The 2-Person Home Office: Through 4 Years Of Marriage

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My wife, Shannon, and I have worked from home together for four years now. Since 2017. During that time, we’ve gone through a number of changes to where and how we work:

  • First, we both worked full-time from a one-bedroom apartment
  • Then, worked from the road during three months of travel
  • We shared the guest bedroom as our office (and had our first kid)
  • We shared a desk within our bedroom (since our second kid took our old office)
  • And now, we have a dedicated home office with two desks 

As two people working from home at the same time, we’ve been through just about all of the scenarios. And we have plenty of home office products that are now firmly in our past: foldable desks that didn’t work out, video meeting backdrops that failed, room dividers we no longer need, and lots and lots of dead plants. Today, I’m sharing how we make it work in our two-person home office. Hopefully, by reading this article, you can skip ahead in your home office journey by learning from what we’ve tried in the past.

Products We Use In Our Shared Home Office

You’ll see these products scattered scattered throughout the article. If you’re interested, I’ve summarized them all here. Scroll down below the table to learn more about working in a shared home office.

Product

Purpose

Video meeting backdrop

Noise dampening

Space separator

Noise cancelling for you

Strong internet connection

Folding desks (for when the room becomes a guest bed)

Sit/stand desk

Ambiance

This article is broken into five parts. Use these links below to jump to a section that is most relevant to you:

  1. Office Layouts
    1. Face each other
    2. Face away from each other
    3. Side-by-side
    4. Side-by-side with a room divider
    5. L-shaped layouts
    6. Shared desks based on function
    7. One shared desk
  2. Desk Options
    1. Folding Desk
    2. Standing Desk
    3. L-Shared Desk
  3. Home Office Products
    1. Anyvoo video meeting backdrop
    2. Acoustic sound panels
    3. Room dividers
    4. Noise-cancelling headphones
    5. Essential oil diffusors
    6. Plants
    7. Software
  4. Scenarios & Locations
    1. Studio or one-bedroom
    2. Working from the road
    3. Guest bedroom
    4. Your bedroom
    5. Home office
  5. Home Office Etiquette

Two-Person Home Office Layouts & Ideas

If you’re sharing a home office with your spouse, partner, or roommate, make a decision together about the layout. Here are your options to choose from (paired with benefits and drawbacks of each).

Face each other

Benefits Drawbacks
  • Work without someone looking over your shoulder
  • Have your own background for video calls
  • Depending on the size of your laptops (and the strength of your relationship), you may be staring at each other all day
  • You’ll both likely face inward (which is a drawback if you prefer looking out the window)

See Also: 105 Tips For Working Remotely

Face away from each other

Benefits Drawbacks
  • This helps you feel like you have your own space when working
  • You each get to face out (potentially toward windows), rather than into the room
  • Your office mate (roommate or significant other) may be looking over your shoulder
  • **You show up in each other’s video meetings!

**There are two solutions to the issue of showing up in each other’s video meetings:

  1. You could get a room divider like this.
  2. You could get a two-sided Anyvoo backdrop for video calls.

Side-by-side (This is our current layout!)

Benefits Drawbacks
  • You equally get the same view and lighting
  • You aren’t facing each other (awkward) or away from each other (appearing in video calls)
  • Your two desks basically become one
  • You can likely see each other’s screens

Side-by-side with a room divider

Benefits Drawbacks
  • You get all of the benefits of the layout above
  • Plus, you have your own divided space
  • I guess, the expense of the room divider?
  • This could mess up the lighting a bit if one desk grabs most of the natural light and the other doesn’t get any

L-shaped desks or layout

Benefits Drawbacks
  • You fix a lot of the drawbacks with facing each other or away from each other
  • You have different vantage points (which could align with your preferences)
  • This is truly sharing a desk (where they are pushed together or just one desk)
  • You could still show up in each other’s video calls (a big consideration)

Shared desks based on function

If you are minimalists (with little personal equipment and loose papers), you could share both desks. For example…

  • One could be used for video meetings (you’d have good lighting, a nice background, a laptop stand to get the right height for video calls) and the other for working
  • One could be a standing desk and the other for sitting
  • One could have a Yoga ball or kneeling chair and the other a desk chair

The possibilities are endless! No, that’s not true. That’s pretty much all I can come up with.

Benefits Drawbacks
  • You have specific desks that are set up really well for certain functions
  • You get the flexibility of having two places to work
  • You don’t have your own dedicated desk
  • You are forced to share (which could cause issues)

One shared desk

Finally, you could have just one desk that you share. This might work in these scenarios:

  • You and your office mate don’t ever work at the same time (like my wife and me)
  • One of you has a membership to a co-working spot that you could share
  • You each like going to coffee shops or libraries frequently enough that one desk works
  • You have other places in the house to work and like mixing it up
  • One of you has so many meetings that it’s impossible for the other person to work in the office
Benefits Drawbacks
  • You’ll save space
  • You have the ability to work in other places, which you value
  • You don’t have your own dedicated desk
  • You are forced to share (which could cause issues)

Two-Person Home Office Desk Options

If you’re looking for advice on the best desks for two-person home offices, this is your section. I will recommend only the best desk based on each type. I personally have had three desks and my wife has had one she loves. We’ll recommend our personal favorites where applicable, but we also asked 50+ people who work from home to share their desk of choice. You’ll see the most frequently recommended from that group, as well. Your best folding desk: Oragami Folding Computer Desk We are on our third folding desk option. Don’t worry, I will absolutely not recommend the two that didn’t work. This is the one my wife has and it’s fantastic. It’s going on year four and is in the same condition as day one.

  • It’s sturdy (a previous one I had was lighter but started wobbling and breaking down after just a hear)
  • It’s really easy to set up and take down
  • It folds up really flat, so you can put it in the back of a closet or somewhere out of sight easily

Your best standing desk option: Jarvis Standing Desk I have had this standing desk for almost four years. It’s still in the same shape it was when I bought it.

  • This is the highest-rated standing desk on the market: that’s why I chose it and it hasn’t disappointed
  • It is incredibly sturdy and reliable: You could find cheaper options, but I’m sure they’ll wobble or start to break down
  • I have an older version than the one I linked to above: this newer one has preset height options so you can get to your preferences easily

Your best L-shaped desk options: I’ve never personally owned an L-shaped desk, so I relied on my list of expert contributors for this one. When I asked my list about their home office desks of choice, 65 people responded. Of the people who have an L-shaped desk, these three options were the only ones recommended multiple times. When I cross-referenced these options with Amazon reviews, they are also three of the highest rated (they are all 4.6 stars and higher with at least 4,000 reviews).

Casaottima L Shaped Gaming Desk Tribesigns Modern L-Shaped Desk Mr. IRONSTONE L-Shaped Desk

Helpful Home Office Products

There are a ton of great products (physical and digital) that can add a lot to your two-person home office. My wife and I are, sort of, minimalists so we like open space. But these are some of the products we use to round out our home office beyond the desks.

Equipment

Anyvoo: Video Meeting Backdrops

We invested in a two-sided Anyvoo. My wife has her company, Solo Content, on one side and I have mine, Buildremote, on the other. I hang the Anyvoo on the Buildremote side for my meetings and she switches to Solo Content side for her meetings. I highly recommend Anyvoo for anyone who needs to look professional on video calls. You can build your own Anyvoo here.

Acoustic Sound Panels We have little kids. At our house, at least one person is usually in a meeting, one is crying, and one is sleeping. That’s pretty standard. We have some sound panels we hang on our wall (in the office and kids’ bedrooms) to help mute the noise within that room. It also helps any echo on video calls.

You can get a pack of those sound panels on Amazon.

Room Dividers We don’t use these anymore now that we have our dedicated home office. We did use them when we worked in our bedroom. They are pretty nice, and help break up a room well.

We personally chose this one from Wayfair.

Noise-cancelling Headphones (AirPods or Bose) We each have a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones. And my wife got me AirPod Pros as a gift. They are great for airplanes in particular, but also very helpful if you’re trying to work when the other person is gabbing away in a meeting right next to you.

You can buy AirPods or Bose headphones on Amazon.

See Also: Working From Home With Kids? The Necessary Products & Tools

Essential Oil Diffusors

Maybe your officemate stinks? Maybe you stink? Either way, we have one of these are they are great for the aroma and mood of a home office.

You can buy those on Amazon.

Plants We love plants. We had to banish them from our house for a few years as our first born started crawling and walking. Now that we have our dedicated office (where we can close the door), we’re back in the plant business! They seriously help the home office atmosphere. (You know where you can buy plants.)

Software

  • Krisp: This video meeting plugin mutes your background noise and noise coming from your guests.
  • Google Calendar or WeekCal: These shared calendars allow you to view your own calendar and your office mate’s calendar in one place (so you don’t overlap meetings).
  • Focusmate: This tool gives you a real parter over the internet to help you stop procrastinating.
  • Traveling Mailbox: If you travel frequently or don’t want to give out your home address, Traveling Mailbox receives your mail and scans it into digital format for you to receive anywhere.
  • Holopod: This Slack plugin automatically updates your status and blocks notifications so you can limit digital distractions.

Two-Person Office Tips Based On Your Scenario

I’ll take you through the scenarios we’ve been through. I mentioned them at the top of this article. Go ahead and skip to the situation that applies best to you.

Working in a studio or one-bedroom apartment

Here’s my home office desk slash TV (and Skype machine, see picture below) in the living room of our one bedroom apartment.     After working from home for a year in a small, one-bedroom apartment, here is my best advice:

  • Don’t work in your bedroom, if possible. Working where you sleep makes you sleep worse, and sleeping where you work makes your work worse.
  • Prioritize convertibility. In small spaces, you need the same areas to perform multiple functions. We had this fold-out desk that could easily put in a closet (daily or if we had guests). I also had a nice Mac monitor display that doubled as our TV.
  • Put away your work every night. Have a place (a drawer or a closet) where your laptop and notepads go every night. In a studio or one-bedroom apartment, you’ll be working in the living area. Put it away so you can relax in your home after working hours.
  • Try out room dividers. We tried these much later, and they help split up a small space.

Working from the road (“digital nomads,” as I’m told they’re called)

Since my wife and I both work from home, we’re lucky that we can work from anywhere. We gave up our apartment and traveled for three months through Europe and the States.

Here I am having a Zoom meeting on an ironing board at an apartment in Slovakia.  Here’s what I’d recommend:

  • Look for AirBnB’s with multiple tables. That’s pretty straightforward since you need two places to work. Before you pick a place to stay, scan the pictures for multiple tables or at least a big dining room table. Even better, look for places with multiple rooms (in case you each have meetings).
  • Ask the host to run a WiFi speed test. Before we booked an apartment, we’d tell the owner to run a speed test and send us the screenshot. You need to make sure to have minimally viable WiFi to be able to work. We stayed at a place for three weeks and the WiFi was a disaster. We lost almost the whole first week trying to find a solution. What kind of WiFi speeds might you need? Here’s a great chart from NerdWallet:

  • Bring an Ethernet to hard-wire in. The solution at the place with bad WiFi was to plug in with a hard line. That required us to go to an electronics store in a small town in Slovakia, which made for a good story… but not a great working experience.
  • Utilize coffee shops. If one person has a lot of meetings one day, the other could go to a coffee shop to work. Or to mix it up, you both could go. The flexibility is important
  • Utilize co-working spaces. A lot of co-working spaces will have free trials. Go in and ask if they offer one, or if you can pay for a single day or week. We did this in Prague and Oslo, and it helped a lot.
  • Pack a video meeting backdrop. We have an Anyvoo backdrop (more on that later). You can get one that folds up into a carry-on bag and weighs about ten pounds. If you are in sales, support, or consulting (and have a lot of video meetings), I personally feel like it’s important to provide a consistent experience on video. I didn’t want to explain on calls that we were in Prague, then Krakow, then Vienna, if we didn’t have to. With a backdrop, you could be anywhere.

Here are just about all of the video conference backdrop options out there.

Working from a guest bedroom

If you have a guest bedroom available to become a two-desk home office, congratulations! You’re moving up in the world. Or, that’s what we felt like at least. Here’s Shannon in our home office in the guest bedroom. Here are our top tips after working for two years in our guest bedroom:

  • Again, prioritize convertibility. Ideally, this room should be a guest bedroom when you have guests and a home-office when you don’t. You don’t want a bed behind you on video calls and your guest probably don’t want hold their toiletries on one of your two desks.
  • Get a collapsible bed. Building on the first tip, then, this requires a flexible bed. Whether that’s a futon or a pull-out couch or a collapsible bed that goes in the closet, this is important. If your guest bed can go away while you’re working, you have much more room for office layout ideas.

We did a ton of research and ended up getting this foldable full bed frame. Then, we have a folding portable full mattress topper and a foam, egg-crate mattress topper on that. We’ve gotten good reviews from visitors.  I won’t go into much more detail because this is post about two-person home office design.  

  • Get a collapsible desk. On the flipside, you need a collapsible desk like this one Shannon has. We have one standing desk and one that breaks down and goes in the closet. When guests come, we move the standing desk off to the side, put the folding desk in the closet, and set up the bed.

This is the Origami Folding Desk that Shannon has. It was a great choice. See the wooden one I have in the picture above? It broke pretty quickly. I’d recommend the Origami. 

Working from your bedroom

When this girl was born, she was nice enough to take our home office/guest bedroom. So, we moved into our own bedroom. Earlier on in this article, I recommended, “Don’t work in your bedroom.” If you can avoid it, I stand by that. But if you have roommates, your bedroom might be the only option. Or if you were like my wife and I when we had a toddler and a baby taking up other bedrooms, we had to work in our room for a bit. Here are my tips for working from your bedroom:

  • Get a room divider. We got two room dividers and they are nice. I think it’s important to physically separate where you sleep from where you work. The more you can keep those apart, the better each will perform.

These are the Noelle, Single Panel Room Dividers we got from Wayfair. They are simple, easy to put together, and look nice. Now, our bedroom didn’t look as good as this stock picture below, but we like our room dividers nonetheless.

  • Put away your work at the end of the day. This follows the same idea. You don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and see your work. It’s unhealthy. So get in the routine of putting your laptop away in a drawer or closet when you are done each night.
  • Share a desk (and create other options). Most likely, there is very little chance that you can comfortably fit two desks in your bedroom. We went down to one that we shared. Then, if you both work at the same time, have other options in the dining room, living room, coffee shops, or a co-working space. My wife and I don’t ever work at the same time (more on that later), so we shared one desk just fine.
  • Treat your office space like it is its own room. We put our desk in front of one of the bedroom windows. Then, we blocked that area in with a room divider. We formed a little entry way to the office area with a big potted plant. That gave the office space its own light that was different from the bedroom, it’s out closed in area, and it’s own feel. It helped.

Working in a dedicated, two-person home office

Now, we have a home office (that was built to be an office, not a bedroom) with two desks and a nice little space for two people to work comfortably. We made it! Here are our tips for working together in a dedicated home office.

  • Get a two-sided home office backdrop. 

Here’s my Anyvoo below. Shannon has her company logo (Solo Content) on the back. I’ve tried a number of backdrops in the past. Anyvoo is by far the best (and the way to go to look good on video from your home office).

You can customize your own Anyvoo here.

  • Use a room divider.
  • Have a shared calendar.
  • Use noise-cancelling headphones or software, like Krisp.
  • Have some basic rules. You’ll see more on that below in the “etiquette” section.

In the next section, we’ll go through options for two-desk home office layouts.

Other two-person home office locations (that we haven’t done)

  • One home office plus a shared co-working space
  • Office sheds or pods
  • Garage office
  • Basement office

Those are all intriguing to me. Especially the home office shed idea. But since I haven’t worked in any of those situations, I’ll let other internet people describe those.

Etiquette In A Home Office For Two (At Least, What Works For Us)

We haven’t ever written these down until now. But, we seem to get along well sharing an office. Here’s what it seems like helps us work together in a share space.

  • We have a shared calendar. Shannon knows when I have meetings and vice versa. That helps us plan who will be in the office when and who will watch the kids.
  • We don’t judge each other. Look, we all need a break sometimes. If that’s going on Instagram or Twitter, so be it. We try not to judge, because in the past when we have, it gets weird quickly that your spouse is also your office-mate looking over your shoulder.
  • We keep it clean. Both of us are pretty much paperless. The office, therefore, is never cluttered.
  • When we’re both in there, music happens through headphones only. Neither of us would turn on music and subject the other to our choices. So if you want to listen to music, put in your headphones.
  • We rarely overlap when we work. This is because we have kids and we essentially work shifts to take care of the kids. It works for us. The benefit is that we don’t have to work at the same time in the same place all day. If you can replicate that for some of the day, it seems to help.

See Also: Every Company Doing A 4-Day Work Week

Those are some of the basics that work for us. Make sure to develop your own set of ideas so you don’t slowly frustrate each other in the home office. Since you’re both working together at the same home, I’m going to guess it’s more important to preserve your personal relationship than your office-mate relationship. Just don’t annoy each other, I guess. You got this.

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