What I Learned Working from Home with Roommates

Working from home when you live with roommates brings another meaning to the phrase “open office.” Right now, I live with two other people, and we all work for different companies. When anyone could be in a meeting at any given time, you really have to think about how you carry yourself — even in the comfort of your own home! Below are some things that I learned over a year’s worth of figuring it out.

Boundaries are important.

So, let’s talk “office” space. At home, common areas like the living room can turn into a noise minefield if someone’s working there. Oftentimes, that also includes the kitchen that’s nearby — you wouldn’t want to slam the fridge shut if someone’s in a call!

Even if you’re just walking by, you could be interrupting someone. No matter where you are in the house, it’s important to establish boundaries so that others know to keep their distance and respect those boundaries. A habit that I’ve picked up when entering such an area is creating a hand sign with the other person to determine if they’re in a call. I like to tap on my ear. The other person can silently shake their head to communicate while not interrupting a meeting. At the very least, this helps me know that I should proceed quietly.

Use your inside voices, please!

Hey, you! Shouting across the room is a common form of communication (at least in my house). When working remotely, it’s pretty easy to understand how this could be dangerous. Once, I shouted, “Buenos dias!” to greet my roommate in the morning, unaware that they were in a call with their boss. Thankfully, they were muted; how embarrassing if they weren’t!

Not sure if someone’s busy? When in doubt, I’ve learned that silence is still golden.

Dress for success.

You’re at home, and I get it. Sometimes you just want to lounge around, let loose, maybe wear your favorite onesie. Well… maybe not. Depending on where others are working, being considerate of what you wear is a must. I know what my desk’s camera range is, sure, but keeping track of where others are can be exhausting. Personally, I’ve always thought it to be easier to avoid these spaces in general or dress up for work — even if you’re at home.

I think of this as representing myself as well as anyone else in the case I need to walk by a roommate’s camera range. For example, I know my couch is in the range of one desk setup; if I want to use that area, I think it’s polite to dress more professionally. To me, I see this as not only representing myself but my roommate as well by association.

Working from home with roommates is all about being considerate.

A lot of this advice boils down to setting boundaries, putting yourself in your roommate’s shoes, and being considerate. What tips do you have for working from home when you live with others?