3 Ways to Thrive in a Co-Working Space
There's working in an office building: cubicles and complaining colleagues; meandering managers and off-white walls.
And then there's working from home: dishes and discussions with the dog; the tempting TV and the sofa-slash-study.
But then there's co-working, which is somewhere in between.Co-working spaces allow professionals to rent work areas, such as group desks or private offices, depending on the venue and payment. Some co-working companies, like Regus, WeWork and Spark Labs have locations both in the U.S. and throughout the world, while others are more pop-up venues in particular towns, says Brie Reynolds, career advisor and director of online content at FlexJobs, a professional job website that offers telecommuting opportunities as well as flexible freelance and part-time work.
Wherever your nearest co-working spot, it may be an ideal setup if you're telecommuting, freelancing or starting your own business. Here's how to make the most of a shared work environment.
Choose your workspace wisely. The U.S. was home to 781 co-working spaces in 2013, according to the online co-working magazine Deskmag, and that number has only grown since. These three steps will help you choose the right spot for you:
Decide your budget. Do some comparison shopping between co-working spaces in your location to find an option within your budget. While many spaces list their prices online, choosing the best deal for you might get a little complicated. Spaces often charge separate rates depending on time – if you're paying for a few hours, a day or a monthly pass, for example. Privacy is a factor, too. Take WeWork: Depending on the city, the starting price for a private office or dedicated office starts at $450 to $800 per month, whereas flexible access to shared workspaces starts at $45.
Assess your needs. Reynolds points out that while most co-working spaces boast high-speed Internet for all members, there are other perks that come at a higher cost. Think: dedicated private offices and landline telephone numbers. If you're using a co-working space for your entrepreneurial venture and need a phone number and office to meet with potential clients and take calls, those extras might be worth the cost. If you just need a spot at a table to freelance, maybe they're not.
Match the workplace to your personality. "Each co-working space has its own personality," Reynolds says, adding that you can pick up on many traits of a space from its social media persona and website. For example, some spaces look and feel a lot like an open office, except a shade more hip – think exposed brick, art and coffee bars. Others strive to attract members in creative fields and encourage collaboration. "If that's something you want to do, then that's great," Reynolds says. "If you're looking for a space where you can buckle down and get some work done, then that might not be the best space for you."
Stay on task. There'll be no taskmaster here, so it's up to you to be productive in whichever co-working space you choose. Try this:
Bring headphones. Aside from providing a soundtrack to tune out the environmental chatter, Reynolds points out that headphones send a subtle "do not disturb" signal to others.
... And high-priority assignments, too. Some co-working spaces sure feel like casual hangout spots – Coffee! Snacks! Arcades! Chair massages! – which may make concentrating on work tough. Reynolds' advice: Outline a few must-do tasks before heading to your workspace. "If you go there with a general to-do list, and you have 10 things you could potentially be working on, you might find it hard to decide which one you actually want to work on," she says. "If you go there with two or three things you really need to get done before you leave that space, it'll be a lot easier to actually focus."
Make friends with your "co-workers." After all, if co-working is replacing a traditional work setting for you, "it gives you that chance for interpersonal connection if you don't necessarily get it during the day," Reynolds says. Here's how to hit it off with your workmates:
First, don't be that guy. Many websites – The Muse, The Atlantic's CityLab, PCMag – offer this crucial etiquette advice to folks sharing co-working spaces: Don't be gross. That means corralling your clutter at a shared desk and keeping restrooms and kitchen areas clean. You're not going to win any popularity awards by leaving stinky leftovers in the communal fridge or gnawing beef jerky a foot away from a new work "friend."
Attend networking events. Reynolds points out that many co-working spaces host networking events, such as workshops and happy hours, for members. Show up, and learn more about that person you've shared a power outlet with a dozen times. Whether it's for professional or personal reasons, Reynolds points out that an event like this is ideal for socializing. As she puts it: "It's known for everybody who attends: OK, this is going to be the time when we get to know each other."
Say hello. Of course, you don't need to wait for organized events to be friendly to your workmates. "Most people who go to co-working spaces are open to chitchat and conversation and getting to know other people," Reynolds says. She suggests making conversation with others if they seem receptive. (Remember: headphones = busy.)
Or simply get into the habit of warmly greeting those around you as you enter the workplace. As Reynolds says: "If you're somebody who's looking to expand your network or just meet new people and make some friends, that's one way to do it."