Our Impact

When Roommates Become Co-Workers: Create Harmony & Remain Productive While in Quarantine

Posted by Hannah Zinn on April 28, 2020

Our Program Manager Hannah Zinn shares how she has created harmony while working from home during quarantine.

During these unprecedented times, it can be easy to feel a little out of sorts -- whether we’re  trying to find a new routine, determining whether to change our sweatpants, or how to create harmony and remain productive now that our roommate is our new co-worker.

Roommate relationships can vary from being someone you’re still getting to know, your best friend, spouse, or loved one. No matter the relationship, this quarantine is offering a new opportunity to think through how to best cohabitate with someone we are pretty much stuck with 24/7.

My roommate and I have only lived together for about six months, so we still have a pretty new relationship. When it became clear we were both going to be working from home for quite some time, I’ll admit I was a little nervous. I was worried we would step on each other’s toes or go a little stir crazy and take it out on one another. However, it has been the opposite. There were a few things we did that have created harmony allowing us to remain productive and ensuring balance around the home. 

We created our own “office spaces”.

I’ve found it most helpful to stay at my desk during office hours and to go to the living room for breaks or when the workday is done. For her, she is on the opposite schedule and once her work is done, she resumes a few projects that she’s taken up around the apartment or in her room, such as reorganizing and redecorating.

It is in our nature as humans to want structure or routine. So, if there is only one space that seems to work for both you and your roommate, ask if you can be on a rotating schedule – switching off daily or weekly. If possible, find spaces that are in separate rooms so that you can keep your distance.

We work hard to preserve as much normalcy as possible within our day-to-day schedules.

Spending so much time at home and having our routines turned completely upside down can make it easy to lose control of some good habits such as eating, cleaning, and exercising. My roommate has a dog which has meant she must maintain a routine including their morning walks, their breakfast schedules, etc. I decided to use their routine as an opportunity to stay on track as well. When they go for their morning walk, I wake up, do my morning routine, make coffee, and eat my breakfast. This makes us feel like we’re still on our average workday schedule, but instead of going into the office, I go into the next room and start my day.

We also prioritized, if not enhanced, our cleaning routines. Staying home can make it easy to leave extra dishes in the sink or leave clothes or loose items hanging around. Though we still do that occasionally, we make sure to clean up after ourselves as often as possible. I think regular tidying up is important so that it's clear to both of us that we are pulling our own weight and showing respect for the common spaces. 

We are conscious of the people we are exposed to in order to keep each other safe.

As the guidance around the coronavirus continue to develop, my roommate and I were conscious of who we were exposed to in order to keep each other safe and healthy. For example, I had gone to visit some family in the early days of the virus, but before going I had asked if she would be okay with it. She did the same when meeting a friend for a walk. We realized that asking these questions showed that we care about each other’s health and well being. 

We check in on each other regularly -- about work, family, and other interests.

It is easy to feel isolated and lonely during these times. So, remembering that you have a “built-in quarantine buddy” can shed some light during these dark days. We go to the grocery store together, take walks around the block, have a glass of wine, make dinner together, or find a movie we both can enjoy. Most importantly, we go out of our way for one another. During this time, doing small acts of kindness can go a really long way. If you know your roommate likes a certain kind of dessert or snack, pick that up when you’re at the grocery store. If you know that they have elderly parents or grandparents, check and make sure they are doing okay. Check-ins like this can enhance the overall morale of your home and make for a better quarantine experience.


Key Takeaways:

  1. Remember that we are all dealing with this pandemic in different ways. Finding flexibility and enjoyment in your roommate’s company is absolutely necessary during this time.
  2. Find ways to practice your communication skills. Communication comes easily for some and harder for others. Now is a great time to enhance these skills.
  3. Finally, try to maintain a deep level of understanding and serenity. If you learn to be more flexible and communicative, you may find yourself being more understanding of your roommate. 

In our busy lives, we don’t always have time for personal development and self-reflection. Now, we have no excuse!