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How to Work From Home With Flatmates

With the COVID19 pandemic going around, more and more people are resorting to working from home (or WFH as global organizations now call it). But even before the pandemic, people have already done remote or freelance work with just their gadgets and a working internet connection.  Whether you’re working from the comfort of your room or in the living room of a shared apartment, there are strategies to set up an ideal WFH environment, no matter the distractions you may face (including roommates). 

It could be tricky sometimes to have two or more people in the same place having to WFH, you have meetings and you have to concentrate, but being around them might be noisy as they go through the same thing as you. So, if you’re planning to work from home, follow these simple steps to set yourself up without having to butt heads with a housemate!

1. Secure a Permanent Work Space

What you need to do first is surveying the apartment for a perfect spot with a proper internet connection and good lighting. When you’ve found a flat surface wide enough for you to put down your laptop, stationery, and relevant documents, start working on your permanent working station. It has to be clean and uncluttered, well-lit, has a working power outlet to charge your gadgets, and has easy access to the bathroom and water dispenser (NOT the kitchen. We’ll give you the reasons why later).

If you live in a shared apartment but don’t have the option to work in your room (because of an unstable internet connection and so forth), here are things you need to do to avoid conflict over ‘hijacked’ spaces. After finding a suitable spot, communicate to your roommate that you’re making it your work station and what hours you’ll be using it. This way, your roommate would steer away and minimize sounds and other activities you might find distracting.

If you and your roommate have no other choice but to use the same spot and are unable to take turns (since you have the same work hours), share the space. Remember to set up a ‘no talking rule’ or ‘no unnecessary snack breaks’ lest you want to waste away precious time by chatting or too many trips to the kitchen.

Pro-tip: If you’re having online meetings, make sure your camera wouldn’t catch distracting background objects and movement. Considering moving out of your room if you’ve been plastering your walls with posters or piling up glass cases full of action figures —save those for video calls with friends instead.

2. Manage Time for Work and Other Activities

Put your time management skills to the test! Not only do you have to rework your work hours and habits, but you also need to maintain your apartment while looking out for your needs and your roommate’s.

This Hubspot article provides great pointers for putting together a work schedule. Construct an agenda the day before starting on a project or other tasks. Structure it as you would structure a regular day at the office. When segmenting activities, the trick is to overestimate how much time you’ll spend doing one thing and how many things you’ll do during the day. Most importantly, pay attention to your most productive hours. Save harder tasks for those hours and leave out the smaller, menial stuff for slower points of the day. 

To help maintain your schedule, have fixed mealtimes. If you’re used to cooking and eating together with your roommate, keep it clear that you’re sticking to your own schedule. If your roommate doesn’t pause on time for the lunch break, don’t feel bad about eating first. You can also take turns cooking for two even if you’re not planning to eat at the same time.

We suggest that you also have fixed snack breaks and keep bottles of mineral water or a tumbler of tea and coffee around your work station. Prepare your caffeine supply beforehand or as short breaks during tasks so you won’t spend too much time mucking around in the kitchen.

For roommates who share their house chores, consider using a chart to schedule everyone’s daily chores. Unlike work, underestimate the time you need to finish chores so you’ll be more committed to finishing those chores as soon as possible and get back to work. Consider doing chores during the hour when you’ll be the least productive.

Your sleep schedule is also an important part of time management. But what if it’s your housemate that’s preventing you from getting some sleep? In this Grazia article, Dr. Rachel Scicluna and Fransesca Leung (author of The House Rules Book), suggest directly approaching your roommate and settling things down calmly. Passive-aggressive signaling and suffering in silence won’t get you anywhere. Moreover,  make sure that you are not the one interrupting anybody else’s sleep schedule. 

3. Refresh on Weekends

Weekends are for leisure and catching up with sleep (unless you have emergency calls or meetings). Even so, spending entire weekdays for work means putting aside chores you’ve chosen to delay or forgetting to do little things, like rent. To compensate, choose a day between Saturday and Sunday exclusively for resting and the other for apartment maintenance. 

If you plan on doing chores on the weekends, make sure you don’t overexert yourself and insert smaller chores in-between chores that take longer to finish. Weekends are also a great day to recollect yourself and focus on other house tasks like keeping up on rent (which you also need to schedule on a calendar or your gadget) and checking your inventory for food and cleaning supplies.

On your designated leisure day, pay attention to your roommate’s emotional needs aside from your own. Give them space and time to themselves when needed, but be there for them whenever they need a helping hand or a company, just as you would to each other in downtime after a whole week of work in the office.

In the end, support and mutual understanding between housemates are crucial when you’re adapting your home into an office. Things do get rough in the beginning, but things will hopefully smooth up as you go, just remember to honor every rule and commitment you’ve made with your roommate and yourself.

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