Category Archives: Workplace

Working Remotely with your Partner: How to Not Breakup (Or Get Fired)

Working Remotely with your Partner: How to Not Breakup (Or Get Fired)

Filed under “Things I Do Not Recommend,” my partner, Patrick, and I changed jobs on the same day. We accepted remote job offers within hours of each other, ending one of the most stress-filled weeks of our 8-year marriage.

But every time we shared the news, we were met with “I could never work with my partner.” or “Good luck with that.” While I’m somewhat offended by those comments, let’s consider the subtext. Can you work at home, with your partner, and still want to remain a couple? And how can you still be an effective member of your team?

Your Mileage May Vary

First, a disclaimer. I work on a website. I’m not a marriage counselor or a couples therapist. Real professionals exist to help you with the relationship side of things. If you need them, use them! They’re super smart and pretty helpful.

When you start this adventure, your first order of business should be having a candid conversation about each other’s needs for personal space, and focus. You’ll also need to discuss your employer’s expectations for the work day, your availability after hours, and your office environment (i.e., are you expected to have a quiet place to take client calls). Speak as frankly as you can, because this is the time to set out your ideal work day.

What works for us

We transitioned from jobs that were very regimented- commute, clock in at 9, lunch at noon, wrap up around 5, commute. When we began working from home, the thought of ditching the schedule was tantalizing.

My team is fully distributed, Pat has slightly less flexibility. His team is based in Dayton, Ohio, so he’s got to synch up with the office.
So to respect his co-workers, and to structure the day, we act like we’re still in an office. We go to our workspaces around 9 AM, resurface at noon for lunch and to walk the dog, then go back to work until 5-ish. We’ve found that the afternoon dog walk has been invaluable. The dog forces us to get away from our desks and gives us a chance to bounce ideas off of each other.

The most critical part of this is what happens after 5 PM. At 5, barring anything being actively on fire, we both leave our work laptops plugged in on our desks, and walk away. Establishing a barrier between work and life is crucial when you work from home because failing to do so will lead you quickly to burnout, frustration, and exhaustion, which are bad enough as an individual, but partners both burning out at the same time will greatly diminish your ability to help each other cope.

I need some space

Physical space is critical to being an effective work from home duo. I advocate each person having a workspace in a different location whenever practical. Pat and I are fortunate that our home enables us to work in different parts of the house. We can listen to our music at an obnoxious volume. Team calls can remain private. I can dance at my standing desk in my running tights and fluffy slippers (Remote work has its upsides, eh?). My messy organizational system remains my problem.

This separation also makes it possible for us to feel “at work.” We joke about “congestion on the morning commute” (meaning the dog is sleeping on the stairs), but even that small physical act of going to a space devoted to work helps to cue the brain for work. Conversely, leaving at the end of the day marks a transition to home life.

Work Style

That said, it doesn’t mean we can’t enter/visit each other’s spaces during the day. As the extrovert in our relationship, I need to talk to a human being during the day. Pat is also a social human but requires more time to focus and find a groove in his work. To respect his work style, I had to learn some of his signals.

If the door is closed, he’s on an important call, likely with clients. That’s a clear do not disturb sign, unless the house is literally on fire.

If the door is open and he’s wearing his big black headphones, that means he’s just listening to music and can be briefly interrupted.

If the door is open and he’s wearing white iPhone headphones, that means he’s on a call, but it’s a standup or company call. Still not to be disturbed, but if I cross the hallway, I can wave to his coworkers.

No headphones? Fair game.

Having a discussion about what type of things help you focus, and what the signals will be when focus time is needed, and when you can and can’t be disturbed is valuable. Most of the time, it’s headphones, but you can also revert to the good old dry-erase board on the door, or maybe a “Do not disturb” tag borrowed from a hotel?

Office Slack

Related to discussing Do Not Disturb signals, might I suggest having an office Slack? Yes, I send Slack messages to the person who works two floors up. Yes, we are the only two people on the team.

Why should you Slack with your significant other? Well, for both of us, Slack is already a tool we use for our work lives. It’s ingrained in our minds as “place where information lives” and is relatively unobtrusive. If something comes up and I need to run out while he’s on a call, I just send a Slack message, knowing he has his notifications set as he wishes.

It also is a way to have searchable documentation of your conversations. “Wait, did they say they had a call today at 1? Let me search our Slack channel.”

Get out

While spending a lot of together time with your partner and your dog is undeniably excellent, spending 80+ hours a week with anyone is a lot. While Pat and I share many interests, a key to our 16 years of bliss has been having our hobbies and respecting the time needed to enjoy them.

I recently bought a classic car, and the restoration process is a dirty, loud, infuriating labor of love that only I enjoy. My spouse has the distinction of being a former Nintendo Master, and recently resurrected his classic SNES system. Spending significant chunks of time doing these separate activities, and time alone doing things like reading, shopping, or going for coffee outside of the house, is good for the soul.

And the mind.

And your relationship.

Divide the labor

There’s no getting around it. Working from home drastically increases the amount of mess in your home. Dishes, paper, chargers, cords, mail, etc. I cannot stress this enough: have a grown up discussion about chores. When you work and live together, you have less space to go and be angry, and a disagreement over chores can be distracting and disruptive to your workflow. If it’s necessary, make a chore chart, or have an agreed upon level of disorder. Do whatever you need to do to find a balanced, equal, shared agreement around cleaning and cleanliness. Might I suggest Slack’s /remind command for this? Or a shared Google calendar?

When it’s not working out

You may decide this arrangement is hell, personally or professionally. But to avoid getting to that point, set up check-ins to see how it’s going for each of you. Think of it as your standup meeting. It’s a time to pipe up about what you need to work more effectively, and harmoniously with your significant other.

If you share an apartment or your home lacks sufficient soundproofing for you to ignore your partner’s glorious rendition of “The Rhythm of the Night,” it’s time to consider a membership in a coworking space.
Others have adopted work sheds – fully wired, sometimes very upscale, prefabricated sheds plopped down in their back gardens – as a way of putting a barrier, albeit small, between home and work. While this is resource intensive, it might be worth it if you desire solitude while still being able to be close to home, and may up your property value.

Can it be done?

Well, eight months into this arrangement and we’re still married, and, at last check, still employed. So our answer is yes, but with the recognition that it can’t happen without work, compromise, and communication. Being open about your needs for space, quiet, and focus will set you up for an efficient workplace and a harmonious home.

Ready for your next adventure? Find a new job on Authentic Jobs.

The Good Goodbye: On Your Way Out

The Good Goodbye: On Your Way Out

In the first part of the Good Goodbye series, I talked about the mechanics of resigning and how to handle your coworker’s reactions.

In this installment, I’m going to talk about how to make the most out of your last weeks, and how to make a positive contribution on your way out

Chart Your Course

Once you’ve decided on your last day, it’s time to think about what you need to complete before you leave. Think back to your first week of this job. What mess did your predecessor leave for you to untangle? Be kind to the future you, and leave your work and projects in a better place.

But be realistic. Between meetings, work, potentially packing and moving, and possibly interviewing your replacement, you won’t have time to fully complete everything. And that’s ok.

If you cannot complete something, get it to a happy place, and by that I mean a place where the next person who looks at doesn’t need to be you to figure out what is going on. You may have to go in and comment the living daylights out of your code or start a completely separate document for comments or instructions. There is also great utility in writing down some historical moments in a project or product’s lifespan. You know, those moments when you decided that the app would do x instead of y because of z reason.

Whoever is handed your project will thank you for this.

Get what is coming to you

Be sure to read your contract, and your terms of employment to make sure you are going to get everything that is coming to you in terms of compensation, health coverage, and retirement benefits.

Schedule a meeting with your HR representative to go over what you will and will not get. Have them answer these questions, and bring data to back up your answers:

  1. Will you be paid for any leave you haven’t taken?
  2. What is the status of any retirement plan contributions?
  3. Are you owed money from performance bonuses?
  4. Do you have outstanding expense reports that need to be fulfilled?
  5. Will your last pay be mailed to you, or will it be electronically deposited? If it will be mailed, make sure they have your correct address, particularly if you’ll be moving.
  6. Who is the person to contact for pay related matters once you leave? What is their direct line and e-mail?

Schedule Your Exit Interview

This is where I have to turn towards the employers for a moment. Employers: you need to do exit reviews. Yes, they can be awkward, but you need to do them for the good of your company. I’m going to assert that off-boarding people can be just as important as onboarding them.

Back to you, job leaver.

Schedule yourself an exit interview. In some companies, an exit interview is not a given, and will only be scheduled if the outgoing employee requests it. If that’s the case, request it.

As a leaving employee, you have valuable feedback and experience you can share relatively freely. Remember when I asked you to write down your real reasons for leaving in my first post? And remember how I said your resignation letter was not the time to air your dirty laundry?

Well, folks, it’s time to do the washing.

OK, just kidding, not really. You don’t want to use your exit interview to trash your soon-to-be-ex-employer. Use your exit interview to provide constructive feedback and to (hopefully) help them improve.

Talk about why you’re leaving, specific incidences where company policy or structure let you down, share ideas you have for correcting problems. I want to caution you against personal attacks. These tend to shut down the conversation and it can cast you in a bitter light.

In the past, I have used generalizing structure words to abstract away any personal feelings or implied guilt.

Try to use statements like “The company’s management structure sometimes made my reporting and review chain unclear. I think I would have benefited from a much clearer and better-documented management structure.” rather than “Jane was a bad manager, I never knew if I was reporting to her or to Tom.” which focuses on individuals.

While yes, individuals can be a huge reason for leaving, think of the feedback you’re giving as working to rebuild a foundation, rather than repaint the walls.

If you’re escaping an unpleasant workplace, it can be tempting to just want to lash out at everything and everyone and tell them just how bad their workplace is, flip some tables, and steal all the ketchup from the cafeteria. Those are legitimate feelings (Please don’t flip tables. And put the ketchup back.), but share that with a therapist, friend, or partner, rather than your ex-employer. The tech world is very small, and leaving on a Hulk Smash note or like an angry toddler can and will haunt you.

Remember, you may need them for a reference some day.

Spread the word

If you work with outside vendors, you’ll want to come up with a strategy to pass them off to another coworker, and also to communicate this transition to them. Again, they don’t need to know the details, they just need to know that you are leaving, when you’re leaving, and who will be taking over for you.

Inevitably, you’ll miss someone or they’ll type your email out of habit. Be sure to arrange inbox forwarding to the person who is stepping in for you.

Your Last Day

On your last day, review the map you laid out for passing off your work. Did you get to everything? If not, make a note.

If there is something that you have password protected and those credentials might be lost, work with a tech lead or IT to hand off those keys.

Check in with HR about the state of any payments or benefits owed.

Be sure to bring any keys, passes, books or hardware that belongs to the company and return them.

Bring a box for your personal stuff, and be sure to take it all.

Enjoy your celebratory cake. Say goodbye to your coworkers, and exchange contact details if you want to stay in touch.

Leaving a job can be stressful and emotional, but it can also be a chance to improve the workplace for future employees, and it can be a way for you to cruise off into your new career, knowing that you did your best to say a Good Goodbye.


The Good Goodbye: Resigning with Dignity & Kindness

The Good Goodbye: Resigning with Dignity & Kindness

Because Authentic Jobs is a company devoted to helping connect creative professionals with fantastic job opportunities, it’s easy to forget that there’s a less fun side to all of this.

When you get a new job, you’ve got to leave the old one.

People change jobs for many reasons, some of which are personal. It could be moving into a new phase of life where you need to be closer to care for a friend or relative. Your partner may have just got their dream job in another city. You may be looking to cut out an expensive and stressful commute.

Of course, people leave for career reasons, too. You cannot see an opportunity to grow on the horizon. You feel your skills and ideas aren’t valued. The company made a choice to ax a product you’ve labored on for months.

For whatever reason, it is time to make the leap. But before you burn bridges, I want to make the case for making a good goodbye and walk you through it. In this first part, we’ll talk about the mechanics of resigning.

Before I begin, be sure to read your employee handbook and your contract. Know what your reporting structure is, and what you are contractually obligated to do for your employer when you resign. Take a moment to look at your state and country’s labor laws, as well. 

Know why you’re going

Remember that first day you went home and said: “No watching Antiques Roadshow tonight, I’m working on my resume.” What got that stone rolling?

Was it just because of money (an entirely valid reason, by the way) or was it because you felt you would have more job security moving to a new corporation?  Do you love your job, but remote work isn’t an option, and you need to relocate for personal reasons? Was there an incident where you felt you weren’t valued, or your contributions were discounted, and you realized that there was a pattern of behavior?

Identify the things that are making you go. Save those thoughts. Write them down, and we’ll come back to them soon.

Decide when you’re going

Do not resign from your current job until you’ve negotiated an offer and signed it. Trust me on this one.

Don’t resign until the papers are signed. 

The process of deciding your end date is complicated, a mixture of wanting to leave your old team in a good place, respecting your new employer’s needs, and possibly taking a small break between jobs.

Let me get this out of the way: there is no legal requirement that you give two-weeks notice. In the US, giving two weeks notice is a courtesy to your employer and more of a societal standard than a requirement. That being said, if you can give two weeks, do it. It’s a kind thing to do. You may also have reasons you want to give more, but there are a few things to consider.

As soon as you tell an employer you are leaving, the dynamic between you has changed, and thus continuing to work with one foot out the door for months isn’t recommended. However, if you feel that leaving after a feature ships, or that organizing your work for a smooth transition would take longer than two weeks, you’ll need to identify the soonest end date that won’t leave your almost-former employer in a bind.

Passing off work and documentation in a good state is a great way to maintain a collegial relationship with your former employer. Think about the last job you took. Were there things you wish your predecessor had done? This is your chance to do those things.

How to say something

When you’ve got your new offer in hand and signed (and not a second before), you should schedule a face to face meeting with your supervisor, boss, or team lead, depending on your reporting structure.

Do not fire off an e-mail as soon as the ink on your offer is dry. Do not send a text. Do not send a Slack message. Do not do any of the above if you are having/have had celebratory drinks, in particular. Schedule a meeting. If you work remotely, schedule a video chat. It may seem old fashioned, but telling folks face to face indicates respect for them as a colleague and for the opportunity of working there.

Once your meeting is scheduled, prepare what you’re going to say. A skill I learned in my sorority days was to use “Positive and” statements. Leading with positive words and phrases encourages people to listen when you’re about to share challenging news or feedback with them.

The trick is to be sincere and assertive in equal measures because this is a statement. You’re not looking for permission to leave, or support for this decision. You are merely informing them of a fact. Something along these lines:

“Thanks for meeting with me, I know your schedule is full. I wanted to say thank you for the opportunity to be part of your team for the last three years. It has helped me grow tremendously. However, I’ve been offered a new position outside the company that I am going to take. Looking at the schedule, I think that my last day should be in two weeks, on March 1, after we get the product launched.”

If you are the type that gets nervous in these situations, or if you feel you may cry or get emotional, I encourage you to prepare and practice your resignation speech ahead of time. Do some simple breathing exercises right before the meeting. And if you’re like me and tears can happen, come prepared with a tissue (this is stressful, there’s no shame in tears!).

After the meeting, take a break. Go to the restroom, take a walk, get some food. The process of leaving can be draining, and righting yourself afterward can make all the difference.

After you’ve notified your most senior supervisor and taken a moment to compose yourself, go ahead and inform the rest of your team. If your company has procedures on this notification chain, be sure to follow them.

Write it Out

You’ll likely be asked to put your resignation in writing for your HR file. Your written resignation letter should include a few points of order:

  1. Your last day
  2. Your forwarding address for pay, tax forms, etc.
  3. Contact details (non-work email and phone)

You are not under any obligation to state where you are going, or why you are going. Don’t air your dirty laundry in this letter. Its purpose is only to document that you are leaving. Follow the “Positive and” sentence structure. You can even use your prepared speech as a template for your resignation letter.

What to do if it goes south

Someone once told me something right before an uncomfortable conversation: “You cannot control people’s reactions. You can only control your reaction to them.”

I wrote the above with the best possible scenario in mind, one where everyone acts like adults and professionals who want to remain at the very least civil with each other. But that, my friends, is sometimes not how it happens.

Sometimes, these things go badly. For introverted, shy, or non-confrontational people, actually, ok, for most people, the thought of a hostile reaction from an employer is terrifying.

Let me state unequivocally: if you feel unsafe in your meeting or after you’ve told your team, leave. Forget everything I’ve said. If you feel unsafe, threatened or harassed, you’ve done your part, grab your personal items and go (or leave and have someone from HR ship them to you).

If you are an “at-will” employee, your employer can tell you to take a hike right then and there. Be prepared for this possibility with a contingency plan. This may mean dipping into savings, freelance work, or moving up your start date at your new job.

Be sure to read your employee handbook on what belongs to the company, including software, hardware, and intellectual property. If there’s the possibility of the interaction going badly, you do not want a fight over software licenses.

For US employees, you’ll want to consider what resigning or being fired after you resign means for your health care coverage. Depending on the date of your resignation, and the effective start date of your new job, and the start date of a new insurance plan, you may find yourself uninsured for a period of time. You may need to factor in the cost of COBRA coverage for you, and any dependents you have, into your contingency plan so that you are continually covered.

So now that they know, what now? In part 2, I’ll talk more about using your remaining time, and how to get and give the most from your exit interview.