Coworking Spaces: 5 Things You Should Know if You Want to Join One in 2017

Are you considering renting a desk in any coworking spaces? Or perhaps a spot at a shared table? If you’re getting sick of competing for that one seat near the electrical outlet at your local Starbucks, then there are some things you should know before you join any coworking community. Not only are there rules of etiquette (some written, some not), but there are also some best practices to keep in mind if you want to make the most out of the experience.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Gauging your noise level is going to be one of the most important things you’ll need to do if you want to get along with the other kids. Particularly in common spaces where sound is ambient, you’ll need to pay attention to the general volume of talking in the room as well as how loud people speak when they get on the phone. You don’t want to be THAT person who disrupts everyone else’s concentration with your insensitive shouting or earbuds overflowing with loud music.

Monitor the volume of your music, and use headphones if possible, to help contain the sound. Take your in-person meetings to the private meeting rooms, which you’ll no doubt need to reserve, probably for an extra fee. Many coworking spaces feature private phone booths, so if you predict a meltdown or a particularly heated or enthusiastic conversation, get yourself to a booth and shut the door behind you!

Keep the Kitchen Clean and Don’t Steal Anyone’s Food

This should go without saying, but sadly, some people still believe in the dish fairy. Common spaces like kitchens and bathrooms are places where you should make sure to clean up after yourself. You don’t want to deal with anyone else’s mess, and no one wants to deal with yours, either.

Also, learn the rules about what food is there for the community to share and what things belong to specific people. If you’re not sure, don’t touch it. Because really, do you want to be the one who stole someone’s last sushi bites? Or that muffin they’ve been patient enough to save for their afternoon coffee break?

While we’re at it, let’s cover some more general food etiquette. One friend told me, “My biggest pet peeve is sitting next to my colleague when she is crunching on apples, nuts, all crunchy sounds, drives me nuts…” If your eating habits assault anyone’s senses, then it’s a good idea to take your eating out of the working area and into a designated eating space.

Take Care of Yourself

Independence is the name of the game at coworking spaces. Sure there is usually a manager on duty, and you may very well need some type of tech support or information at some point. However, you should find that all of the basic information you need is readily available. Trust me, things like Wi-Fi passwords, instructions on using kitchen appliances, where to find supplies, and rules about what is shareable and what isn’t will not be kept a secret.

Consideration is Key

Be friendly to your co-workers. Vibe is everything in a shared space, and everyone is responsible for bringing something positive to the table if you want to maintain a productive, pleasant environment. In general, you’ll want to be hyper aware of how you interact with others and how your actions may impact them.

Don’t take other people’s stuff. Again, acquaint yourself with the house rules and make sure you understand which, if any supplies are communal, and what is privately owned, and therefore not available to you.

Event planner and tech evangelist Liz King, who frequents a number of different coworking spaces, had this to say: “The true unspoken rule in coworking is to only take up enough space for one person, especially if you're in a prime spot. We always hate when we go to

“The true unspoken rule in coworking is to only take up enough space for one person, especially if you’re in a prime spot. We always hate when we go to a space, and there’s a person spread out all over the table. While there’s technically not a rule against it, it’s definitely grounds for judgment.”

Also, be aware of time. Make sure you leave promptly when you’re supposed to and don’t infringe on the time of the space managers or people who may have made arrangements for private rentals.

It helps to understand when people are open to interaction, and when they don’t want to be bothered. Noelle Stary, the owner of The CoWorking Space in Woodbridge, NJ, has some good advice in this regard:

“We usually say if someone has no headphones on, they are up for talking. One headphone on, ask your question but make it fast. Two headphones on, not available to talk.”

Enjoy the Benefits of Being in an Open Environment

One of the chief benefits of joining a coworking space is the ability to network with other entrepreneurs and motivated business people. Jessica Levin is President and Chief Connector at Seven Degrees Communications, and author of the book, Perfect Pairings: The Art of Connecting People. She had this to say:

“You choose coworking to meet other people. Meet the other people and see how you can work together or at least make a new friend. There are other options if you want a quiet, non-social work environment. Also, don’t put smelly food in the microwave unless you bring enough for everyone.”

So you see, coworking spaces clearly revolve around two things. Good boundaries and food. You’ll be able to exercise all of the freedom and flexibility you desire as an entrepreneur, but you’ll also be called upon to exhibit restraint and sensitivity to the needs of others. And on occasion, you may need to bring enough snacks for everyone.

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