10 ways to survive and thrive coworking
It’s becoming more and more likely every day that you’ll be sharing your workplace with other people who have different businesses than you.
Why is this happening, and how do you handle your almost inevitable transition to a coworking space?
The worldwide coworking revolution is in full swing. According to The Global Coworking Survey 2015/2016, there are over a half million people getting the job done from coworking spaces. Digital nomads, coaches, drop shippers, writers, corporate employees, graphic designers, coders, web developers, and more make up the panoply of professions sharing creative space, in destinations as exotic as Bali and as mundane as Milwaukee.
It’s clear from the survey that this trend is not going anywhere soon. The worldwide growth rate for spaces is up 36% from last year, and 80% of space owners expect to grow membership. Coworking giant WeWork is currently valued at $16 billion USD and still expanding its reach. Independent spaces continue to open in places like Mombasa, Kenya (My Work Space), and Bansko, Bulgaria (Coworking Bansko). Major companies like KPMG and Silicon Valley Bank are forgoing offices in lieu of posting their employees at coworking spaces.
The location independent entrepreneur movement is continuing to grow, particularly among millennials. If you’re not already coworking, chances are you will be soon.
In light of this trend, and as a 6 month veteran of coworking spaces in Southeast Asia, here’s a handy coworking survival guide.
1. Be friendly
Smile, introduce yourself to people, and generally try to be a pleasant human being. If you have “A Case of the Mondays”, stay home. You’re working remotely anyway. If anything unexpected happens (like the internet goes out or, god forbid, the coffee runs out), smile and take it like a champ. The coworking system prides itself on a Good Traveler ethos, so being able to take setbacks in stride is key to your survival. Trust me, your hissy fit over improper seat cushions will only get you banned from the space.
2. Pay your freight
If your company is paying for you to cowork, you can skip ahead. If you are paying your own way, make sure to pay your fees on time and in full. Respect the established fee structure at the space. Don’t try and haggle a deal, just pay your bill and go to work. If you don’t care for the fees at a particular location, try another. A good strategy if traveling or just beginning to cowork is to get free day passes from Coworker.com, and try out places until you find what you are looking for. Most times you get what you pay for, although I have found instances where a coworking space is the only game in town, and they know it and charge accordingly. In this situation, coffee shops and cafes might be a better option.
3. Respect the staff
The staff at most coworking spaces are incredibly friendly and beyond helpful. Many of them are budding entrepreneurs themselves. They are not butlers, waiters, or garbagemen. Be sure to treat them with respect. Learn all their names, and say hello in the morning and goodbye at night. This goes double when you are coworking in a foreign country. The staff will be there to save your life when you desperately need to print a document and the printer is out of ink, or when your Mac gives you the spinning wheel of death. Recently my motorcycle had a flat tire after work, the night before I was scheduled to move. The awesome staff pointed me toward a helpful cabbie, who was so helpful that he even helped me move the next day. Lifesaver.
4. Keep it clean
Your mother doesn’t work here, and if she did, she wouldn’t put up with you making yourself, your work area, or the public areas dirty. Take a shower, use deodorant, and wear a clean shirt. Trust me, we’ll all be grateful to not smell your body odor when we’re up against a deadline. In tropical (aka sweaty) climes, throw an extra t-shirt in your laptop bag just in case. Keep your workspace relatively clutter free, and don’t leave lots of food waste or easily spillable beverages around other people’s expensive laptops. Keep the bathroom and communal kitchens clean too. We’re all sharing these areas, so be clean and respectful of others, and we’ll all have a pleasant day together.
5. Don’t bring the noise
Headphones are your friend and everyone else’s. No one wants to hear your music, so earmuff up, buttercup. If you have to make a lot of phone calls, most spaces have booths or rooms you can use. Some spaces have “quiet rooms” for intensive work. Respect the rules in these areas. Conversation is acceptable in most spaces, but try to keep voice volume at a reasonable level because the vast majority of people are there to get work done. There’s often a cafe or outdoor area that’s great for socializing or boisterous conversation, so take advantage of it.
6. Respect that others are working
Outside of the noise level and silent areas, respect that people are working. Be considerate. Don’t put your feet up on a shared table. Don’t pass loud gas — there are pills for that. Unless your name is Matthew McConaughey, don’t bring your bongos to work. If someone has headphones on, don’t initiate conversation. At Hubud there are small buddha statues you can put in your work area that indicate “Do Not Disturb”. If you see someone with a buddha statue, a wall of buddha statues, or the equivalent signage at your coworking space, don’t bug them. Don’t be that guy. Be a courteous professional in a room full of them.
There are a lot of great educational and social events hosted by coworking spaces. Try to attend as many as you can. You’ll learn a few new tricks, upgrade your skills, and have some fun with your fellow coworkers. For instance, today I learned how to utilize about mind-mapping and already used it to to develop a presentation that I’m giving next week. Take advantage of the opportunity to further your education and also meet like-minded people. This is even more crucial if you are traveling. You never know who you will meet — you may make new friends, find a client, a business partner, or even a romantic partner.
8. Give back value
Do you have a skill or story you can share that will help or inspire your fellow coworkers? Give a presentation, a lecture, a screening of your project with a Q&A, a preview of your new book, or a demo of your Top 10 Excel tips. Coworking is a community experience, and communities work best when there is a give and take from the members. What do you have to offer? How can you help the guy sitting next you with an Amazon store or the woman at the next table looking for copywriting clients? Even informally over a coffee in the cafe, share what you know with the people around you. The results will surprise you.
9. Give feedback
Coffee cold? Problems with the electric outlets? Is it the best coworking space you’ve ever been in? Tell the staff and management/owners. Positive, constructive feedback is often greatly appreciated. Good Management is striving for a strong community, and is most cases they are looking to improve the user experience for their members. Is there an issue that you can solve with your “particular set of skills”? Make a proposal to the appropriate personnel, then get down to work. I ended up helping to develop and produce a podcast for a coworking space after a productive conversation with the owners. It became a win-win for both parties. Keep the lines of communication open in the community. Don’t treat your coworking space like a convenience store. If you really dig it, or not, post an honest review on Coworker.com or Google.
10. Be grateful
Gratitude is a word bandied around a lot these days, and it should be. Science has shown that grateful people live longer and stay healthier. Think about this for a minute. If you are coworking, you have every reason to be grateful. Unlike our ancestors, we are not stuck working at assembly line, making widgets over and over again all day long. We are not even bound to the same boring cube farm office spaces. We have the freedom to work remotely, at interesting and sometimes amazing coworking spaces all around the world. We don’t have to work at home alone either. We can travel and plug into a community of fellow coworkers, and learn and share with them, whatever continent we are on. We don’t have to go to the same place to work every day, and we don’t have to wear suits or coveralls. The community is diverse, smart, and growing. That’s something you can be grateful for every day when you’re coworking. Be good to others, give back to the community, and be grateful for the opportunity you have to participate in the coworking revolution. If that sounds a bit like a religion, well maybe, just maybe, it is.