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New Normal, New Rules: Living with Flatmates During a Pandemic

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Though Australia, New Zealand, and other countries are starting to ease lockdown restrictions, things are nowhere near back to normal. People are still likely to stay and work from home, including your flatmates.

Coping with the stress of possible illness, job insecurity, and complete uncertainty is stressful. Adding roommate tension to the mix could drive you up the wall. If it’s too late to add a pandemic clause in your sublease or roommate agreement, here are some new rules you can set for the “new normal.”

Set your approach to dealing with the virus

Internet may be full of how-tos, from making a no-bake cheesecake to buying a hydraulic pump that can be for sale. When it comes to a pandemic, though, we can’t help but take things day by day. In turn, tensions around safely navigating the pandemic might arise at home — with roommates arguing whether to disinfect groceries or not.

To ease such tensions, take the time to hear each other out. Listen to each other’s point of view, so you can all come to some sort of agreement about your approach to social distancing and proper hygiene. It is not a great time to be passive-aggressive and let resentment grow between flatmates, after all.

Also, make sure to come up with a contingency plan in case one of you gets sick. Though your flatmate can self-isolate in their room, how should they use shared spaces, such as the bathroom and kitchen? If they need to go to the hospital or testing centre, who’s going to drive them? How will you disinfect the entire flat?

Respect each other’s work hours

checking work schedule

When you’re working from home, it can be difficult to delineate work from your personal life. You get up, eat cereals, take a shower, and start working, with far too many breaks in between to do some chores.

Proper scheduling and discipline are vital to staying productive when you’re at home full of distraction — and your roommates should understand this, as well. If all of you are working from home with almost similar shifts, you can set quiet hours, say, from 6 AM to 6 PM. Otherwise, devise a plan to constantly remind your roommates not to disturb you during your work hours. You don’t want them to suddenly barge into your room nor play loud music while you’re in an important Zoom meeting.

Set hours or days for alone or group time

Though you need peace when working or relaxing, you may still need to interact with others. It’s difficult to stay sane when you completely self-isolate, after all. Talk to your flatmates about the activities you can do together and the best time or day to do it. Perhaps, you want to play co-op games or binge-watch Netflix shows to let all your pandemic stress out. Working out together sounds good, as well.

Whatever you agree on, be sure to create a balanced routine of alone and group time. This way, no one will feel like they’re forced to spend their extra time with others. We all react to crisis differently, anyway.

No matter the rule you want to negotiate with your flatmates this pandemic, remember one thing: empathy. We are all trying to adapt to a global crisis. Check in with your roommates and see how they are holding up. Assume that they are doing their best, even if it doesn’t seem like it. From there, you can stop getting on each other’s nerves and start resolving issues in a more empathetic, productive way.

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