Considering living with a coworker? You should give it some serious thought.
You may think you have a good idea of what your coworkers are all about. After all, you spend 40 hours every week with them. But the truth is that most people are completely different at work than they are at home. And even if you’re friends outside of the office, it’s still not the same as living under the same roof 24/7.
However, affordable housing is hard to come by—especially if you live in a big city. And sharing a house or apartment with a fellow employee can make a lot of sense, especially when it comes to similar schedules and budgets. The bottom line? Cohabiting with a coworker can be a positive and even fun experience—if you stick to some basic rules.
Be Upfront about Expectations
Sharing a residence with a respected coworker doesn’t ensure that he or she will be as well-behaved at home. Even the most accountable, driven workers may be less reliable or organized in their personal lives. For this reason, it’s important to be open and honest about roommate expectations, as well as considerate of all shared spaces.
Some important things to talk about? Expectations for cleaning up after yourself, sharing household duties, overnight guests, parties and more. A home is a place where both parties should feel comfortable and relaxed; make sure everyone is on the same page.
Create a Roommate Agreement
No matter how compatible you think you are or how many expectations you set out, the perfect roommate arrangement simply doesn’t exist. There’s no doubt that conflicts and problems will arise, and preparing in advance is the best way to help prevent potential issues from blowing up.
Whether it’s written or not, the agreement should include things like overnight guests, quiet hours, specific cleaning and maintenance responsibilities, and when to lock the door. Don’t forget to include important information like how the bills will be split and when they will be paid.
One of the great advantages of having a “workmate?” Sharing the transportation to work. Carpooling can save you money in the long run – and it can even benefit the environment. If you and your roommate work similar schedules and don’t mind carpooling, create a simple schedule indicating who will drive on what days. If only one of you owns a vehicle, work out a reasonable plan for compensation for gas and vehicle maintenance.
Understand That It Isn’t Necessary to Be Best Friends
Recognize that being roommates with a colleague isn’t necessarily about being best friends. Though roommates can be friends, a roommate relationship isn’t always same as a friendship—and that’s fine. First and foremost, the relationship is a shared living arrangement. And if you and your roommate live together just fine, sometimes that’s all that matters. In many cases, it’s actually better not to be best friends with your coworker/roommate—after all, you spend a lot of time with him or her already, and everyone needs space. Which brings us to our next point…
Have Respect for Personal Space
Like you would in any living arrangement, be respectful of your roommate’s personal space. Don’t poke into your roommate’s business, snoop around her room or go into her personal belongings. Always knock before you enter your roommate’s bedroom—and if the door is open, try to announce yourself with a rap on the doorframe or a quick “Hi!” And, though this might seem obvious, never read her emails, snail mail, text messages or notebooks—work-related or otherwise. Remember that no matter how close you are, your roommate has a right to live her own private life and come and go as she pleases.
Keep Work and Home Separate
One of the biggest dangers of living with a coworker is blurred boundaries between work and home. Keep what happens in your home life between you and your roommate. If you get in a spat about dirty dishes or guests overstaying their welcome, don’t talk about it with other coworkers. And try to keep work issues out of the home, too. You don’t want your home life and your office life to overlap too much, and you want to make sure you respect each other’s confidentiality and privacy.
Don’t Discuss Other Coworkers
The last rule for a great roommate relationship? Don’t gossip about other coworkers with your roommate. While there may be other coworkers you both dislike, or work issues that both affect you, try to keep your conversations about workplace drama to the workplace. First, you both need to fight your own battles at work in a professional manner. Moreover, it’s just unhealthy to constantly vent about work.
One last thing to remember—if a roommate arrangement doesn’t work out, you can’t just avoid your coworker after he or she moves out. You’ll still have to see each other at work, so it’s important to try to end the living situation on friendly and peaceful terms. Nevertheless, many coworker/roommate relationships really do work out well. The trick? Clear expectations, open communication, and respect.