When it comes to working in a shared office space, there are written and unwritten rules. Some rules may be obvious, others less so, but following them closely can lead to stronger professional relationships with your team and more fulfilling experiences at work.
Let’s explore the best ways you can become a better coworker through your office etiquette.
Although shared workspace is quite different from a traditional working environment, people are still trying to get work done. No matter what you’re doing, keep in mind how your work may be indirectly affecting (or annoying) others.
Taking an extensive phone or Skype call in an open area can be loud and distracting to others around you. Use a phone booth or reserve a conference room ahead of time. If the call is last minute, step outside of the main area, use headphones, or lower your voice. The same goes for personal calls.
Stepping away from anyone who seems hard at work isn’t a bad idea. Noise isn’t the only thing to be aware of, consider how much space you’re using, or if your food may be giving off a strong odor. Being cognizant of how your actions impact others around you is one of the golden rules of open office space etiquette.
Shared office spaces are great for generating new ideas or sparking thoughtful conversations with others. Showing your face in the open area and working with your lounge-mates is a great way to find new business opportunities or just to meet new people at your office.
The key is being open to introducing yourself to new people, whether at a special event or by the coffee machine. Ask people about the work they do, any events they may be participating in, or just how their day is going. It’s not as hard as it seems.
That being said, do not be afraid to let others know if you have a deadline and cannot participate in an activity or a quick brainstorming session with a friend. Communication is key, even if you are not working directly with someone.
Offices can be tense environments, and coworkers will at times butt heads. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, fear of conflict can lead to the avoidance of constructive debates. He writes:
“All great relationships require productive conflict in order to grow. Unfortunately, conflict is considered taboo in many situations, especially at work. And the higher you go up the management chain, the more you find people spending inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid the kind of passionate debates that are essential to any great team.”
Keep any conflict that occurs professional, rather than letting it become personal. If you are to have a passionate, even heated conversation with someone, keep it fact-based and maintain your composure to give the parties a better chance at recovery and growth.
No one likes working with someone who is two steps behind or constantly forgetting things. When going to a shared office space, be sure that you wear the proper dress code and have all the tools necessary to get your work done. If listening to music helps you focus, remember to bring your headphones. Some people even bring their own laptop stand, notebooks, pens and pencils, and laptop mouse.
Another thing to remember: just because it is called a shared office space does not mean that everything is meant to be shared. It’s important to always ask permission before using people’s chargers or equipment.
Check out our other posts for tips for staying focused in a coworking space.
A dirty deskmate may be one of the most frustrating issues in shared spaces, because it can be seen as a sign of respect (or lack thereof). No matter how busy you or your team become during the day, there’s no excuse for leaving a messy workstation.
Remember to take your belongings with you after using a desk. Clean, pack or discard any food or dinnerware after eating. Return any office supplies you may have borrowed from the building staff or your nearby coworkers.
Staying clean and hygienic is one of the top “unwritten” open office space rules to respecting the space and those around you. Here are some ideas to help you declutter your office.
Between all the deadlines and meetings, it can be easy to forget to take care of one’s health. We are quick to throw ourselves into working overtime or skipping lunch to stay productive. Help each other out by developing healthy habits and checking in on each other frequently.
Every once in a while, ask how your officemate is faring with their work, and see if you can help take anything off their plate. If you see them particularly exhausted or depressed, talk to them, encourage them to take a break, or even leave early.
Never let work get in the way of someone’s well-being. The best office environments are the ones where everyone is excited to come in each day.
If you’re not in the office or working somewhere else, responsive communication is key. It ensures that you are both on the same page, even if you aren’t in the same room.
Whenever you receive a call, email, or text message, aim for a reasonable and consistent window of time for a response. For some that may be within one to three hours. The window is entirely up to you, but it’s essential you stick to it.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to respond in a timely fashion, create an auto-response email, such as when you are out for a vacation or in an important meeting. Doing so will help set expectations for your coworkers.
Be on time. Whenever you are late, even by a few minutes, you are signaling to someone that you do not prioritize their time. Traffic, late trains, and other obligations always get in the way, so prepare accordingly.
There’s an old quote that goes: “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late.” That may seem like an extreme concept, but it may help you take punctuality more seriously. When in doubt, set an alarm and plan on being there fifteen minutes early, just in case anything comes up.
The day-to-day work can become so consuming that we forget to celebrate the small victories. But it’s vital to congratulate your coworkers on their work, whether they worked extensively on a certain project, or they pass a milestone such as a first anniversary.
Write or draw a quick note. Hand them a card. Or simply say directly. There are several ways you can show your appreciation to your coworker without spending a fortune. A little can go a long way.
Everyone has their own opinion of small talk, but the truth is that it’s an essential part of socializing with just about anyone. The best way to approach small talk is to be as genuine as possible. Be curious about your coworkers. Ask about their weekend, their plans for the night, their hobbies and interests outside of work.
There is also a clear line that should never be crossed — it seems simple, but keep your small talk positive and professional. It doesn’t get much worse than being known as the office gossip or creep. It lowers team morale and creates unfounded rumors. Rise above petty gossip or unwarranted advances and instead praise other coworkers genuinely.
The coworking experience depends heavily on the people who adhere to the unspoken workspace rules and etiquette. Those who follow the rules and etiquette, the ones who make and take every opportunity to treat others politely and keep their space clean, tend to work more efficiently and have a more satisfying office experience. Check out some of the office etiquette rules around the world in the infographic below.
Just remember that your workspace is shared with others, so treat your officemates’ space and privacy with as much respect as you would like in return.
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