a guide to talking with your roommates about COVID expectations
Your home should feel like a safe space. And yet, most of us have at least slightly different calculations about risk, so living with roommates means one roommate’s behavior sometimes results in another roommate feeling vulnerable to COVID.
Remember that good communication including active listening is the best strategy for navigating conflict. Problems arise when people feel scared or worried, but either don’t have conversations or feel unheard when they try to talk about things. So open up a dialogue about COVID today.
What are your thoughts about COVID-19 right now?
Understand current and anticipated behaviors
Such as risk reduction strategies, socializing, transportation
- What behaviors are you practicing to reduce the risk of COVID transmission? Specifically…
- When/where do you practice physical distancing?
- When/where do you wear a mask?
- What are your handwashing tendencies?
- When do you interact with people without a mask and who are those people? What do you know about their precautionary behaviors? What is the setting for these encounters – indoor/outdoor? How long do you typically interact?
- Have you attended any large gatherings during the pandemic, and will you this semester?
- How frequently do you tend to clean and disinfect your/our space?
- What risks do you anticipate this semester?
- What are unavoidable risks in your life – such as work or classrooms?
- How will you transport yourself around town and campus?
- Do you have plans to travel this semester?
- As restaurants and bars reopen, what are your plans?
- How often do you plan to visit, stay with, or host family, significant other, or friends?
- How often do you plan to be home in our shared dwelling?
- What additional COVID safety precautions do you practice?
Get a sense of health needs
- Have you been diagnosed with COVID? If so, when and how does it impact your behavior now?
- Has someone you care about been diagnosed with COVID? If so, when and does it impact your behavior now?
- Are you in a vulnerable population as outlined by the CDC?
Make a household plan
- How will we adapt our space and behaviors to adjust for COVID?
- How will we adapt our food behaviors during the semester?
- How will we adapt our cleaning and chores?
- Who is allowed inside the residence? How will we handle friends or family who have interest in coming to or gathering at our residence?
- How will we transport ourselves around town and campus?
- If at least one roommate deems something unsafe, are we all willing to honor that?
- If one of us has symptoms or tests positive for COVID, what is our mutually agreed upon plan of action?
- Under what circumstances will we be willing to quarantine for the benefit of our room/household?
- If UNC becomes fully remote during the semester, what will we do? Return to a family home, stay in our shared dwelling, or something else?
- Are there other topics we should discuss (dating, mail pickup, mask disinfecting plan, remembering to take our masks, vaccination when it becomes available)?
SAMPLE COVID ROOMMATE AGREEMENT
We, the residents of ___________________ agree to the following from ___(date)_____ to ____(date)____:
Dwelling visitors – who is allowed into our home, when, in what circumstances, how long:
Gatherings – hosting, attending, indoor/outdoor, common areas:
Cleaning – sharing responsibilities, extra disinfection, dishes, laundry:
Food – sharing, group meals, restaurants, grocery shopping:
Transportation – how will we get around, car riding with non-roommates:
Testing – who will be tested and when: details for UNC required and voluntary testing at carolinatogether.unc.edu/carolina-together-testing-program
If a roommate is a close contact to a known positive, we will…
If a roommate tests positive, we will…
If there is a conflict between these agreements and behavior, we will…
We plan to revisit these agreements on ___(date)____ to review and revise as necessary.
When Conflict Arises
Remember, that conflict is likely to occur even after going through a conversation like this. When conflict happens, stay calm and:
- Express specific observations about a situation or concern rather than your judgments or evaluation. Ex. “I saw that you were hanging out with friends without masks and were closer than 6 feet from each other. We agreed that we wouldn’t do that during the pandemic.”
- Disclose your feelings about the situation or concern. Provide a genuine understanding of your emotions and sensations, not your beliefs about what you think others have done to you. Ex. “I felt scared and exposed when I saw you.”
- Identify what you need or value. Ex. “I really value shared agreements about behavior – especially during a pandemic.”
- Request specific actions that would start to meet your needs or support your values. Avoid demanding character changes or stating ultimatums. Ex. “Would you be willing to revisit our agreements together and update them as needed?”