9 Do’s and Don’ts of Coworking

Being a part of a coworking community is a beautiful thing. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting countless unique and wonderful individuals during my various coworking gigs. Many of these people have revealed to me that their initial intentions for joining a coworking space were limited to needing a physical space to work that was “cheap and quieter than a coffee shop”, only to find that the experience of coworking yielded unintended benefits, shown in both their work and life in general. There‘s an undeniably contagious energy that pulsates within the walls of any coworking space. That might sound scary, but I promise it’s a good thing, as it can inspire productivity while at the same time providing an outlet to interact with folks you never would have from your home office, cubical, local Starbucks etc. It’s for this reason that in the past 10-years, the coworking movement has gone from a niche workplace solution, only found in the most prominent of “tech cities”, to an international household term, attracting workers from all walks of life who yearn for an improved work/life balance.

And while entering a coworking space for the first time can be a wondrous and life changing experience, it can also be a little daunting at first…

Where can I sit?

Am I allowed to talk to people?

Should I brew more coffee?

Can I make a phone call here?

Should THAT person be making a phone call there?

All good questions with equally good answers. Hopefully after reading this you’ll feel more equipped to venture into the wide world of coworking with poise and confidence!

DO: Get to know your community managers

Coworking spaces tend to have one major thing in common, and that’s “Community Managers”. So what is a Community Manager you ask? Well, I don’t really know, to be honest we’re still figuring that one out, BUT, what I can tell you is that they are most often friendly and helpful people who’s sole existence in a coworking space is to make your life easier. They are typically the first ones you meet when scouting out coworking spaces, sparking a professional relationship will often continue long into your tenure as a coworker. They are well versed in the functions of the office and tend to know the answers to a lot of those weird little questions that you’re too embarrassed to ask... Don’t be! They’re also frequently people persons (person people?) and good listeners who thrive on getting to know their coworking community, so you should definitly take some time to talk to them!

DON’T: Expect all problems in a coworking space to solve themselves

Managing coworking spaces isn’t always sunshine and lollipops. It’s also hard work that demands a lot of your Community Managers’ time. Now, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t always at your disposal for all of your needs, but it does mean that occasionally, as a member, you may need to be a little extra proactive in telling them when something is wrong. This can be much easier for some than others, but I promise you that while your managers may not always be able to visit every problem at once, if they’re doing there job right they will certainly take your issues seriously and attempt to solve them as soon as humanly possible!

DO: Talk to people!

Coworking is all about collaboration and community. The funny thing about those words is that they both require actually speaking to other people in order to make any sense. The level of interaction between members of coworking spaces can vary from space-to-space, but at its core, the Coworking concept exists in order to form communities where people feel comfortable interacting with their fellow members in a productive, creative and fun environment. The thing is, Coworking managers can’t do it alone, and they need the help of socially outgoing members to make this crazy recipe work! And if you’re the type of person who isn’t a huge fan of engaging and just wants to be left alone, you can still thrive in a coworking space, however, you will need to be cool with the fact that many people are there to make new acquaintances and you may have some folks wanting to get to know you. I promise, it’s the best part!

DON’T: Try to sell your crap to other coworkers

There is a razor-thin line between genuinely engaging your fellow coworkers for help or feedback on a project, and straight-up soliciting. Many coworking spaces have a community email server for communicating with the rest of the members. Here’s an example of a good community email…

“Seeking honest feedback for my new product launch. Will buy you a beer!”

Here’s an example of a bad community email…

“Join OutOfTouchStartups.com by SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY and get 73% off your first thing-a-ma-jig!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

See the difference?

Now, we certainly know that for many of you added exposure and feedback for your “dream project” may be a major reason why you’re joining a coworking space in the first place, and that’s awesome! But it’s very important to remember that most of the other members are there to work on their own dream projects, and there is a very big difference between engaging your community and taking advantage of it. Here’s a pro tip: If you really want some exposure in your coworking community, offer to sponsor a happy hour in exchange for a few minutes to pitch what you’ve been working on to the community. That way you can grab folks attention while contributing to your coworking space!

DO: Help keep the space neat and tidy

Most coworking spaces will have some form of cleaning staff, and your Community Managers often have the added duty of roaming the space occasionally throughout the day to make sure everything is in order. The thing is, they also have a butt-load of other tasks to get done throughout the day so oftentimes it’s up to members to help contribute to the cleanliness of the space. We want you to feel at home in here, and like your home, we hope you choose to respect it by cleaning up spills and putting dirty dishes away. Now, all coworking spaces have different cleanliness policies ranging from relaxed to… well… militant, but you’ll find that most choose to nestle themselves somewhere right in the middle, and if you chip in on the cleaning once in a while, you’ll find that your overall coworking experience will improve greatly! And no, I’m not just saying that because I’m sick of picking up your dirty dishes…

DON’T: Be a jerk

This may sound a little too obvious, and maybe I’m running out of ideas here, but bare with me. It’s really easy to forget that there are a bunch of other folks around you in coworking spaces who are all trying to get some work done. That’s why it’s always important to survey your immediate surroundings before starting a loud phone call, having a mini “we made our sales goal” party in the middle of the space or playing your unreasonably loud dubstep from your laptop speakers (you’d be surprised how often this can happen). At the same time, there are occasionally mitigating circumstances that might force you to, say, make an important phone call in the general area of the space. In these situations it’s advisable to, control the volume of your voice, do your best to find a quiet corner and/or park yourself outside of a conference room or a phone booth so you can jump in when the person occupying it is done. This is just one example, but there are a lot of ways to be a jerk in a coworking space, and even more ways to be awesome!

DO: Read emails from your Community Managers

This is a really easy one. Most coworking spaces have some form of weekly or monthly announcement email, and if not, some form of communication to send important info to the members. These might seem a bit dull or repetitive at first glance, but trust me when I say they are typically full of useful information regarding the various goings-on in your coworking space. Events, closures, building repairs and other special announcements are all good things to know about in advanced. Coworking spaces are busy, busy places with many things often happening all at once. So stay ahead of the game and listen when your community managers have something to say. I promise that we’re not trying to waste your time.

DON’T: Leave the coffee pot empty without brewing a new batch

That is all…

DO: Attend events

With all that hard work you’re getting done at your coworking space, it’s easy to forget about the cool events and programs your office is putting on. Most coworking spaces host a slew of different events as a way to boost community engagement among other benefits. I’ve seen many instances where a member of my space would have loved to attend a past event, but were too shy to poke their head in. It’s definitely up to your community managers to let you know about these events, but even with all the emails and signs we put up, I still get those members who say they “didn’t know about an event”, or “didn’t think they were allowed to attend”. Well, I’m here to tell you that coworking spaces put on most events with the hope of awesome members like you attending, so don’t be scared to join the party!

Believe me, there are plenty more useful nuggets of advice out there for all the new coworking enthusiasts of the world, but no matter how much prep work you do, the best way to get into the coworking groove is to just go out there and do it! So do some research, tour a few spaces, and find the best community that fits your lifestyle. Good luck out there!

Pssst - Got any hot tips of your own? Plug them into the comments section below!