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February 22, 2018

When Your Co-Workers Are Your Housemates: the Pros and Cons

Lucy Bishop

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©© GettyImages/Izusek

The rising cost of living, combined with the desire to live and work in big cities, where opportunities are more abundant, has resulted in a growing number of millennials opting to become housemates with their co-workers.

In fact, this trend has become so big that several major organizations have begun to develop property, on or near their office sites, that is specifically designed to provide housing for staff. Facebook's Willow Campus, for example, includes 1,500 apartments for employees, and sits about 30 miles from the company's main office complex. And Google has recently invested $30 million in putting up temporary, prefab housing for its workers.

Co-Worker Housemates: A Start-Up Revelation

For many of those who hope to make a name for themselves in San Francisco's tech haven, Silicon Valley, living with a co-worker isn't unusual. In fact, many start-ups begin this way. That is, with a group of like-minded, often young, entrepreneurs who share the same professional and personal space, and dream of inventing the "next big thing."

However, while such living arrangements may start out with the best intentions, they can also lead to disaster. Take the communal living space – or "incubator" – that provides the backdrop to the hit HBO series, Silicon Valley, as an example. From the high point of the housemates getting offered $2 million for the revolutionary compression software that they've developed, to the low of losing control of their company to a venture capitalist (and setting fire to the garden), the show makes it very clear that living with a colleague has its pros and cons!

So, if you're thinking about moving in with a co-worker, let's look at some of the key points that you should consider.

The Pros

1. It Saves Money

The most common reason for moving in together is that you can't afford to pay the rent and bills on your own. Sharing these costs will likely get you better accommodation. It may also mean that you can live in a more desirable area that's closer to work.

2. You Can Carpool

You're both heading in the same direction anyway, so why not carpool to work? It will save you money, reduce your carbon footprint, and you can use the carpool lane!

3. You Might Make a Friend For Life

Hopefully, you've chosen to become housemates because, well, you get on with each other. Yes, there's the financial benefit, but there's also the potential to enjoy some fun times together, and to forge some truly valuable and long-lasting friendships.

At the same time, take care that your newfound friendship doesn't monopolize your time at work. While "in-jokes" are fun, they can result in "cliquey" behavior and may cause your other colleagues to feel left out.

The Cons

1. Beware of Gossip

Venting about work to your housemates after you've had a hard day at the office is one thing. But, if you're living with someone you work with, it may backfire. Perhaps your housemate is good friends with the person you're having a moan about, and they're quite prepared to tell him or her exactly how you feel. This can lead to awkwardness at work and at home, and it may also affect your ability to carry out your role effectively.

Don't forget that this works both ways. If your housemate shares personal or private information with you, don't go "blabbing" it to other people that you work with. This will likely ruin the trust that you've built up and it could damage your relationship beyond repair.

So, be wary of what you choose to share with your housemates. You may prefer to keep your opinions about your other co-workers to yourself, or at least offload your problems to a friend who doesn't share the same office!

2. Split Personalities

Sure, at work, your flatmate is great. She's funny, helpful, works hard, and seems ultra-organized. But work is work. And you might find that she acts completely differently when she's at home. She might be averse to doing the dishes, see laundry as someone else's problem, or play her music really loud late into the night.

You don't have to go all Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory on her. But, sitting down together and writing up some basic "house rules" and a cleaning rota can help you to avoid problems like these. Be sure to do this as early on as possible, as this will help to set the tone of your shared living space from the "get go."

3. Lack of Privacy

Even the best of friends have misunderstandings and disagreements. But these little "spats" can prove awkward when you live and work together. It may feel like there's no escaping from your co-worker and that your "me" time is rapidly dissolving as a result.

So, if you do have a dispute with your housemate, make it a priority to resolve it straight away. And avoid bringing any "bad feeling" about it into work.

Agree with each other that it's OK to spend time apart, and that efforts to do so aren't personal. You might want to go out with a different group of friends for the night. Or perhaps you just want to spend some quiet time chilling in your room. After all, just because you live and work together doesn't mean that you have to be "in each other's pockets." In fact, it's healthier for you both if you're not.

On a final note: before you take the leap and decide to share a house with a work friend, make sure you're both absolutely certain that it's what you want. Don't let the fear of rejecting your colleague's offer to become housemates overshadow any reservations that you have about it. Voice your concerns, if you have them! Working together, even with hurt feelings, will be better than having to live in an environment that you just don't feel comfortable in.


Do you house share with a colleague? What have been the high points? And, what are the lows? Share your experiences, below.

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2 comments on “When Your Co-Workers Are Your Housemates: the Pros and Cons”

  1. I currently share a house with a co-worker and it is was tough at first. It's been 10 months now and things are fine. We have made an agreement to not ever talk about work at home. At work, we do not talk about home. I also happen to be her manager so I make it a point to address any issues with performance or behavior at work in private so that the home life is not affected. We are housemates at home and workmates at work. We have a hand symbol to use if one of us starts to talk about work. Once the hand symbol is seen, all taking ceases. It really works.

    1. Thanks Kim for sharing your experience of being not only co-workers, yet also manager / employee! I believe it takes two mature individuals to be able to have clear boundaries between the two different relationships at work and at home. Good for you to have a 'hand symbol' that is a discrete way to alert the other person that they are crossing those boundaries.

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