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The Unconventional Guide to Work

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How to NOT be the annoying person in your co-working space

So you’ve decided to give coworking a try. Coworking continues to rise in popularity in the world of remote workers and entrepreneurs. Instead of working from a home office, you rent a desk in a space you share with others. You might be sitting next to a freelance graphic designer, sharing the coffee machine with a man who designs rockets, and stealing the last bit of photocopier paper from a bestselling author.

Working in this highly charged creative environment has so many perks, but it also means that you can’t treat the space the same way you would a home office. Speaking personally, my home office is a mess of books and CD cases and chocolate wrappers and cats. You might be a collector of used coffee cups or find you work more productively when you don’t wear pants.

It’s hard to find a pants-optional coworking space. So, failing that, how do you ensure you aren’t pissing off your fellow co-workers? Here are some simple etiquette rules:

1. DO wash your cups

It might be perfectly OK to create a kind of modernist sculpture out of dirty coffee mugs at your home office, but don’t try that in your coworking space.

The reasons are threefold:

1. Ants can happen. Or cockroaches.
2. No one else likes to look at modernist coffee-mug sculptures.
3. Other people need to use the cups for their own coffee.

After all, you don’t want this to happen to you. Don’t be a filth wizard.

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2. DON’T bogart the printer

Even if you use an online project management system and work completely in the cloud, there are times when it’s easier to just print something out.

Part of the fee you pay for the co-working space covers consumables like printer paper, so you’re well within your rights to use the printing/copying facilities as much as you need. All I’m saying is don’t print out your 800-page novel right before your desk-mate’s major shareholder meeting.

3. DON’T be a conference room hog

Do you know what really grates on people’s nerves? Seeing conference rooms booked out through the online scheduling system, only to walk past them at the time of the supposed meetings to find them empty.

Don’t book conference rooms on a “just in case” basis. If you book it, make sure you’re there to claim it.

4. DO respect other’s music choices

Some co-working spaces allow their users to share radio or Spotify playlists to keep some tunes playing in the noisy work-spaces. This means that you will learn a lot about your fellow coworkers love for zydeco or Norwegian black metal.

You can choose to loudly complain about music you hate, or wait until it’s your turn and then wow them all with your awesome taste. Or, (and this is what I would do), move to the quiet areas.

And hey, you never know, if you stop huffing because you don’t get to hear your Celine Dion, then someone might just open your eyes to an awesome new artist.

5. DO use your indoor voice

Be aware of making too much noise. Remember that just because you like a lot of hustle and bustle, others might not. Here are some tips for being considerate with noise:

  • Make phone calls in a meeting room or hallway.
  • Use a hands-free set of headphones to improve your ability to hear others on a cellphone, so you don’t have to shout.
  • Schedule events and manage your team with an online project management system, rather than making a lot of calls.
  • If a conversation with a fellow co-worker starts to dig deep, go into a meeting room to continue the discussion.

6. DON’T blow up the kitchen

Co-working spaces often provide kitchen facilities for clients to make a snack or heat up their lunch. Kitchens are a great asset as they enable you to bring a lunch from home while still having something more sophisticated than a sandwich.

But remember when choosing your lunch that others need to use the (often tiny) kitchen, too. So don’t spend every day creating elaborate meals that require you to dirty every dish in the cupboards. Learn how to use to coffee machine properly so you don’t make loud screeching sounds or spray beans everywhere. Don’t bring foods that can explode in the microwave and quickly clean up any mess you make. And perhaps this isn’t the best time to whip up a batch of your assuredly delicious but quite smelly shrimp gumbo.

7. DO deal with issues swiftly

If you have a problem with another member in the space, the internet keep cutting out, or you feel as though you aren’t getting what you’re paying for, then bring it up immediately with the owners or supervisors. They will be able to talk through your concerns before anything escalates out of control, and may be able to find a solution that keeps everybody happy.

Letting problems fester leads to prolonged resentment, which makes you a pretty awful coworker to have around.

8. DO put down the pen

You know how when you’re thinking about how to solve a problem, you like to pick up a pen, twirl it in your fingers, and click it on and off?

Yeah, stop doing that.

9. DO see the doctor

A nasty bout of flu at the wrong time can literally destroy a fledgling startup. Those people are running on adrenaline and caffeine, they don’t have an immune system anymore.

Don’t be the one responsible for taking out an entire company. If you’re feeling ill, just stay in bed. I assure you it’s the best decision.

10. DO bring your pet to say hello (but nothing more)

Whenever someone brings a pet into the Xero offices, they immediately get surrounded by requests for hugs. Having a few pats of an animal can brighten a dull day.

But don’t abuse the lenient pet policy by bringing in your dog or goldfish or duck every day. Pers can be a huge distraction, and many people are allergic to their fur, or simply don’t like to be around them (I know, weirdos. But it’s true). Be considerate of others in the space and keep your pets at home most of the time.

I’m sure you can think of many other imaginative ways of annoying other users in a coworking space. It’s best if you just don’t do any of them. Remember that even though these other people don’t work at your company, they could be the experts you turn to in a pinch, or your next collaborators, so treat them with the same respect you want them to extend to you.

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