This article was written by our very of wellbeing associate, Daniella Silverstein, and originally published on the Beyond Blue website.
Chances are that you’ve heard of coworking by now; perhaps you, a friend, or family-member even work in one. Unlike traditional closed offices, shared working spaces combine open plan desks with communal facilities. More and more, coworking is being adopted by a mixed community of freelancers, entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Since the first coworking space was opened in San Francisco in 2005, it has become a global phenomenon. Statistics suggest that approximately 1.7 million people around the world will be working in a coworking space by the end of 2018. With a focus on collaboration, networking and community, the drawcard of coworking is obvious for those of us who might otherwise feel isolated working on our laptops from home (which can be a common stressor for small business owners). It is also great for those who enjoy bouncing around ideas with other professionals.
Yet there are also potential challenges inherent to the open-plan design of coworking spaces.. Whilst the concept is great for encouraging connections, this same availability means that we can be interrupted more often, which can equate to more frustration and less productivity overall. So it’s important to establish good practices early on.
There are lots of different ways that we can enhance our wellbeing at work, and the Heads Up website is a great place to learn more about them. Below are some ideas about how you can enhance your wellbeing in coworking spaces whilst managing the challenges associated with open plan offices.
Take part in the community
Having a social network is so important to our overall health and wellbeing. It can be especially helpful to share the challenges faced by those in the start-up sector with other people who can understand what you’re going through. Many coworking spaces actively encourage community interaction through networking and social events, and these can provide great opportunities for you to make those new connections.
Pay attention to your environment
You’ve probably noticed that you have a preference for a particular type of work station you like to keep; perhaps you enjoy lots of natural light and some background noise, or maybe you find you get your best work done tucked away in a quiet and cosy corner. The great thing about having flexible desk options is that you can explore lots of different work stations and spaces and find the one that works for you. In this way, you can choose an environment that lets you work to your advantage, and get the most out of your time.
Think about noise
A big factor of focus comes down to noise. If you find that switching up your desk isn’t enough to curate your ideal soundscape, it’s worth popping in a pair of headphones when you’re doubling down on a project or working to a deadline. Not only does this discourage others from disturbing you, it can also allow you to block out environmental sounds by using noise-cancelling headphones or listening to ‘white noise’ tracks; both good options if you prefer not to listen to music specifically.
Communicate your needs
Finally, the best way to maintain your concentration at work is to communicate with those around you and make it clear (in a friendly manner) how you prefer to work. If you’re working in a team or are around the same peers frequently, establishing some rules can be helpful; things like keeping casual conversations to particular rooms, or having a code system that indicates if you don’t want to be interrupted. Most people will understand where you’re coming from, and will be happy to leave the conversation until lunch hour.
Coworking can be an excellent way to meet and connect with new people, which is so important to our wellbeing. It provides us with a platform we can use to support to one another and create a positive workplace culture. By maximising the benefits of a collaborative space, and managing the drawbacks of interruptions, we can enjoy working in an environment that encourages us to grow and thrive.