer, says that seeing where people live and having kids run into the screen has been incredibly humanizing. “I think it will have a long-term effect of making people more understanding.” He adds: “Having two people working from home is a question of space, time and volume management. Ceiling fans help with the noise issue. It’s also important to curate a good backdrop, so I’ve strategically placed my laptop in places so that it highlights good art or architectural details.”
When they opened Rascals Pet Market in Brentwood Bay in October 2017, Sue and Howard Martinson knew it would offer great advantages and some unique challenges. They
had previously worked together in their own residential
design/construction firm, so they already recognized each others’ strengths and knew the hours it would take to create a successful company. “Working together doesn’t come with a set of rules, so you must create some,” said Sue. “Covid has brought a whole other set of challenges, and we continuously draw on each other for strength and support.”
Jessica Kwasnica and her husband Tony Rechsteiner have run Seaside Cabinetry & Design in Sidney for six years. “We enjoy bouncing ideas off each other.” Their work includes many site visits to clients’ homes, showroom meetings and computer design work, so they don’t work together in the same space all that often. As for work-related issues, Jessica says: “We work hard on our communication skills to try and limit work problems from being dragged into our home life.”
Yes, we have many challenges to face, but we are proving that they are not insurmountable. Love, respect, creating new ways of doing business, having fun, developing more patience and tolerance, better health, stronger relationships, being open to innovation, and a deeper understanding of others – these are all some of the many good things happening in our new world of work. Photos provided by respective couples