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New to Coworking Town Part 2: Communicating and Settling Conflicts

March 22, 2018

After New to Coworking Town Part 1, you should be able to start making friends and networking around your workspace. But what if you don’t want to talk to your fellow coworkers?


If you joined to have a place outside of home solely to work, focus, and get access to printing, high-speed internet, and a virtual office, that’s fine too. Here’s some advice from Renée C. Fetty, Community Operations & Communications Manager at Chicago coworking space, Free Range Office, on how to navigate relationships and interactions in your coworking space and subsequently, how to be a good coworker.


How can you tell when someone isn’t open to being talked to?


A really good indication is if they have their earbuds in. Typically, when someone is trying to focus, they are completely engrossed in their computer, and usually have music playing through their headphones. Sometimes, a member is on a phone call, and you wouldn't want to approach them. It's always good, when approaching another member to ask quietly, "Is this a good time for you to chat?"


What should you do if you just came to Free Range to focus and how do you communicate that to others?


The best mode is honesty. It's ok to let your desk mate know that you have an important call coming up, or that you are on a deadline and can't really chat today. Mostly being polite and just openly communicating makes your immediate environment conducive to the way you work best. If you are regularly in the space, members do get to know which sections of the loft are a little on the quieter side. We also have private phone booths for members to use when they need a bit more of a barrier to get work done. The booths are first-come-first-serve, and are limited to 30 minutes at a time. You don't just have to be making a call to use them. They are a great option to just switch up your landscape for a little bit.


How can you tell if you’re overstepping your boundaries and bothering a fellow coworker?


I think there are some social cues like very short, curt answers. If a member won't make eye contact with you, and is solely focused on their computer or phone, etc. Also if the member keeps saying how busy they are, or that they have a conference call coming up, or have several emails to get through, then the other member may pick up that they are too busy to chat right now.


What should you do if there's someone being loud nearby and you need peace and quiet to work?


This is always an awkward situation for members. I think it definitely depends on the particular member, and his/her comfort level with conflict. I've had some members figure it out on their own—basically having the quiet member ask the loud member to settle down because they are also trying to work.


However, more often than not, I get an email asking me to handle the situation. This is part of the job as the space manager. My best tactic is always to explain to new members, they can't yell into their phones because they will get a visit from me. And while I do my best to joke around with them, the foundation is laid at the beginning that that type of behavior will not be tolerated. If this situation does arise, I do try to give the loud member other options in the space. Or I simply tell them to take it outside.  


What’s the best way to go about settling conflicts or disagreements in the coworking space?

  • Don’t disturb other coworkers. “That type of behavior is better done behind closed-doors. Members can always ask to step into the conference room when this type of situation arises. Other members don't need to hear your about your "dirty laundry."

  • Give the members some space initially. “I do tend to give those members some space to try to resolve the issue on their own. If the yelling or raucous discussion goes on for more than 5 minutes—or I get a complaint from other members— I step in to talk to the members.” 

  • Remember your shared space etiquette. “Even though we aren't a corporate office, there is a sense of decorum that applies to all office spaces. You can either take it into the conference room, take it outside, or table it.”


For more on shared space etiquette, take a look at Renée’s article here.

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