If you haven’t done so already, it’s quite possible you’ll find yourself freelancing or virtually commuting from a coworking space sooner than later. In fact, there are currently 55 million Americans who are self-employed, and this number is only expected to grow.
While the saturation of viral videos from entrepreneurial, startup, superstar personalities like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tai Lopez, Russell Brunson, Adrian Morrison, and Brian Cristiano can appear to cheapen the legitimacy of building a successful tech business, the coworking trend is much more than a flash in the pan. Case in point, data from the Intuit 2020 Report suggests almost half the workforce will be freelance by 2020.
This means coworking spaces will continue to grow in number and size. With so many Americans transitioning into freelance work, there is going to be a significant influx in the amount of coworking members each space will have to accommodate. As they come together, it’s important for members old and new to remember what makes a good coworking coworker.
Communication is Key
When you join a coworking space, you’re not just going to your desk to work—you’re entering a community filled with entrepreneurs, freelancers, and startups from a multitude of backgrounds. Each member can provide new perspectives, ideas, and opportunities. So when your coworking compatriots are kicking it in the cafe, take advantage of that time and make a connection with them both professionally and socially. Maybe you end up kayaking together, maybe you end up with a new business partner, world’s your oyster.
Although it may seem obvious, being a member of a coworking community offers a chance to network every single day. Familiarizing yourself with other members’ passions and interests not only fosters friendships in the space, but provides an opportunity to share, collaborate, and learn from one another.
Talking to the other members can even spark creativity. According to Deskmag’s annual Coworking Survey, 71% of participants reported increased creativity since becoming a part of a coworking space.
Since coworking spaces depend on interpersonal interaction, it’s important to hone your emotional intelligence—that is, recognizing and understanding the emotions of others and keeping your own in check. Workers who are empathetic and compassionate are more likely to move up the ladder in their careers: according to research by Business Insider, 62% of human resource managers said they were less likely to promote a Negative Nancy with a bad attitude.
Emotional intelligence (or Emotional Quotient, EQ) has a ripple effect on each and every single thing we do. TalentSmart reported that EQ is the best metric for performance, indicating that 90% of top performers at work have a high EQ and that this skill accounts for 58% of success across all job fields.
Be open to opinions that diverge from your own, ask how your desk mate’s day is going, and build rapport with members of the space. Coworking could even strengthen your EQ: according to Deskmag, 91% of people said they had better interactions with others after coworking.
Keep it Clean
Your desk on Monday could be another member’s mess on Tuesday. Leaving traces of your morning coffee, conference call notes, and lunchtime leftovers is distracting and an inconvenience to others utilizing the space.
While it should go without saying, always clean up after yourself. It’s important to remember that everything is shared, from the coffee to the conference rooms. If you poured the last cup of dark roast, brew a fresh pot so the rest of the office doesn’t go thirsty (or uncaffeinated).
Keeping your area clean and organized will not only help out your fellow workspace members, but also increase your own productivity. Research cited by Reliable Plant shows the average employee wastes 4.3 hours per week sorting through paper documents. If you’re a visual learner, consider color-coded filing systems and to-do lists to illustrate your workday and reduce clutter.
Use Your Inside Voice
One of the benefits of a coworking space is the capacity of square footage. From spacious conference rooms to a traditional open office layout, coworking inspires collaboration. However, coworking etiquette requires you to be cognizant of the volume at which you converse with other members. Phone calls should be taken into private call rooms and brainstorming sessions should take place behind closed conference room doors to ensure the focus of other members in the space.
Research by the Journal of Urban Health, a publication of the New York Academy of Medicine, found that students who had higher “ambient” noise levels in school performed significantly worse on standardized tests in mathematics and foreign languages.
While sidebars can be a major distraction and productivity setback, conversations in the coworking setting can allow members to share different skillsets and sources of information. This type of networking is one of the most valuable perks of becoming a part of a coworking space, so while you don’t have to feel like you’re in the quiet corner of the library, be mindful of whether or not you’re interrupting those around you.
One common criticism of coworking is the distracting nature of the space. Don’t let this deter you—Deskmag reported that 68% of respondents said they had a clearer focus after becoming members of their respective spaces, while 64% commented on better time management and an ability to complete tasks on time and more efficiently.
Support Your Space
Monster coworking companies like WeWork have many hired hands to take on any tasks that need done. However, many of the smaller spaces operate on a shoestring budget and small, hardworking teams.
Where and when you can, try to lend a hand. Be it a quick blurb on social media, helping to rearrange a few new desks, or cleaning up any overlooked odds and ends, chances are any help you can give will be greatly appreciated. Moreover, when you can, help your coworking constituents work through problems if you think your area of expertise could be a part of the solution.
Coworking has the ability maximizes all of the positive aspects of a traditional workplace without the sterile, corporate, cubicle style environment that so many conventional employers still subject their employees to. Ultimately, however, it’s truly the members that make a coworking space a place worth coming to. YOU make the coworking space worth coming to by filling it with your passion, knowledge, and empathy.