By Emily Hutchinson
The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to stay at home, either in self-quarantine, working from home following office closures, or in some cases, without work at all.
It means there may be more bodies in the house at one time than normal – which can be chaos for those living in a share house.
It’s important to equip yourself to manage these unprecedented times, and make sure your housemates are also prepared to weather the storm.
Here are some tips for share housing during COVID-19.
What to do if your housemate is self-isolated
If your housemate has tested positive for COVID-19, or has recently returned from overseas, they will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
According to the Department of Health, if your housemate tests positive for coronavirus, you will also need to self-isolate.
All people more vulnerable to the virus will need to leave the house, including those with compromised immune systems and the elderly.
Your infected housemate will need to stay in their bedroom as much as possible, and if they do occasionally need to use shared spaces, they will have to wear surgical masks and gloves – they’re basically one big germ.
It’s also vital to be regularly cleaning and disinfecting the house and hard surfaces throughout this period.
Try to find someone who can deliver groceries and essentials to your household.
There are also rules for self-isolation if your housemate is not unwell but, for example, has recently returned from overseas or interstate.
If this is the case, your housemate won’t need to wear a surgical mask or gloves, or confine themselves to their bedroom. However, they won’t be able to leave the house so you will need to help supply them with groceries and other essentials throughout the 14-day period.
Stick to a routine
Working from home may take some getting used to. It’s easy to feel as though you aren’t working at all if you’re not in the workplace.
The best thing to do is stick to a routine. Don’t stop getting up early and going to bed at your usual time – it will help you feel a sense of normalcy.
Also, take proper lunch breaks and try to get out of the house, if you’re able to, so you don’t get cabin fever.
The other day I found myself asking my dog if I “could have this dance” and forced him to waltz with me – it was definitely time for me to go for a walk.
Make sure you also log off at your usual time – it’s easy to continue tapping away on your laptop overtime because you’re already home and don’t need to commute.
Create co-working zone
By now, shared spaces have probably become the home office for you and your housemates. During this time, make sure your house still feels like a home and not a workplace.
In my share house, where three of us are working from home, we have created working zones. The dining table, the couch and the courtyard.
If you have back or neck issues, speak to your workplace about potentially borrowing equipment or furniture. If you do have to purchase any home office items, make sure you keep the receipts for your tax return.
You don’t have to stay at your house to work, either – my housemates and I have already arranged to work at our friends’ share houses on certain days to break things up.
Also, remember to be as respectful as possible of your housemates while they work. If you need to take a call, do it in a separate room, or outside. We don’t need to all hear about the Penske file that your boss is nagging you for.
Keep shared workspaces clean by packing up your things at the end of the day, giving surfaces a wipe down and washing your dishes.
Be sure to also wash your hands if you’ve been out and about, so you don’t bring any unwanted germs into the house.
Tell your property manager if you can’t pay rent on time
Many share housers and renters will be finding it hard to pay rent – casual workers in particular, and those working in industries such as retail, hospitality and events have been hit hard.
Some rental groups and members of the government have called for more leniency from landlords on paying rent on time – given the tenant has a strong rental payment history, of course.
If you do think you will struggle to pay your rent on time, speak to your property manager and explain the situation. They will then communicate this with your landlord who hopefully has your back during this time.
Support local businesses
We all get made fun of as renters for spending too much money on food and drink anyway, so why not just embrace it?
There are several businesses that are still doing take away and home deliveries and UberEats is still pumping out meals that you can have ‘delivered to your door’,
Buying household items
Toilet paper supply is a standard pain point in a share house – but now, picking some up from the supermarket requires you ‘knowing a guy’ who can get some from the back room.
Now is not the time to be keeping tabs on whose turn it is to buy essential household items. If you see something that’s needed, buy it and figure out the finances later.
Reconnect with each other
It’s not all bad – you can use this time to reconnect with your housemates. Often in share housing, you can feel like passing ships in the night, but now that you’re all at home together and stuck in the house, create some fun activities.
My housemates and I have been doing exercise intervals every hour so we don’t get too soft by sitting around all day.
Or how about making some food together. Pasta is low in stock at most supermarkets, but you can make it at home.
Above all, try to have some laughs together – enjoy the hilarious memes currently circulating on Instagram and Twitter and remember – this is a temporary situation.
Look after each other and check in with those more vulnerable or in self-isolation – you can pop one of these cards in your neighbours’ mailboxes to help them with things like groceries, or even a friendly phone call.
Originally published as Tips for share-housing during COVID-19