Shared Workspace Etiquette

Strong smelling food, mess and loud eating topped a recent Pitango survey into the most annoying workplace habits. Dealing with workspace etiquette can be even trickier in a shared space where offenders may work for a different company.

Jacqui Jones, founder of cloud software Way We Do, is among the 1 in 10 workers who have had their lunch stolen from a shared refrigerator. Jacqui, who works out of office centre Corporate House in Brisbane, managed to come up with a novel, non-confrontational way to stop the thefts.

“I bought a very girly lunch bag to reduce the risk of someone taking my lunch. No man will want to go through that lunch bag!” Jacqui says.

So what are the dos and don’ts of managing shared resources, such as kitchens and facilities such as printers, meeting rooms and even shared WiFi bandwidth? How do you manage privacy, and what are the top tips for a happy and harmonious workspace?

Diana McLaren, Community Manager of Hub Sydney, is very well versed in the many etiquette issues of shared space. She recommends several ways to keep the peace. Printers need a secure print service and excessive printing needs to be discouraged. Coworkers also need to be mindful of noise levels.

“We have dedicated privacy phone booths but also members take phone calls on the floor and thus everyone needs to use their ‘inside voice’ or they have to use a room so no problems. We also have quiet rooms like meditation spaces that give you the chance to get away from the noise as well as different levels of noise in different areas,” Diana says.

Excessive internet use was an issue that came up at Gold Coast-based coworking space Houston House. One member was using the internet to download large files, but “a quick friendly chat” was able to resolve the situation. Katrina Voevodin, founder of Houston House, says that being considerate is key.

“If it’s a busy time with a few people around, many of our ‘housemates’ will step outside or into another room to take or make phonecalls. It can be very distracting for others so they do need to be mindful and considerate with this,” Katrina says.

Above all, Katrina says being friendly and respectful creates a harmonious space. This includes keeping your own areas tidy and keeping a balance between socialising and being mindful of people’s work time.

“If you talk too much and stop people getting their work done, you’ll end up being avoided as ultimately we’re all here to get work done. But those who are open to collaboration and referrals, joining in events, getting involved and getting to know people, are much happier and more successful in the space,” Katrina says.

According to Diana, the actual rules or guidelines are “kind of irrelevant”. The important thing is that every new coworking space member is inducted, and has any rules communicated to them, and is given the chance to feel integrated.

“If they feel that they have influence in the space they will heed the rules much more willingly as they become their rules as well. What we’re creating is a community and so the set up is not the same as a normal office,” Diana explains.

“These ‘workspace dramas’ that occur in a normal office is not what we worry about in a coworking space. We’re friends first and coworkers second so the bigger issues are when they’re aren’t enough spots at and event for everyone, who’s dating whom (there is a lot of this drama) and when you’re friends in the mood for ping pong but you’re on deadline. So these are the things that we have an ‘etiquette guide’ for that other offices wouldn’t, or at least not in the same way.”