So having a housemate the last few months has been a bit of an experience. Some of it has been awesome, some of it has left a little to be desired. I think one of the biggest hiccups deals directly with the fact that I work from home. As a writer and streamer my “job” keeps me here in the house. In a lot of ways my housemate did not seem to actually be able to work with/around this. I am not saying she was terrible, just that there were some misunderstandings about sharing space with me. I have some tips for if you ever find yourself living with someone that works from home. I want to preface this by saying that some of these things will seem a bit harsh. I don’t believe that people set out with malicious intent when they start to do these things, but they are still problematic.
1: Your days off are not always their day off
This was a reoccurring problem. One of my housemate’s regularly scheduled days off was a day I would still work. Also, she would take vacation days or just have a day off from work. The problem was she assumed that because she was home and taking a day off it was okay for her to treat me like it was also a day off for me. This is not okay. If the person you are living with works from home and is at their desk leave them be. If I am working, my location does not change the context of it. It would not be okay for me to come to your office and start talking to you, distracting you, showing you pictures, or any number of things. So it’s not okay for you to do to me.
I don’t think that when this happens it comes from a bad place, just simply the idea that you are in your shared space together so you want to interact. The problem is our jobs are still our jobs. I don’t like being interrupted when I am writing, it will often break my flow and concentration. I also don’t like feeling like it’s my responsibility to block you out. I shouldn’t need to use headphones or something to ensure that you understand that I need my space. No, I am “at work” so you should respect that.
2: Your housemate probably doesn’t have days off
This might not be the healthiest thing that people that work from home do, but it is something many of us do. While there are days of the week that I would consider more “full time” it’s rare for me to take a day completely off. I am often working on my blog or twitch channel’s design. Doing various research to be better at both, researching random things for stories I am writing, any number of things. Much like with the first piece of advice, when I am in my work space I am working.
If you have a normal office job and normal hours this might seem confusing, but is true more often than not. Again it comes down to respecting and understanding that when we are working it is the same as anyone else who works. If you see us in our space know to walk away.
3: We often keep odd hours
One of the best (and at the same time worst) parts of working from home is setting your own hours. I know what I want/need to accomplish everyday, and I do it on my time in my way. I often wake up, work for a bit, go to the gym, come home and do some of my own things, go back to working for awhile, etc. The general idea is I set my own time, take my own breaks, and control my own schedule. This can feel very odd to people not used to this, and can increase the chances of not understanding one or two.
The biggest problem that someone might have with my schedule is that I “work late”. I stream in the evenings and then after streaming I try to get even more writing done. It’s all about learning each other’s schedules and routines. If you live with someone that works from home and something in their schedule negatively impacts you discuss this with them. Otherwise you can both learn to work around each other so that everyone is being their most productive.
4: We also have weird “office” habits
You know that person at work that takes a break every few hours and knits? Or the one that has to have their coffee just so at a certain time? Or you know that odd thing you do at the office everyday? It helps you to unwind, relax, and focus? Yeah, we have those things too. I like to take breaks at certain times, drink some tea, and look for recipes online. I do this for about 15 minuets or so every couple of hours, and I hate being interrupted while I am doing it. I am still technically in work mode, it’s just my little “office” ritual that gets me back into the right zone before getting back to work.
Needing these rituals is less about where you are located and more about the fact that you are working. So just because we are at home does not change that we need these things to help us feel comfortable and keep us productive.
5: When your schedule changes that doesn’t mean ours can/will
This goes hand in hand with number one. My schedule is to wake up at a certain time, I eat and while letting it settle I work on my blog a little. I then go to the gym and come home, shower, then tackle the afternoon. I stop at one point to make dinner and then get right back into work. I do this five days a week.
I have made this schedule for myself because routine helps to keep people who work at home productive. Without some sort of schedule I fall into the habit of taking advantage of the fact that I work from home. I start writing less and canceling streams and generally just “hanging out” at home.
I also have my schedule worked out in a way that works best for all of us. I cook dinner at a time that works for my husband. I go to the gym at a time when I come home I can shower without being in anyone’s way. Often times the people that we as home workers live with expect us to be able to change our schedule. Say my housemate doesn’t have to go into work, so she sleeps in and wants to shower when I am coming home from the gym. My schedule is still designed for me to work that day so I can’t always just change it on the fly. It can be frustrating and a little disrespectful.
6: Yes, we are home all day that doesn’t mean we can do more around the house
This is a problem that might not always come up, it’s also a situation that must be dealt with case by case. When it comes to my husband and I, I do actually do a lion’s share of the housework. He has a difficult job and a difficult schedule. I am fine doing more work around the house and in return he does things that I especially hate. This is my husband though. I have had housemates before that kind of expected the same thing. If I work from home I should be able to do more of the housework right? Yet that doesn’t make sense. My life is still divided into time I am working, time I am taking care of things around the house, and free time for myself. Yes, I do actually need free time. Just because I am at home doesn’t mean I am free from the burden of work or needing down time. Sacrificing more of my time to do things like cleaning is just the same as if someone that goes to the office does the same.
Now again, this is something that is going to be tackled case by case. In my latest situation there was also a health disparity so it made sense for me to take on a bit more housework. However, you have to work this out and it’s unfair to have the expectation that a home worker would do more. If you want someone to cook and clean for you, you want a maid (who you would pay by the way)… not a housemate.
7: Office space is not common space
In my current situation there is the challenge of my work area having to be in the living room. Our house is small and that’s the way it worked out. However, it changes nothing. My desk, my work area, is not common area. No matter what the circumstances if you live with someone that works from home their work area is for them alone. Don’t sit at their desk, don’t move stuff on it, don’t “borrow” things, don’t treat it any differently than you would a co-workers desk.
As I said when I start this post I don’t believe people do these things on purpose. I believe that living with someone that works from home just shows how different people’s experiences are. People who are used to going to an office might not know how to react to this situation. It’s easy to forget that people who work from home actually work, and that you need to respect their job and their needs. Of course there are things that change circumstance by circumstance. However, if you try to remember these rules it will make for a much happier time for all.