Coworking, or working in shared office spaces, is consistently growing in popularity with freelancers and full-time employees embracing this movement because of the affordability, flexibility and sense of community. With new members joining coworking spaces every day, it can be hard to find your way initially, especially if you are making the transition from a cubicle or private office to an open workspace; or from working at home to a dedicated coworking location. Whether you are a coworking rookie or an experienced member in need of a reminder, we hope these 10 tips for coworking etiquette will help you and your community members have the most productive work experience possible.
1. Be quiet – It may seem obvious, but coworkers often forget that the space is not their private office. Your fellow coworkers will appreciate if you find your spot and settle in with as little noise as possible; and once working, headphones and a low-talking voice are essential. Your noise levels at a coworking space should be similar to that of a library or on an airplane – of course, some sound is expected but if the noise would bother you, you can assume your neighbors will be bothered as well.
2. Respect space and don’t take up too much – Coworking spaces like KettleSpace provide ample seating and outlets, but that does not mean you can use more than your fair share. You will get a much-deserved glare from your fellow coworkers if you have your coat or backpack on a chair, especially on crowded days, so be considerate of the space available and gauge how much it is reasonable to use. If another member asks to share a table, make room and let them. For all you know, they could be working on something relevant to you and it could be a networking opportunity.
3. Be tidy – A coworking space belongs to the membership community, so dispose of your trash and dirty dishes properly and leave the area as you entered it (or better, even). A lot of coworking spaces have community leaders on-site to take care of issues and welcome new members, but it is not their responsibility to clear your used coffee cup or pick up the trash you leave behind. Keeping a coworking space clean is a group effort and every member is expected to be responsible for their own space.
4. Take calls in appropriate areas – One of the best perks of joining a coworking space is having a quiet, convenient location for phone calls and video conferences, but that does not mean you should hop on the line just anywhere. Be aware of your surroundings and if your space does not have dedicated phone call booths or private conference rooms, consider going to a less crowded corner or even head outside for your call.
5. Let the manager know when supplies are low or there is an issue – At KettleSpace and several other coworking locations you will find a community manager who works hard to make the space run as seamlessly as possible. However, they cannot be everywhere at once and you will be doing them a favor if you politely inform them when supplies are low, coffee has run out, or another issue arises.
6. Offer to help someone else – Chances are you joined a coworking space at least in part for the community aspect, so do your part and help out a fellow coworker when you see someone in need. Whether it is a new member who seems lost or unsure where something is, or you just notice someone struggling to find a power outlet or in need of a larger table to use to host a team meeting, give a little. Karma does exist in coworking communities and you will be happy you contributed positively.
7. Understand the personal networking restrictions (do not approach people if they want to be left alone) – Coworking spaces are great for networking, as you will be surrounded by fellow entrepreneurs and freelancers every day, but be mindful of when and how you network. Good areas and times to begin a conversation might be near the coffee and tea as you are refilling your cup, or near the end of the day as you see someone packing up. Less ideal times are when a member is in the middle of a meeting or has their headphones on and seems to be deep in their work. On the other side, if someone approaches you and starts a conversation but you would rather be left alone, it is always okay to politely ask if you could continue the conversation when you have completed a task or trade information and set aside a dedicated time to get to know one another.
8. Understand the solicitation rules – Perhaps even more than networking, soliciting other members to promote your own company, services or event is often unwanted in coworking communities. Use your best judgement to gauge interest and be conscious of members who seem disinterested. If you truly think you have something that might be of benefit to someone, consider just passing along a card or website that they can take advantage of if they so desire.
Additionally, (thought it should also go without saying), a coworking space is not a dating app or venue and like any other professional workspace. Therefore, you \should not be making any romantic advances or gestures.
9. Do not eat stinky food in the open areas – A lot of coworking spaces will allow you to bring your own lunch or snacks to the office, but maybe reconsider bringing last night’s leftovers or your favorite tuna sandwich. When in doubt, step outside and get some fresh air as you enjoy your lunch. It is good for your health and also for your neighbors noses.
10. Be polite and courteous – If all of these tips come down to one thing, it is to always be polite and courteous. No one wants their workday ruined by a persistent and chatty neighbor who will not take a hint, or by coworkers who decide to loudly argue over their company’s finances in a shared space. If something would bother you, it probably will bother your fellow coworkers, and when in doubt, ask.