A coworking space is more than just a place to put your laptop down — it's a community where entrepreneurs of different stripes can get together and talk about the challenges they face and exchange ideas about solutions. But in order to foster the kind of community where ideas flow freely, you'll need to get along with your coworking compatriots.
We spoke with community managers and entrepreneurs at coworking spaces across Chicago about what you need to know to be the best neighbor you can be. Here's what they had to say:
1. Show up every day. People who dependably show up every day are more likely become integral to the community. So don’t resign yourself to being just an empty desk.
2. Seek out founders with common interests. You probably have a lot to learn from each other.
3. Follow and cross-promote other companies on social media. If you’re really cheering for the team across the room from you, why wouldn’t you help them spread the word about their company?
4. Be conscious of your volume levels — particularly on calls. You may be disrupting your officemates, even if they don’t tell you. And conference calls in shared spaces are definitely frowned upon.
5. Network. If you’re waiting for the elevator next to the founder of another company, why not ask them how the company is doing? Getting to know other entrepreneurs in a spontaneous and informal way is one of the biggest advantages of coworking.
6. Do your dishes. Seriously. It’s not that hard.
7. Offer advice and help. Sometimes companies will run into problems you’ve faced before, or have the skills to address. When that happens, don’t be afraid to ask if they want your take.
8. But don’t make assumptions. Many entrepreneurs find that sharing about their past challenges and how they overcame them is more productive than telling other companies what to do.
9. Don’t leave stuff on other people’s desks.
10. Give your office manager feedback. It’s hard to make office culture better if you don’t know what people like and don’t like.
11. Don’t use other people’s desks without permission. Even if they’re not there.
12. Treat fellow members of the community as teammates, not just neighbors.
13. Go to events. You don’t have to go to every event (after all, you do have a business to run). But you don’t want to become known as a no-show either. Plus, free snacks and appetizers can help stretch your startup salary just a little bit longer.
14. Put furniture back where you found it. Sometimes you may want to move furniture for an impromptu meeting or a particularly serious game of Ping Pong. If you do, put it back when you’re done.
15. Respect other people’s time. Don’t make them wait for a conference room they’ve reserved.
16. Seek conflict mediation. If you find that a company at your coworking space is particularly disruptive (and not in a good way), don’t be afraid to ask your community manager for help. That’s what they’re there for.
17. Erase the whiteboards.
18. Let the office manager know if you just grabbed the last dry-erase marker. The same goes for stocked snacks, printer paper and whatever else you can think of. Keeping tabs on office supplies is hard, so your office manager will probably appreciate the heads-up.
19. Label your stuff in the communal fridge. Otherwise people may think it’s fair game. It also helps people figure out whom to ask about whether your old leftovers can be thrown out. Speaking of which…
20. … don’t leave old food in the communal fridge. If you haven’t finished Wednesday’s salad by Friday, you probably won’t eat it next week. Throw it out.
21. Figure out where the important conversations happen. Whether it’s the kitchen or the lounge, odds are your coworking space has a location where founders get together to talk about what’s going on. You want to be part of those conversations, don’t you?
22. Don’t cook fish in the communal microwave. (Pro tip from Rippleshot.)
Images via Shutterstock and Assemble.
Thanks to Coalition community managers Molly Black and Jennifer Allen, Rippleshot VP of Operations Marci McCalmon, Occasion CEO Aksh Gupta, Catapult Chicago Executive Director April Lane and Assemble Co-founder Phil Domenico for providing the inside scoop on getting along while coworking.