Mashable: Get the Most Out of a Coworking Space
Green Spaces, a coworking space in Tribeca, specializes in environmentally focused businesses. Mountain View-based Cubes & Crayons combines childcare and coworking.WorkBar in Boston is hosted in a 2,500-square-foot space and has separate areas for cafe-like and quieter working styles. Coworking Brooklyn uses a small room that functions as an art gallery by night.
The coworking experience varies drastically depending on which space you’re using. Different spaces have different levels of interaction with other workers, formality and general vibe. While some spaces, like Green Spaces and Cubes & Crayons, state their niche upfront, you’ll only be able to gauge what the environment is like by dropping in. Most spaces have daily drop-in rates. Try a couple of different spaces to see what works best for you before you commit. You can find a list of space around the world on the Coworking Wiki.
“See if the people in the space are people who you could go and see every day…if it’s not, then go to the next space,” says Jay Catalan, the co-founder of a coworking space in Vancouver called The Network Hub.
1. Introduce Yourself
It’s less awkward to introduce yourself on the first day than to work alongside someone for months before asking their name. Even if you’re not usually outgoing, try to make a special effort for the first week or two when you start in a new coworking space.
“Just make introductions and it goes a long way…We’ve had some people they wish they had met sooner because it turns out they did similar lines of work and just talking about it or actually sharing work, it’s not something you want to find out when you only have a couple more months left on your project or something,” Park says.
If you’re shy about meeting people, try getting creative (like, for instance, bringing food). Bill Jacobson and Dave Ulrich, who co-founded WorkBar, said that one new coworker at WorkBar Boston showed up with a big box of doughnuts. “He got to know everybody pretty quick,” Jacobson says.
2. Get to Know Your Coworkers
Don’t stop interacting with your coworkers after you introduce yourself. One of the biggest benefits of coworking is the built-in community of professionals working across different industries.
“It may not seem directly ‘productive’ to chat with your coworker for 10 minutes mid-day, but indirectly, it yields greater results than almost anything else you could spend time on,” says Parker Whitney, office manager for Philadelphia coworking space Independents Hall, though he says, “Invest in your community by taking (not faking) interest in what its members do, and it will take you with it…The people you’ve always wanted to know are sitting all around you. Ask questions. Learn. Most importantly, help them when you can.”
If you are too busy during the workday for water cooler conversation, most coworking spaces host happy hours, seminars or other events that are prime opportunities for learning more about your coworkers.
3. Don’t Hesitate to Collaborate
“Even when you work for yourself, it’s important to realize your limitations,” says Dave Martorana, a freelance Python & iPhone developer who works at Independents Hall. “If you’re a software developer, you’re not necessarily a designer, product manager, or marketer as well. When you work at a coworking space, people with those skills probably work right next to you and are just as interested in building something awesome as you are.”
5. Apply the “Cone of Silence”
While coworking one day, I ended up testing someone’s website, getting caught in the crossfire of a music choice showdown, and participating in a raised-hand vote about which suit jacket a fellow coworker should wear to a meeting. Needless to say, the social aspects of coworking — despite their advantages — can be extremely distracting.
Which is why out of the 37 productivity tips that I collected for a previous article, this one from Paul Preibisch of B3D Multitech remains my favorite:
“Rather than standing up from behind your wall of monitors and shouting, ‘Can you all shut up?!’ you may want to consider, what I call ‘The Cone of Silence.’ It really works! All you need are a nice pair of headphones, (not earbuds), a wave file that plays ‘white noise,’ and Windows Media Player set to auto-repeat.”