Remote-working in a shared house – what co-worker type are you?

21st May 2020

Posted In: WMB Careers

With almost half (41%) of remote-working professionals in Ireland based in shared housing*, the last two months has seen dining room tables and kitchens around the country converted into co-working spaces.  For the first time, housemates are spending a prolonged period with their co-habitants – switching occasional interaction in the evenings and & weekends to now seven days a week.

We are also increasingly hearing of more young professionals moving back into their childhood homes – with some having spent more than 15 years living apart from parents and siblings.

Sarah Owen, Director of staffing business Walters People Ireland comments:

“There has been a lot of discussion around physical work set-ups at home, remote-working technologies, and how to manage teams from afar.

“In addition, with school and nursery closures, we are also reaching a level of understanding and consideration for parents who are having to work remotely with young children in the house.

“However, those living in shared housing – be it with parents & siblings, friends & housemates, or co-habitants – are having to silently deal with these changes.

“Similar to when starting a new job or team, it will take co-habitants time to adjust to the personality types within the household. The challenge for house sharers is – unlike with your co-workers – there is no collective team culture or way of working.”


The Walters People survey uncovered 11 personality types that emerge in shared households who have remote workers:

1. The tea maker: This co-habitant frequently gets up from their work areas and moves about. They feel the need to ‘justify’ their frequent breaks by keeping busy and making a cuppa – they also use this opportunity to start a conversation with others in the household by offering to ‘do the round.’

2. The office manager: This co-habitant takes it upon themselves to monitor and look after the designated work areas. They will try to remain neutral when disputes occur and will go the extra mile to help ensure peoples work environments are pleasant and enjoyable – including playing light background music or the radio, setting the lighting and temperature of the room.

3. The non-engager: This co-habitant lives in their headphones and tries to hide behind one or several laptop and computer screens. They are regimented in their approach to work and often do not snap out of their focussed nature until the end of the workday.

4. The news reader: This co-habitant will feel obliged to read the headlines out every morning, and as soon as they break throughout the day. They are obsessed with all things coronavirus, and a enjoy a debate about theories, government strategy, and ‘life as we know it’.

5. The motivator: This co-habitant loves to share tips on how they do their to-do list and approach their working day. They actively try to motivate their housemates and offer help in areas that may not be their area of expertise. Super proficient, the motivator has time to be a lending ear whilst still getting the days tasks complete.

6. The distractor: This co-habitant shy’s away from to-do lists and in addition to getting distracted easily, they often are the distractors. They’ll seek attention via the clothes they wear in the home (i.e. loud shirts when working from home), and the topics they choose to discuss (often controversial or interesting). They will take up any opportunity for a conversation, a brisk walk, or helping to prepare lunch.

7. The ‘particular’ one: This co-habitant has an opinion on everything and often appears quite bossy and demanding. They will complain when people speak or type too loud, when the sun is glaring on their screen, and when the temperature in the room is too hot or cold for them. No resolution you give will satisfy their demands.

8. The projector: This co-habitant likes everyone in the household to know exactly what their mood is. They will express this not through words, but through their behaviour. They will often huff and puff when annoyed, be snappy and agitated when stressed, and will want everyone to celebrate with them when they have achieved something.

9. The loud one: This co-habitant often forgets they are working alongside a number of people in their house, and will not only speak louder than they need to on phone calls but will believe their work is much more important and crucial than others in the house. They will expect others to leave the room or be quiet when they are on their 10th‘important call’ of the day.

10. The busy bee: This co-habitant will have started work before their other housemates, and will be sitting on their laptop hours after others have packed-up. Breaks are rare, and any conversation with housemates’ centres around the topic of ‘how busy they are.’ They often talk about the need to ‘take a step back from working too much’ but rarely put this into practice.

11. The organised one: This co-habitant has a routine and structure – and sticks to it. Fully prepped for every conference call, this person will never be late for a virtual family quiz or team catch-up. From their laundry and morning run to lunch and evening meals – everything is planned and nothing goes off schedule.

Sarah Owen adds: “For many young professionals during this period, the reality of working from home will likely mean working in a shared living space with other people, all of whom have their own work schedules and responsibilities. It’s a good idea to establish some ground rules for working alongside cohabitants.”

•Which areas can be used for what kind of work: For example, you might agree that the area with the best internet connection or phone signal is designated for important calls and videoconferences, or that all phone calls need to be made in your respective bedrooms so as not to disturb others.

•Assigning domestic duties: Normally, household chores and cooking may be done by whomever is available, but while everyone is confined indoors, it’s important to share the responsibility and ensure that no one person is burdened with keeping the house in order.

•Be a considerate cohabitant: It may seem simple enough, but when people are suddenly forced to spend a great deal of time together, tensions can easily rise and conflicts may erupt from even the smallest annoyance. That’s why it’s more important than ever to be considerate of those you live with — don’t hog the communal spaces, clean up after yourself (and clean yourself!), and try to keep unnecessary noise to a minimum during the workday. While you’re at it, if you’re making a cup of tea, why not get a round in?

•Enjoy the company: At a time when many are feeling shut off and disconnected, one benefit for those in shared living spaces is the access to regular interaction with other people. Take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy one another’s company — use the long evenings to make meals together and socialise or play games. This not only strengthens the bonds of friendship, but creates a positive mood in your home that will last throughout the workday, as well.

•Have a morning round-up: You might choose to have a morning round-up with your cohabitants, especially if there are many of you. During the roundup, you can discuss your daily schedules, including any important calls or videoconferences during which you need quiet, or any pressing deadlines that mean you don’t want to be disturbed. Try building a simple household planner using sticky notes to make everyone aware when you are and aren’t available, removing any ambiguity and avoiding conflicts.

*(living with parents, sibling’s family, friends, housemates etc).