COVID-19 has been tough on everyone, but has tested roommates more than ever. With tough conversations around mask-wearing in the home, visitor restrictions or even social distancing, you’re being pushed in ways you did not prepare for.
So how can you stay healthy and safe while also navigating roommate relationships in 2021? We provide 5 tips every co-living home can use to get through the rest of the pandemic.
1. Communication is Key
It isn’t easy to have an honest, clear-headed conversation if you’re already on the rocks with your roommates. Even when you’re on good terms with them, communicating ideas doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. To get ahead of arguments or uncomfortable situations, roommates should come together and set expectations for the group.
A few points to bring up when communicating your expectations could be related to:
- Wearing face masks in public or at home
- Visitor and guest limitations, especially significant others
- Acceptable “pod” sizes and who is in your “pod”
- Quiet hours for remote work if working from home
- Travel protocol if working at the office or traveling
Though we have been facing this pandemic for quite some time already, if you haven’t gone over these issues, it’s probably time to. This will ensure a solid understanding of what each roommate thinks and/or wants.
Remember nothing will ever get accomplished if you and your roommates withhold things from one another. A great way to come to some conclusions would be to create a roommate agreement specific to COVID-19. This can be a document that everyone signs to help keep everyone accountable for their actions while living together.
2. Distancing at Home
Not everyone will see eye-to-eye on what they think is “safe” during this time. Maybe you’ve tried to set expectations before, but your roommates aren’t listening. There are other ways around this. Social distancing from roommates can help ease an anxious mind, or at the very least put some control back in your hands.
Here are some ways you can distance from your roommates:
- Avoid sharing food and beverages
- Use your own bath and hand towels
- Wash laundry separately from your roommates
- Re-arrange furniture in shared spaces to stay more distanced
- Never let a roommate use your mask (if cotton mask, wash weekly)
- Keep sanitizing wipes on hand to disinfect doorknobs and countertops
According to the CDC, it’s important to routinely clean high-touch surfaces (tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, faucets, etc.), with soap and water, then a disinfectant. This is a complete list of EPA approved disinfectants that kill the COVID-19 virus.
If you think your roommate is being excessive with COVID safety, try seeing it from their perspective. Perhaps they want to visit family and need to be extra careful, or maybe they have a compromised immune system and don’t want to take any risks. We can all use a little extra understanding and patience. And remember, social distancing doesn’t mean solitude.
3. Discuss a Media Diet
The news these days can be exhausting, and the statistics reported daily on COVID-19 cases can take a toll on everyone. If non-stop reports on the pandemic are stressing you out, talk to your roommates about a media diet.
See if your roommates are willing to limit news broadcasts to certain times of the day or days of the week. With everyone’s mental health taking a toll, this might benefit the housemates more than you think.
Additionally, instead of consuming media you could try at-home workouts, or creative endeavors like writing and painting. If you’ve been in quarantine for some time, trying something new might strike your fancy. Some ideas include starting a business selling things online, picking up a new instrument or trying a new sport.
There are so many fun distant activities you can do with roommates. Either way, limiting your media consumption and pursuing new hobbies will likely benefit all parties.
4. Resolving Conflict
Maybe you spotted your roommate socializing maskless or perhaps they keep inviting friends in the house when you agreed not to on the roommate agreement you all signed. It’s not ideal, but the best approach to confronting your roommates is being direct, sitting down in a shared space and having a calm, non-accusatory conversation. Let your roommate know exactly what action bothered you and why, and hear from their perspective as well. Communication can be effective in most situations and helps to further build your relationships.
There are many strategies you could try to resolve roommate conflict, but if you’ve put in the effort and still can’t agree on anything, it may be time to move on. Ultimately, your health is at risk and you shouldn’t feel trapped by someone else’s decisions. Before signing into a new lease vet potential roommates. Ask them questions about social distancing, masks and visitors. This will help to ensure your new co-living arrangement is a harmonious one.
5. If a Roommate Contracts COVID-19
If one of your roommates becomes sick with COVID, you can try and help, but remember that there are a lot of precautions you need to take so you don’t put your own health at risk.
Here are a few ways to protect yourself, according to the CDC:
- Assign the sick person their own bedroom and bathroom. Limit contact with them as much as possible, but if you absolutely need to enter their room stay fully masked and 6 feet away.
- Ventilate shared spaces. Open windows throughout the house to increase air circulation. This helps to remove respiratory droplets from the air in your home.
- Eat in separate rooms. The roommate who is sick should always eat in their bedroom. Think about getting a grocery delivery service so no one in the house has to leave during the 2-week quarantine period.
- Wash your hands. Make sure you wash your hands often. Hand washing needs to last for at least 20 seconds and should be done with soap and water.
- Clean frequently. If your roommate feels up to it, they should clean their own space. If anyone in the house has to share a bathroom with them, the infected person should disinfect after every use. If that isn’t possible, you need to wait as long as possible after they’ve used the bathroom before going in to clean and use.
- Quarantine. All roommates will need to quarantine and stay home for at least 14 days since their last contact with the sick person, or 14 days after the sick roommate meets the criteria to end home isolation.
- Track your health. Remember it is very important for all roommates to stay home if someone in their house gets COVID-19. You don’t have to be symptomatic to be contagious. Make sure you monitor your symptoms and if you or one of your roommates has trouble breathing, seek immediate medical attention.
The current pandemic has thrown a lot of challenges our way. From remote work to new ways of socializing, we’re all learning how to live through this unprecedented time. For roommates, that’s never been more the case. Whether you just moved into a new home with roommates or have been living there since the pandemic began, stay open and honest and you’re sure to get through this pandemic safely together.