A workplace is a delicate ecosystem where success and culture ebbs and flows with the provision of home-made cake and water cooler chat; even more so in a co-working space.
In a co-working space, you have the same shared bathroom experience, but with the added dynamic of varied companies, agendas and business cultures – all under one roof.
Today marks my final day in such a workspace- a final day, I hasten to add, that has only come about, because of my own logistical challenges (school drop-offs, family time etc) and not at all a result of the experience!
Reflecting on the past few months, here are some lessons learned that I thought I’d share with you*:
1) Headphones are the co-working space equivalent to an office door. If the headphones are on, the door is shut. You can still knock, but the barrier is up. Note: if your co-worker is wearing “cans” consider the door opaque.
2) Ask for help. Seriously, I have been amazed by how ready, willing, and able my co-working space “colleagues” offer up help, advice and support. If you have held back from such an environment because you thought different ventures under one roof would create competitive or guarded space, think again.
3) Introduce yourself. That dreaded moment where the teacher makes you stand up to ‘share a little bit about yourself’ is a recurring nightmare for many, but in a co-working space there’s no dedicated HR rep to walk you around on your first day for a meet and greet; so don’t expect the world to come to you. Say hello. Introduce yourself and enjoy the friendships that you make in an environment where like-minded people have gathered for their own adventure.
4) Introduce others. So while I agree introducing yourself can be a little hard; take a load off your co-working space buddy and make sure you introduce them to the other people you know. Double points if you can give a quick CV; and straight to top of the class if you can find a common area of discussion. This is grassroots networking.
5) Find the quiet achievers. They’re the ones who are head down, working away without anyone ever realising they invested in X, founded company Y or once worked on Z. While the squeaky wheel often gets the attention, not everyone is a natural self-promoter. You never know who is sitting next to you and what invaluable business acumen they actually possess.
6) Garner advice from the non-experts. This one sounds a little odd; but everyone has a story to tell and experience you can learn from. I’ve found that the collective experience of the co-working community is usually a good gauge of a general direction. Thinking about a double sided business model? By the time the seventh person winces, you start to get the idea it might be hard. Live and learn.
7) Pay it forward. Don’t ask what your co-working space can do for you, ask what you can do for your co-working space. But seriously, give first, it might not come back directly, it might not come back at all. But all the old adages come into play here; be nice to the people on your way up, cos you might meet them on your way down; be the co-worker you’d like to have at the desk beside you; and as I find- doing good feels good. A shared experience goes both ways.
8) You are the culture. From friendly colleagues to bounce ideas off; to the celebration of a professional milestone, the people around you make the culture of the place; and you are part of that. Don’t wait for someone to make it happen for you, you get out what you put in – even if you’re a total introvert. Join the morning teas; go for a coffee; chat on slack or leave notes for people. Or if you’re like me, join the Easter egg eating competition and go so hard you feel sick for the rest of the day – that’s just part of being a team player, right?
9) Make up the numbers. If someone is going to host an event, talk, lunch, anything. Don’t leave them talking to a room of three; If you can, go along and show your support. You’ll be helping out a colleague, sharing an experience and who knows you might just learn something! As with the note above, if someone is helping build the community, help them out.
10) Be respectful. You will make your mark, in one way or another, so make it in a positive way. As with roommates; group holidays and traditional office setting s- do your dishes and don’t stink up the office with tuna; keep the music in your headphones and your phone calls to a dull roar. Say good morning; and thank people when they help out. You might not be working for the same company, but you have the same goal= success and productivity in whatever form that happens to work for you. So do unto others and good luck to all.
* The lessons below depict the experiences of the author and may not reflect yours. The author’s personal attributes, both physical and personnel have probably impacted the experience and the results of the egg eating contest.