Coworking is a new phenomenon, resulting from the changing environment of the world of work. More employers are embracing working from home and the world financials crash of 2008 has seen a growth in micro-businesses, predominantly made up of sole trading entrepreneurs.
Working from home has a lot of advantages, mostly time saved for employees and employers, reduced running costs, reduced travel costs so everyone is a winner. The ever growing of aspirational entrepreneurs are often using their intellect to earn a living which can be done from.
There are obvious disadvantages to working from home, other than loneliness: camaraderie can never be understated which does not easily take place working home alone, the lack of opportunities to share ideas, missed networking opportunities, problems are often dealt with alone, and many more.
The clear solution for lone workers and small teams, to overcome those disadvantages is join a co-working team. It provides entrepreneurs, freelancers, micro and small businesses opportunities to share space, develop business opportunities and collaborate. These groups of individuals and teams are professionals, generally providing services which are often specialised, self-driven, ambitious, resourceful, energetic and enthusiastic.
Any working environment has a culture which may be defined by the industry, city, country. Most working cultures are based on formal and informal processes. The informal processes are often the most influential in the workplace, and even these evolve with changing personnel, but often deeply entrenched in the practices of any organisation from micro to large multi-national corporations.
Coworking places are new, made up of sets of individuals and small teams, and with no overall authoritative figure such as a Managing Director or CEO. Collectively there are a range of aims, objectives, agendas, personalities, traits and generally strong-minded individuals. To ensure that any ship sails well, so to speak, there needs to be some rules and guidelines about how the coworking space operates, without the loss of all the potential benefits leading to prosperity.
Forming, Storming, Norming
Ever heard of the phrase ‘forming, storming, norming’? Apparently, it is the 3 stages of teams coming together. I say apparently, I have been submerged in those stages more than once in my work life. It means what it says. When a team comes together is there invariably a storming stage, and it is very difficult to avoid. After the fall out there then started the norming stage where a team comes together and gets on with their objectives.
Forming, Storming and Norming is still applicable in a coworking space. Remember the advantages of a coworking space are all advantages to being part of a team. When venturing into a coworking space, individuals need to be mindful of the fact that they are there as a team. Coworking is team work that can provide a great working environment for entrepreneurs, freelancer and micro/small-businesses. While there are no authoritative roles and responsibilities, there are our human responsibilities, whatever our role or perceived status.
The etiquette for coworking is no different to working in any workplace. A level of common sense and courtesy is required, and probably a little more sensitivity, during the early stages of coworking relationships. People need to get to know each other and work out personal and professional boundaries.
Some of the rules and procedures established as part of the coworking agreements, but there are some factors people working in the shared space need to consider:
Each person has their threshold of what noise levels are acceptable. Those levels may also change during the day and depending on the level of detail we need to concentrate on. Open spaces can carry sound and sudden noises can be distracting.
There are two responsibilities here, firstly the amount of noise an individual makes, but also making allowances for other people sharing your space. You hardly want to be the person to stop people from sharing a laugh together.
Coworking spaces are also places where people will have their lunch, even breakfast, meetings, networking events, Skype and other video conferencing meetings, so be mindful of volumes and put on headphones if need be.
Most coworking spaces will not have a communal radio playing through the speakers, and we all have access to music. Another area where co-workers need to consider how much music can be heard by people in their shared workspace.
The ultimate benefit of coworking is being able to network with other professionals, collaborate on joint projects or they can provide contacts of collaborators and customers. Make the most of these opportunities. Be prepared to share first and not worry about what you might receive in return.
It really is not anybody’s business how you work and what your workspace looks like, but some people get really irritated by untidy workspaces. Even if they are not in your organisation they may take issue with untidy habits. Make sure you keep your workspace tidy, even if you know where to find everything you need. Your co-workers are your potential personal free advertisers, they may provide personal recommendations that secures a large contract, so you need to make a good impression all of the time.
Be aware of where you put food wastes. Dispose of those away from working spaces, ideally a kitchen area, somewhere that unpleasant odours do not linger into the shared working areas. Even orange and banana peels, if not cleared within a day will decompose and make for an uncomfortable working environment.
Respect the fact that amenities are shared, so play it fair when booking meeting spaces and courtesy cars.
If you use up the photocopier paper, replace the used paper by filling up the paper trays. Most people are working to tight deadlines, not just you, so respect their time too. It will get noticed if you do not play fair.
Treat information that you receive about co-workers’ business as confidentially as you would your own. No one should need to be told which information is confidential, any entrepreneur and other professionals should know what should be treated as confidential, even if you happen to overhear information.
Equally be aware of what business you carry out in the shared space, or any decisions / conversations you are taking part in where others can acquire confidential information. It might be that you have to carry out some conversations / actions elsewhere.
Ultimately, as a co-worker, as in any other shared working environment, you need to respect others that share your space. Mostly respectful behaviour is common sense, although in a coworking area entrepreneurs / freelancers / business professionals coming together is an environment of assertive individuals. A respectful co-worker is likely to be a conflict free co-worker.