My wife, Shannon, and I have worked from home together for three 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 (plus another baby)
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.
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.
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 had when 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 these 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).
- 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.
Two-Person Home Office Layouts & Ideas
Face each other
- Work without someone looking over your shoulder
- Have your own background for video calls
- Well, depending on the size of your laptops, you may be staring at each other all day
Face away from each other
- This helps you feel like you have your own space
- You each get to face out (potentially toward windows), rather than into the room
- Now, your office mate (roommate or significant other) may be looking over your shoulder
- You show up in each other’s video meetings! (Probably a deal breaker)
- You both equally get the same view, lighting, and position within the room
- You aren’t facing each other (awkward) or away from each other (appearing in the other person’s video calls)
- Your two desks basically become one
- You can likely see each other’s screens
Side-by-side with a room divider
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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)
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.
Your best folding 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 we have now and it’s fantastic. It’s going on year three and is in the same condition as day one.
Your best standing desk option.
I have the Fully standing desk. It’s fantastic.
Your best L-shaped desk option.
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.
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 hangs to Solo Content side for her meetings. I highly recommend Anyvoo for anyone who needs to look professional on video calls.
Amazon (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.
Wayfair (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.
You can get those on Wayfair.
Bose (noise-cancelling headphones)
We each have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. 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 get those headphones here.
Essential oil diffusors
Maybe your officemate stinks? 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.
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.)
- Google Calendar or WeekCal (for a shared calendar)
- Traveling Mailbox (if you travel a lot)
Two-Person Home Office Etiquette (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.
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.