​Co-working space etiquette tips

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About 10 years ago, CoCo co-working space entered the historic Lowertown area of Downtown St. Paul. A friend and I were among the first wave of tenants to entering into an agreement with CoCo. It only lasted about six months, and although it was a positive experience, we were not there enough to justify the expense, so we didn’t get the value that we had hope.  Still, it’s a great concept and it’s working for others.  

CoCo is now The Fueled Collective, one of about two dozen co-working spaces throughout the Twin Cities. Shared workspace, flexible office, flex space—who knew that years later “co-working spaces” would be a “thing” throughout the country?

Initially, coworking spaces were thought to be ideal for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, start-ups, and freelancers; however, with its growing popularity, large companies and organizations are also making use of co-working spaces as creative outlets for their staff and project-based teams. In a recent article on finance-commerce.com, the author shared that nationally, over 25 million square feet of office space is dedicated to co-working arrangements.  

 Whether you are an employee of a Fortune 500 creative team or a solopreneur, there will be rules, regulations, guidelines and norms to make co-working spaces work for all tenant partners—in other words co-working space etiquette. 

Many co-working spaces have posted Etiquette Rules, formal written agreements about how to “be” and what’s expected in the space. I believe most of us can come up with at least 10 “written rules.” But etiquette is often about the unwritten rules that, if broken, can cause people to alienate or ostracize you or even “getcha gone,” if you know what I mean.

So here are my seven co-working space etiquette tips that can help you and your co-workers have a pleasant, positive, and productive co-working space relationship:

Leverage private space for conference calls and meetings: Whereas it can be fun and exciting to work in an open environment (being motivated and stimulated by the energy of your co-workers), there are times when you need more privacy or you need to put head-down and “git ‘er done.”

If you are the type of person who prefers quieter settings over lots of chatter and movement, then consider securing private space or as referred to at the Reserve, a “huddle room” for quiet time, private meetings, conference calls or need to use the speakerphone so that you can fully engage in your conversation without distracting others.

This example was shared with me, “I was recently working on a deadline-driven project and another person in the coworking space decided to put their call on speaker so that he and his colleague could both engage in the discussion. Although his intent was to ensure that all parties could be included in the dialogue, it was disruptive and a huge distraction to the other eight people who were trying to accomplish their work in the open space.”

Photo by Shridhar Gupta/Unsplash

Keep all areas neat and clean, especially shared space and common areas such as reception areas, restrooms and areas for food and refreshments. Consider your co-working space like living with multiple roommates. You must make adjustments to keep the peace; do what you can to make the relationship work. 

People will either ask you to leave or won’t invite you back if your behavior is inconsiderate or shows disregard toward others. 

When you invite others into your already “shared space,” brief them on the rules, protocols, and norms based on your contractual agreement, as well as the “unwritten” rules recognized by the members. In other words, be a good host and help anyone you invite in to be a good guest.  Remind them that although you have a degree of privacy and autonomy, it’s not your entire office. There are personal and professional boundaries that should be adhered to.

Come prepared with your own stuff/supplies. You might just want to create your own version of a “moving office” so that you will not have to intrude on anyone else’s privacy or always be the borrower. “Do you have an extra pencil?” “Oops, I ran out of paper clips!” etc. gets old fast. Unless there is a common area with shared supplies, stock your own supplies in your “moving office.”

Be respectful of others’ time.  Remember, you may be a team of one, you have no co-workers, therefore collaborating and asking opinions should be infrequent. After you have established relationships with your co-workers, you’ll know when you can engage in a friendly conversation or ask for their input. Keep in mind that if you are tapping into that person’s professional expertise, you just might receive a bill. 

Be aware of your personal poise and your professional self-possession. Remember, you are in your own office space, even if it is without walls. Be courteous, be kind, be conscientious, and be aware of how your words, actions, and behaviors affect others.

If you decide to secure a co-working space, keep these tips in mind. They will take you far beyond co-working spaces. Remember my mantra: Manners are memorable, people remember what you do, what you say and how you behave, so always put your best foot forward.

About Juliet Mitchell

Juliet Mitchell is a contributing columnist to the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. She can be reached at jmitchell@spokesman-recorder.com.

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