Here’s How to Survive Working From Home With a Partner or Roommates

Here’s How to Survive Working From Home With a Partner or Roommates

By Kate Reggev
Keep these tips in mind if your WFH setup involves roommates, a partner, or kids.

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19 forced millions of us to stay at home, working remotely had been on the rise. But that’s not to say that the adjustment comes easily; telecommuting can take both a physical and mental toll—especially when you’re suddenly working in tight quarters with partners, roommates, children, or other family members. Whether you’re used to working from home or new to the routine, we have some crucial tips to keep you focused and help you navigate with your impromptu co-working setup.

Have your own work-from-home tips to share? Leave them in the comments below!

Invest in a Good Pair of Headphones

Laser-cut, hand-welded steel Headphone stand.

Working from home generally means working from a home computer, which entails video conferences, phone calls, and even virtual happy hours. Treat yourself—and those around you—with a pair of high-quality, noise-cancelling headphones with a built-in microphone that blocks out background noise while ensuring that you come in crystal clear. If you and and your home office mates like to listen to music or podcasts while you work, this will also allow you to jam out without disturbing anyone. You’ll also want to make sure that the headphones are comfortable for long periods of wear, so you may prefer over-ear headphones to earbuds.

Mutually Agree on Dedicated Workspaces

Just because you’re working in a shared, confined space doesn’t mean you should start working from your bed or the couch (the best way to accidentally find yourself taking a mid-afternoon snooze). It’s important to have specific areas (or, if you’re lucky, an entire room) devoted to work to get yourself in the right state of mind. Whether it’s a dining room table,  kitchen counter, under-stair nook, or a proper desk in a home office, various workspaces should be discussed as a household so everyone is on board and knows to not distract each other.

Navigate Each Other’s Working Hours

Along with a dedicated workspace, you’ll also want to outline a daily work schedule so that others can respect these quiet hours. Ideally, you’ll be able to line up your hours with your partner or roommate so that everyone is in work mode together, or take lunch breaks or a much-needed walk at the same time, but you’ll need to stay flexible depending on deadlines and the demands of particular jobs. If you live with a partner and kids, a staggered schedule may work better for you so that you’re able to take turns with household chores and childcare. Either way, this will help you not only stick to a specific schedule, but also support everyone else’s work habits.

Shop the Story
Observatory Ubi Mobile Bag Catch
Co-founded in 2001 by Ayako Takase and Cutter Hutton, Providence-based Observatory strives to create products that reflect a compassionate understanding of the needs and aspirations of end users.

Keep Shared Spaces Clutter-Free

Since your home is now the ultimate live/work space—not only office, but also homeschool, playroom, indoor gym—and is being used more intensely throughout the day, it’s natural for dirty dishes, laundry, paperwork, toys, and general clutter to pile up. But a messy home, whether it’s a spacious house or a compact studio, can lead to stress, irritability, and distraction. Make sure that everyone pitches in to keep the house as clean and organized as possible. An added benefit to your reduced anxiety: a clean home is easier to disinfect in case someone does get sick.

Practice Empathy

Small spaces can mean short tempers, but try to remember that you’re not the only one dealing with difficult circumstances. Chances are, your partner or roommate is also tired of hearing you on conference calls, and your kids are sick of staying inside—it’s key to remember that you’re all in the same boat. If you find yourself fuming over a miscommunication or harboring some resentment, take a few deep breaths and put yourself in the other’s shoes. You’d be surprised what a difference a mere minute can make.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Above all, make sure that you’re communicating with everyone you live (and now work) with to stay on the same page about everything from schedules to noise levels, and defined work spaces to chores. Keep in mind that in this time of uncertainty, everyone will need to compromise and stay flexible. In small spaces with multiple people, frustration and anger can easily build up, which is not healthy for you or anyone else. If you’re finding it hard to explain why something frustrates you, work on expressing yourself in an honest but non-accusatory way. It’s a skill that will benefit you not only at home, but also in the office—whenever you find yourself back there.

Related Reading:

6 Ways to Turn Your Home Office Into a Distraction-Free Zone

25 Modern Home Office Ideas You Should Put to Work

10 Essential Tips for Creating a Hardworking Home Office


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.