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May 31, 2013

Ashimmy’s Top Ten Tips to Successfully Existing in a Co-Working Space

As I wrote about in my Network World column last week, I have invested in a co-working space here in Boca Raton called Caffeine Spaces. Having spent a few weeks now spending a considerable amount of time in the co-working space I thought I would put together a top 10 list of tips to successfully work in such an environment. Some are do’s, some are don’ts, but following these will certainly make you more productive, popular with your fellow co-working space tenants and maybe even happier all around.

Of course basic office protocols should be followed as well. Below is a vintage video of proper office etiquette. Though the technology has changed a little bit, as well as office fashions, many of the rules still apply. Many of these apply to all office situations, but co-working spaces make them more important.

Here are my Top Ten co-working space rules:

1. Bring headphones – headphones are a must for numerous reasons. First of all with everyone talking in the common area and networking going on if you have any real work to do you need to shut out the noise. Even if you don’t have any music playing through the headphones, it will take you out of the public discourse and allow you to focus on your work.

2. If someone has headphones on, leave them alone – by the same token if you see someone wearing headphones think of it as a “do not disturb” sign. If they wanted to join in the conversation they would take their headphones off. They have them on for a reason. Yes there might be an emergency, but otherwise leave the dude alone.

3. Conference rooms are for conferences – they are not storage rooms, a resting stop for your equipment or your private office. Most conference space is at a premium in co-working spaces. Don’t be a conference room hog and use them for conferences.

4. White boards can be read and should be erased – Just about every time I have used a conference room over the last few weeks I have walked into find a white board filled with information. Sometimes it is confidential or proprietary information, sometimes not. Sometimes it is just doodles frankly. The issue is, when I walk in the room and need to use the whiteboard, what should I do? I have seen people take smartphone pics of whiteboards to capture what they have on them. That is great. But when you leave the conference room, erase the board. If you don’t have the courtesy to do that, assume the next person will.

5. Speaker phones and public areas don’t work – I actually haven’t seen many people use speaker phones in the public areas, but they speak loud enough and have the volumes on their phones turned up where they might as well be. If you get a call and you are going to speak loud, get up, walk to a private area and have at it. Don’t keep the volume on your phone turned to the max.

6. Soda and snacks cost money – Unless it is figured into the rent you pay, all of the food and drink is not free. Someone is going out and stocking that fridge with cold drinks. If you are going to consume, you should replenish. Also make sure snacks and drinks aren’t noxious.

7. Today’s hello, could be tomorrow’s partner or customer – The amount of people you meet in a co-worker space can be extraordinary and overwhelming. Co-working is a social environment. While you can pick a corner and wait for people to come to you, if you are not going to be open about meeting people, you are losing out on a big part of the co-working experience. I am not saying you need to give out “hello my name is . . .” tags or accost people as they enter. A smile and hello as people approach or make eye contact is I find more than enough to put people at ease and kick things off.

8. Don’t be a stalker– There is a thin line between outgoing and becoming a stalker. Don’t be a stalker. If people don’t seem like they are looking for your input, help or interaction, don’t force yourself on them. Be cognizant of body language and non-verbal clues. Know when to step out and away. Be mindful that not everyone is here to interact with you all of the time.

9. Pay it forward – Something I have heard many talk about in the startup community. It may even sound corny, but it is true. I am finding that if you don’t wait for people to do for you, but go out and do for them, without immediate expectation of payback either, it comes back in spades.

10. Business cards still count – They may be old fashioned, but you still need to give people a way to contact you. They may scan them into Google Goggles or any number of places, but we have not come to a point where the card is obsolete. Of course this begs the question as to what to do with all of these business cards. After just a few weeks I noticed I have over 75 different business cards on my night table. What a waste of paper! Maybe the thing to do is return the card after you scan it? There is probably a good solution and business there somewhere. But for now be sure to bring business cards!

There you have it, culled from just a few weeks working in a co-working space. Did I miss any big ones? What has your experience been?

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