Quarantining isn’t easy, especially if you have roommates. You might have already discovered some of the challenges of the situation over the last several months — for instance, how to agree on safety measures, respect personal space, get work done at the same time, and most importantly, how to have fun.
With the right approach, you and your roommates can make the best of these difficult times. All you need to do is follow a few basic rules:
Put Safety First
First and foremost, everyone needs to stay safe and healthy. Doctors and politicians may be telling us to social distance, but that’s nearly impossible in your apartment if you have roommates. So how can you make sure no one gets sick?
One way is to keep things extra clean. A good approach is to set up a COVID-specific cleaning schedule with your roommates, which should include sanitizing all high-touch surfaces like door handles, sink knobs, toilets, showers, refrigerators, remotes, and light switches. Beyond cleaning, try to keep your windows open whenever possible, and use fans and HEPA air filters if you have them. You should also invest in a bottle of communal hand-sanitizer, which you can station right by the front door, and a box of disposable masks. Agreeing with your roommates on some general hygienic practices is more important now than ever before.
This goes to a bigger point, which is that you and your roommates will collectively need to decide how stringent your quarantine is going to be. After all, if one roommate isn’t properly quarantining, none of you are fully safe, so take some time to really discuss this as a household. Check out all state and local guidelines on quarantining while doing this, including those concerning topics like allowing guests over, attending gatherings, and social distancing from one another in your home. If any of your roommates are especially susceptible to COVID-19, they should be given priority in these decisions. You don’t want to find yourself debating these difficult questions in the heat of the moment, either, so make sure you cover all these bases well in advance.
Of course, no matter how good your quarantine plan is, you might still get sick. If this happens, stay in your room for a week or two. Have your roommates bring you meals, and if you need to use the bathroom, put on some solid PPE like gloves and a quality mask. Also, don’t forget to sanitize anything you touch on the way.
If this seems impractical, you can also look up what your community offers. Some cities like New York will provide sick roommates with separate housing and even free food deliveries. We’re all in this together, after all, and many areas already have systems in place to help you out.
Give Your Roommates Space
Quarantining successfully with roommates isn’t just about physical health — it’s also about mental health. And if you spend every waking moment with the same few people, tensions are inevitably going to arise. That’s why now more than ever, you should make sure to give each other space.
It’s obviously not feasible to stay in a bedroom 24 hours a day, though, so you’ll need to agree on how to share your common areas. When one person’s gaming on the TV, for example, another can be cooking in the kitchen. When someone’s Skyping on the couch, someone else can be out for a walk. Courtesy is the name of the game here, so if you want to watch a movie or listen to music, make sure to use your headphones. You might also find yourself calling your friends more or Zooming with your co-workers. Once again, plug in those headphones. Noisiness is one of the quickest ways to antagonize your roommates, but if you’re smart about it, you can all have fun and get your work done without driving anyone insane.
Find Time to Work
Working remotely is no excuse for slacking off — even if you’re surrounded by roommates. Once again, the key here is communication. Your roommates are probably every bit as buy as you, so you’ll probably find it best to coordinate your schedule with theirs. Start by designating some quiet hours and deciding on who can use which rooms (and when). Most of all, be respectful. Always assume your roommates are working before you interrupt them, and if you’re ever unsure, you can simply ask.
Inevitably though, there will come a time when even compromising won’t work. Nobody wants a confrontation in the middle of the workday, but hey: things happen. Maybe your roommate’s blending milkshakes in the kitchen, laughing uproariously in the hall, or pacing aimlessly through the background of your Zoom call. In situations like these, you just have to get creative. Open up Youtube and play some white noise or nature sounds. You can even buy some cheap soundproofing for your room if need be.
In general, an easy way to keep yourself focused is simply to set up a more focused office environment. Clear off that desk and arrange it solely around productivity. Get dressed each morning before you open your laptop. Put on your shoes. Tie the laces.
But what if nothing works, and your roommates are still driving you up the wall? When in doubt, the best solution is always to talk it out. Sometimes even just a polite text message will do the trick. If nobody wants drama, there’s always a way to avoid it.
Working around your roommates can even be beneficial. One of the reasons offices make for good work environments is because they foster camaraderie, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be replicated at home. If your roommates are up for it, pull up a seat beside them as you delve into your daily tasks. You might find it easier working with others than sitting holed-up in your bedroom all day.
Have a Little Fun
Quarantining with roommates is also a huge opportunity for socializing in these otherwise-isolated times. If you’re really being stringent about your quarantine, your roommates might be some of the only people you get to see in person period. That’s why, just like in an office, it’s important to set aside time for some team-building exercises at home.
Instead of waiting your turn to cook a single plate of food for yourself, why not make a bit more so you can all share? After all, communal meals are a great way to bond with your roommates and unwind. As far as more organized activities go, consider planning movie nights, group workouts, yoga sessions, or anything else you all might enjoy. Just because you’re quarantining doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun, too!
Tough times bring people together — they really do. This pandemic has made life more difficult for everyone, but with a little planning and understanding, we can all keep ourselves healthy, productive, and happy. And when this crazy year (or two or three) is finally over, don’t be surprised if you end up with some lifelong best friends.