5 Steps to a Covid-safe share house

Flatmates Team


At last, Australian states and territories are easing their Covid-19 restrictions. For some this is cause for celebration but for others, it’s a little bit scary. One thing is for sure, for all of us sharing a home with others in a global pandemic, these are un-chartered waters.


The good news is, with a little care and conversation, we can successfully navigate our way through reduced restrictions over the coming weeks. Here are five steps you can take to make your share house Covid-safe.

Support your housemates

While restrictions are lifting, you or your housemates may not feel excited by the news. It’s no wonder: Planet Earth hasn’t seen anything like this pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918. If you’re finding it hard to eat, sleep, concentrate or find motivation — even for things you used to enjoy — you’re not alone. The Black Dog Institute indicates that previous pandemics generated anxiety and worry among 25-30% of the communities they affected.

So, start a conversation now with your housemates about the easing of restrictions. Over the coming weeks and months, focus on supporting each other as you navigate the “new normal” in a way that suits all of you.

Hygiene: more important than ever

With reduced restrictions, more of us will be heading to public spaces more often, and having others visit us at home. That means the chance of infection may be higher than when we were all staying home in lockdown.

Handwashing remains key. The CDC has published a guide to when you should wash your hands, which is useful, since recent studies show we should all wash our hands at least 6 times a day.

Social distancing is also essential — with everyone from the Uber Eats delivery driver to your sister who’s dropping in for a coffee. Don’t touch your face during someone’s visit to you, while you’re visiting others, or while you’re out in public. And keep 1.5m between yourself and others at all times.

Finally, don’t forget to disinfect. Now we have the potential to pick up more germs in public and bring them home to our housemates; we’re also allowed to have visitors, who might bring bugs into our homes (more on that in a moment). Disinfecting shared surfaces, like doorknobs, remote controls and consoles, kitchens and bathrooms should be part of your daily household routine.

These precautions aren’t just for your own good: they’re for the health of your housemates, too.

House-guest safety

All states and territories currently limit how many people can visit your home at once, so while we might be back socialising, things are still less spontaneous than in the heady days of, well, January.

If you’re not a particularly extroverted household, giving housemates advance warning of guests may not be a big deal. But if you’re a social bunch, a schedule or calendar might help — consider a shared, dedicated Google Calendar, for example. Or, just divide the week up between household members, so you get, say, Mondays and Thursdays to have visitors over, someone else gets Tuesdays and Fridays, and so on.

Don’t forget to build special distancing and extra hygiene into your new visitor routine. Here are a few tips:

Distance: You’ll want to keep 1.5m between people in your home, so work out how many guests your living room or yard can comfortably hold, and stick to that limit. If you want to hug a guest, ask for consent first!
Disinfect: Put aside time to disinfect shared surfaces (e.g. coffee tables, t.v. remote controls, gaming consoles, bathrooms and doorknobs) before and after each visit.
Sanitise: Have hand sanitiser at the ready unless you want everyone heading to the bathroom to wash their hands every time they touch something.
Individualise: Forget communal bowls of snacks: give everyone their own share. If you’re splitting a bottle of something nice, or a meal, designate someone as the “server” and have them use hand sanitiser each time they serve the others.

You want me to do what?!

Everyone’s different, and it may just be that your housemate doesn’t think Covid-19 is a big risk. They ignore social distancing perhaps, or they keep having guests over at the drop of a hat, despite your visitor roster. Or maybe this description fits you, in which case, read up sis.

If your approach to reduced restrictions is different from your flatmates’, talk about it. You all need to accept responsibility for protecting your household from infection as best you can. Compromise is the name of the game.

Want to catch up with friends every night of the week? Go to their places rather than having them to yours. Or, balance in-person visits with videocalls (Zoom still works). If you’re dying to have a bigger get-together, most states and territories allow gatherings of up to 10 in public spaces. Why not plan a BBQ or picnic in the park?

But what if you’re the only hand-sanitising, restriction-observing person in your share house, and you can’t convince the others to follow suit? Your best bet may be to protect yourself as much as possible until you feel more comfortable with the eased restrictions. That might mean handwashing and sanitising, disinfecting spaces before you use them, and perhaps keeping a separate set of dishes for your own use, which you wash and dry yourself after each meal.

Managing the downsides of reintegration

Returning to a more social world after this period of self-isolation is likely to be difficult for more than a few of us. Anxiety, underwhelm, frustration, dislocation — these are just some of the feelings that a return to something approaching “normal life” may throw up.

Experts recommend that, instead of rushing out to enjoy all the things we couldn’t during the shutdown, we should take reintegration slowly. They advise us to let the world back in bit by bit, and take time out when we need it. This ca n give us the space to adjust to a world that looks a lot like the one we knew before, but remains fundamentally different — at least for now.

Main thing to remember is, we’re all in this together. Do the right thing by your flatmates and for yourself. Talk it out and stay safe.


Flatmates Team