As work from home becomes the norm, it’s taken us a bit to adjust to working out of our personal space. Even though we’re now two years into the setup, that doesn’t mean that we’re now naturally accustomed to spending the majority of our time in our own ‘happy place’ as opposed to the office. When the lines between home and work start to blur, how do you manage to keep yourself together when living with roommates while working remote?
There’s a reason everyone is grateful to move past college dorms and having their own space, but with offices closing their doors and people being unceremoniously sent to work from home, having a roommate is no longer just having a friend who you live with. Suddenly, your roommate has been promoted to coworker. Think of your apartment like a very, very unconventional office space. Sure, you have a bed and a tv and fridge full of all your favorite snacks, but you also have someone who you live with who is working at the same time as you. And, unfortunately for both of you, there’s no HR to hash out any issues.
After many tried and true experiences, we’ve narrowed down the best tips and tricks in order to make living and working together work, without going crazy.
Take breaks. It might sound a little counter productive, but there’s nothing worse than realizing that you’ve spent the past eight hours in your bedroom or office staring at a computer screen without so much as a breath of fresh air. Getting out of your apartment—be it for a walk to the coffee shop or a turn around the block—will do absolute wonders for your mental health, your productivity, and your ability to look the other way when your roommate leaves their dishes in the sink to “soak” for the fifth time that week.
Plus, think of it this way: when you get out of the apartment and get some fresh air, you’re getting out of the apartment. Nothing helps calm down annoyances more than a little bit of distance, even if it’s only for a short walk!
See if you can alternate days working in the apartment. Now that most covid restrictions are lifted, it shouldn’t be too hard to take advantage of a local coffee shop or library in order to get a few hours out of the apartment. Furthermore, if your offices are allowing hybrid work, it might be worth it to see if you can alternate days in the office so that both you and your roommate can get the apartment to yourselves. Something as simple as one day a week can really help—ever heard of the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder”?
Divide space equally (no controlling the living room). Honestly, it makes sense. If the living room has the best natural light and is closest to the router (and kitchen!), it’s completely natural to want to set up camp and work in comfort. But just as much as you love the living room, I’m sure your roommate does as well. And no one likes a living room tyrant.
Unlike an office, your apartment has limited space, so make sure that you’re not dominating the common areas. Which is more annoying: trying to focus on your meeting when your roommate is army crawling across the floor to avoid being seen in the hopes of getting another coffee, or having to army crawl across the floor in order to get a cup of coffee because your roommate’s taking a Zoom call in the living room? Remember: it’s a shared space, and everyone deserves a chance to work from the couch.
Schedule hang out time. Yes, it might sound cheesy, but putting time to hang out on the calendar will go a lot farther than you might think. Planning to order-in dinner one night to watch TV or scheduling a trip to a cafe can do wonders. Scheduling time to hang out—as mechanical as it sounds—offers you the ability to have time to socialize with your roommate while still having time to yourself, whether that time is working or resting.
Communication is key. Don’t let anything fester—talk it out if you’re feeling upset or if there’s something bothering you. Your roommate is not a mind reader and will not be able to fix the issue if you don’t tell them. It doesn’t need to be a whole affair, but simply sitting them down and explaining that if your door is closed that you would prefer for them to knock before entering can make the difference between hating your roommate and loving them.
Share a calendar. It might sound rather silly, but if you have a shared calendar with your roommate, you can coordinate when you both have important meetings or calls. There will be less of a worry that your roommate will be making a smoothie while blasting the top 40 while you’re on the phone with your boss if they know that you’re in an important meeting.
Learn to compromise. The most important thing that you can do (other than invest in good headphones and even better coffee) is to treat each other with respect and grace. If they have a big meeting and need absolute quiet in the apartment, maybe then it’s your turn to go to the cafe down the street. And the same goes vice versa. Learning to live together and treat each other as coworkers as well as roommates can go a long way in terms of keeping the peace and your sanity.
And lastly, remember that your roommate is in the same boat as you. Treat your roommate the way you would want to be treated, and things will be golden.