While it is common to see family businesses run by husband and wife teams, it is less common – although no less challenging – for a couple to work for the same employer. While many would point out the pitfalls of such an arrangement, there are entries to be made on both sides of the pro vs. con ledger for this arrangement. If you are considering entering the same workplace with your spouse, carefully assess your relationship and career goals before jumping into a decision. Here are five questions you should ask before deciding to work alongside your spouse.

  1. Do you work well together?
    Some couples can work well together, but some couples don’t. If your work styles and skill sets are complementary and open communication exists between you, you both may do well. If your relationship is marked by struggles for control or competitive natures, however, you may want to be cautious. For couples who will work closely together, the proximity can be either helpful or highly detrimental to the company, your marriage, and your coworkers.
  2. Are you excited to see your spouse all day, every day?
    Simply liking your own personal space does not necessarily indicate that your relationship is on rocky ground. If the idea of working with your spouse every day is exciting to you, is it as exciting for your spouse? Be honest and open with this point, or you may end up making yourselves and everyone at work miserable.
  3. Will seeing your spouse at work change your relationship for the better?
    Seeing your spouse in your work environment can renew mutual respect and offer a new perspective on your partner as a person. However, establishing a working relationship, especially with one of you acting as is superior, may also cause your relationship to become simply a series of work-related transactions. The camaraderie of the workplace and the passion of marriage are two different things. Make sure you are prepared to balance them adequately.
  4. Will the schedule and work culture be healthy for your family dynamic?
    Two parents working in the same workplace may need increased flexibility for scheduling and sharing benefits. If you both will be working the same schedule, how will this fit into your family routine? If you are working separate but overlapping schedules, will you have enough time for a healthy relationship? Consider all of the facets of your life and how they will be affected by this change. You’ll likely find that the situation appears to be a mixed bag. When compromises are called for, weigh the benefits before committing.
  5. What is the workplace policy and can you abide by it?
    While certain types of “fraternization” are frowned upon in many companies (even off the clock), this would not be true of a married couple outside of working hours. But what about workplace etiquette? Is there a specific policy at your workplace about spouses? If so, how will the policy affect you? If there’s no policy about spouses, is the potential for changes based on your situation a reality? Be sure to ask specific questions at your workplace and to discuss these with your spouse. Even casual intimacy between coworkers can become an issue in some companies.

Weigh the benefits before committing

A bigger paycheck, a great opportunity, and a job you’ll love are all good reasons to take on new challenges. Make sure that whatever items you may sacrifice in the process are things you are willing to give up potentially. Openly discuss any concerns with your potential employer and supervisors as a part of this process. Careful planning and consideration can make this decision comfortable for everyone involved.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.

3 Comments

  • Avatar Cindy L. says:

    I think it can work if they follow certain rules and make a lot of compromises: define work boundaries, know what is discussed and not discussed at the office, always show respect, and separate their private life from their office life.

  • Avatar Adele B. says:

    While “fraternization” policies may work, consider having couples enter into a consensual relationship agreement. This is an agreement between the couple and management that prohibits them from allowing the relationship to disrupt the office.

  • Avatar Scottie L. says:

    Don’t discriminate against married couples. In several states, it’s illegal to discriminate against couples based on their marital status. This means that in those states, employers aren’t allowed to fire someone solely based on the fact that they’re married to someone at work. While it may be a pain to employ married couples (because they may ask for the same vacations days, for example), a blanket ban on a wedded pair of employees could violate the law.

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