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Working from home with a roommate tips
Your roommate is now your co-worker. What can you do to make sure you get along and get work done too?
Working from home with roommates is kind of like working at home with kids and dogs. While they may not require as much attention, they can still be a distraction. However, your workload needs to be managed regardless of distractions like intrusive roommates.
If you have joined the WFH workforce, you likely already have developed a few strategies to stay on task. (What is WFH? Don’t worry. It is not a swear phrase. You can use it in polite company. WFH is the acronym of Work From Home.) Some also refer to working from home as “remote work.”
Many enjoy working from home and have even found themselves to be more productive. These people have figured out how to manage their workloads, tasks, communications, and schedules alongside their housemates. With a bit of effort, you can also create ways to successfully work from home even if your roommates work from home too.
Living with a roommate: Working from home tips
Many companies, even large companies, have decided to make working from home permanent. It saves everyone money, allows companies to hire from a larger candidate pool, and helps improve air quality. While your company may be planning to go back to the office, many workers will need to develop long term WFH strategies.
Working from home with roommates tips:
1. Maintain a schedule
Even if you are working freelance, you should keep a regular schedule. This is good for you, and it also allows your roommates to know which hours to leave you alone. If you are a morning person, perhaps you work from 6 am to 3 pm. If you are not a morning person, you can work from 11 am to 8 pm. Many roommates keep a shared calendar online to keep each other in the loop. Or, you can go analog and simply post your schedule to your door.
2. Create a dedicated office space
While it may be tempting to work from the couch or the patio, working in a community space leaves you open to roommate distractions. If you are fortunate enough to have your own office, use it. If not, make part of your room your home office space. Keep it clean, and make sure that you have a good background for your video camera. Consider purchases that might make you more comfortable and productive such as an office chair, lighting, noise-canceling headphones, or additional monitors.
3. Get dressed for work
While PJ and legging sales have skyrocketed, you may benefit from getting dressed for work. You can wear comfortable clothes, but a dedicated “work outfit” will remind your roommates you are working. This reminder will help them, and you, adhere to the agreed-upon work-hours rules.
4. Reduce distracting noises
No matter how careful your roommates try to be, noise may travel into your workspace. You can help soften outside noises by adding a throw carpet, using a white-noise machine or running a fan, or wearing earplugs, or using noise-canceling headphones. It may also help to add soundproofing to your apartment.
5. Get out of the house
It is a good idea to get outside every now and then for your and your roommate’s mental health. Go for a walk or run, ride your bike, find a tree to read under, or spend some time working in the garden. Sun helps with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), increases vitamin D, and reduces the stress hormone cortisol. When you WFH, you may find that you go days without leaving the apartment. Schedule time to get outside for you and your roommate’s sake.
6. Arrange date nights with your roommates
With everyone busy working and respecting quiet times, you and your roommates may start to miss your social interactions. You could schedule a movie night, a night out, a cleaning party, or a camping trip. Roommate “date nights” will help satisfy your needs to be social and give you something to look forward to after a long work week. Some roommates schedule a daily “tea time” to give them a chance to connect regularly.
7. Respect your roommates as co-workers
Try to support each other’s careers. If your roommates are respecting your WFH rules, you need to make sure you adhere to their rules as well. Be mindful of not interrupting their
conference calls, put on your headphones to give them work privacy, don’t disrupt them during their work hours, and keep texts and messaging to a minimum.
8. Create guest guidelines
In addition to your standard guest rules, you may need to add additional guidelines that apply during work hours. Make sure that guests understand how they need to behave when roommates are working. You could post the rules to your front door or post them to a group page. It is your job to make sure your guests do not disrupt your roommates while they are working.
9. Post important meetings
Post to your shared calendar (online or wall) important meeting dates and times. Some meetings are more crucial than others. If you have a big meeting coming up or a job interview, make sure your roommates know the date and time to ensure that they do not disrupt the meeting. Additionally, make sure you review the shared calendar every morning, so you are mindful of your roommate’s schedule.
10. Define a dispute resolution process
No matter how hard you try, disputes will happen. While in a calm and positive frame of mind, you and your roommates should get together and outline how to manage conflicts. In most cases, when a problem arises (like in the middle of the workday) may not be the best time to fight-it-out. If you have a defined process, you know you will resolve the problem later at a more appropriate time.
Zoom meetings gone wrong: What to do if your roommate interrupts
It happens. And it is usually hilarious. But not necessarily good for business. Zoom meetings go wrong quickly if your roommate walks into the camera view half-dressed or if they start singing loudly in the shower. As mentioned, you can prevent these issues by letting your roommates know in advance when your meeting will take place. The second preventative measure is holding the meeting in a room with a door. You may even want to consider a Do Not Disturb sign for your door.
A way to shut down interruptions quickly is by learning how to use your mute microphone and turn-off camera tools. And, don’t just casually learn how to use them, know how to use them in your sleep just in case you really need them someday.
If an interruption occurs, apologize and move on. You don’t want to take up a lot of the meeting time by apologizing but you need to acknowledge that it occurred and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Hopefully, the interruption was only minor and not an HR issue.
Afterwards talk to your roommate and help them understand how serious the incident is or could have been. Discuss together how to avoid the problem in the future.
WFH with roommates: Services to consider adding
You and your roommates may benefit from adding a few services to help improve your WFH situation. Such as,
- Improved Wi-Fi. With everyone working at home, you may benefit from increasing your internet to a higher speed plan.
- Cleaning services. Hiring a cleaning service to maintain common areas will save you a lot of time and stress.
- Delivery services. You may save time by shopping together online for shared consumables and having them delivered.
Many companies such as Google, Uber, and Airbnb are moving towards a permanent WFH model. If you work in an industry moving towards remote work as the new normal, now is a good time to practice how best to make working from home with roommates successful and productive. It will give you practice if you should add noisy kids and dogs later.
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