It can sometimes be hard to know the rules of etiquette in a shared work space. You are working along side other people, but not necessarily with them. So, can you talk in a coworking space?
The Coworking 101 blog series answers some of your questions about what coworking is and how it works. Today we’ll discuss one of the toughest questions about working in a shared office environment: whether, and when, it is okay to talk to your coworkers.
Coworking is About Collaboration & Community
The heart of any coworking space is its community of core members. These are the people who make the coworking space their office, maybe a few days a week, or maybe as their 9-5 work space. At PatchWork Collective, we encourage our members to get to know each other at networking events and special members-only trainings. We refer potential business to our members and encourage them to pass referrals among themselves. We want to develop a business community that makes everyone’s businesses better through collaboration and cooperation.
Community Can’t Thrive Without Communication
Think about the bedroom neighborhoods in the suburbs outside of most large cities. These are the homes of commuters, people who spend most of their waking life in the city, and come home to sleep. Their attention and focus is elsewhere. And they probably don’t even know who lives in the house two doors down.
The same can be true in a shared office space. Your focus is on your work, not on your work space. If you spend all your time with your headphones on and your head down, you might not even know that the person working at the next table could be the type of professional you need for your next job, or could be someone who could pass business your way.
So yes, you can talk in a coworking space. We want you to. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the other people’s needs or priorities just to have a chat.
Coworking Conversation Etiquette
The blanket rule that it’s okay to talk in a coworking space doesn’t always apply well. Here are some etiquette tips about conversation in a shared work environment.
One of the most pressing questions for many coworkers is what to do when they get a phone call. Can you take it in your seat? Should you walk away from the other workers? Is there some place private you can take the call?
The mood and noise level of a coworking space can change based on the time of day, and the members who are there. Gauge the room. If there’s a lot of conversation, you can probably safely take a quick call at your seat. If everyone is working hard, you may want to step away.
At PatchWork Collective we have three private phone booths you can take if you’re a loud phone talker, will be on a conference call for a while, or just need some privacy. These are available to anyone who drops into the space as well as all our members. You can also schedule the ThinkTank if you want to participate in a video conference on a bigger screen.
Coworking spaces provide flexibility for freelancers and solo workers. But they are also great spaces for remote teams to come together and work on a project. When you are working with one of your fellow members, we encourage you to sit together in our primary coworking area, even push some tables together to get enough work space. However, if your work starts to disturb your fellow members, you can also reserve one of our private offices so you can work without distraction.
Chit chat, or idle banter is one of the things that makes coworking more fulfilling than working from home. Quick interpersonal connections remind our members they are not alone and give them the social contact they need to fight off isolation. So yes, go ahead and chat as you’re refilling your coffee or when you need a 5 minute break from your work. It’s a coworking space, not a library!
Respecting Focus and Flow
At the same time, there are probably some members in the coworking space who are in a crunch. Maybe they have a deadline coming up or are working on a difficult project. In these cases, you need to respect a person’s need to focus and get and stay in the flow.
There are lots of non-verbal ways you can communicate when you need to be left alone. Headphones, hoodies, and where you choose to sit can all show the need for alone time. If you need your privacy you can also take a phone booth, or move to a less populated part of the coworking area.
Members also have access to work spaces outside the shared coworking room. These spaces let you put your head down and get work done without the distractions of a shared work environment.
Coworking etiquette says work comes first. If you are looking to chit chat but your neighbor has signaled the need to concentrate, respect them. Find someone else to chat with, or take your conversation to one of our lounge areas, so you can get your social time while they get to work.
Finding the Balance of Social and Solitude
It can sometimes be hard to read the mood of a coworking space when you are new to it. As you are finding your own balance between social connections and solitary hard work, always respect the people around you. If they ask you to let them work or pull up their hoods, step away. They may well be willing to chat with you, but at some other time.
No two coworking spaces have the same balance between work and play. Some have games or alcohol available to encourage members to meet and mingle. Others fill a more traditional office role. Don’t be afraid to visit multiple coworking spaces (maybe at different times of the week) to find one that fits your need to talk and work.
At PatchWork Collective, we welcome everyone, from the introverted solo entrepreneur to the extroverted social butterfly. But putting different working styles in the same space means everyone needs to respect coworking etiquette and respect one another within the space. Come check us out or contact us to schedule a tour and see if we fit your need to talk in a coworking space.