If you’ve worked from home for any period of time, you know there are pros and cons to the gig.
And while working in your pajamas, having close access to the fridge, and the lack of a commute are all quite appealing, working from home can certainly be a lonely way to get stuff done.
One way to fight off that lonesome feeling is to hit the local cafe, plugging in and dosing up on caffeine (which, let’s be honest, most of us would be doing no matter where we work).
While that gets you out of your PJs and out of the house, though, what about finding opportunities to connect with other business owners? Talking about the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, finding ways to network, building a sense of community in your…community?
It’s a rare coffee shop that can offer those features on the side of a dark roast pour over. For community and connection, it might be time for you to try a coworking space.
Coworking spaces offer unique opportunities for making valuable connections, but they can also be a bit intimidating for first-timers – so we’re breaking down some of the biggest dos and don’ts you should know in advance.
Here are some tips:
DO make the most of the online community
Many coworking spaces offer not just an actual physical space, but an online community, too – a Slack community, a Facebook group, or even a web portal. Companies like WeWork, for example, offer a social networking site where members can offer and accept gigs, share advice, and get to know each other.
In these communities, you can continue the networking beyond the walls of the coworking space to build partnerships, land clients, or just chit chat about which kind of donuts you want to see at the coffee bar next Friday.
(The jelly-filled kind – thanks for asking.)
DON’T bring smelly food
Food and work go hand in hand – you need to stay fueled up to keep your focus and actually get work done. And if you want to avoid doubling your coworking costs by eating out every day, you might want to pack a lunch.
If you’re used to microwaving whatever the heck you want from the safe confines of your own home, though, remember – you’re now sharing a space with others, and the same rules that would apply in a traditional office apply here. Nobody is going to police your food choices, but if you crack open a fresh can of surströmming at your communal desk every day, it might make in-person networking just a little more challenging.
DO take advantage of the events
You started coworking because you want to be around people, right? Good news: coworking spaces often host events outside of regular business hours, and they’re a great way to mingle and get to know other members.
While you don’t have to attend every event, try picking one or two per month, so you can meet and connect with people in a more casual setting. (And if you’re investigating the coworking spaces in your area, ask them about what sorts of events they typically host. They can run the gamut from marketing workshops to wine tastings!)
DON’T make a mess
If this sounds obvious to you, you may be surprised by what you see in a coworking space.
(But we’re not naming names.)
Coworking means sharing and caring for a communal space, and no one likes a messy roommate.
Be mindful of the space you take up at your shared workspace – you may not be able to take up half your communal table by spreading out your entire collection of rare PEZ dispensers. Clean up your spills in the kitchen. Clean up the spills from your dog. (Yes, some spaces allow canine coworkers!) Basically, treat the space with the same respect you’d expect from others – easy, right?
You’ve got expertise to share – and so do other people! Take advantage of being in a coworking space full of entrepreneurs like yourself by asking questions about your new coworkers – what they do, how you can help them, and whether what they offer is right for you. It might be a business referral, a project you can collaborate on together, or maybe just the start of a beautiful new friendship! (Aww.)
DON’T overstay your welcome
Playground rules are coming back at you again here: it’s time to share with our friends.
Familiarize yourself with the rules of your space, and use designated areas accordingly. For example, some spaces have “phone booth” areas that you should use for making calls, and/or private conference rooms you can reserve – the availability of which may depend on your type of membership. (When you’re shopping around for a space, this is a great thing to ask about!)
In any case, play by the rules, and try not to put anyone in the uncomfortable position of having to ask you to clear out of a space they reserved – or one where you’ve overstayed your time limit.
DO ask questions before you join
Some coworking spaces are mostly private offices, and some have that open coffee shop vibe. Some have a keg on tap, some are dry. Some offer limited hours, some are 24/7. Every coworking space is different, and if you’re lucky enough to live in a city with several, do some research and take some tours before you commit to a membership.
Grab a day pass, set up shop, try their coffee, test the WiFi. After all, if you’re going to wave goodbye to your comfy home setup on occasion, you want to know you’ll enjoy the space you’ll be in all day!
Want to tour some coworking spaces? Here’s a cheat sheet of questions you might want to ask:
- Are there different types of membership with different rates? (Also, is billing month-to-month? How much notice do they need if you decide to cancel your membership?)
- Do they offer private desks, or is it all communal?
- What are their hours of operation?
- Are pets or children allowed?
- Do they host networking events for members?
- What amenities do they offer for making calls and/or hosting meetings?
- Do they offer any kind of online community?
Do YOU work in a coworking space?
What would you recommend to someone who is interested in it?
How do you make the most of your time outside of your house?
Share your tips for finding the right spot in the comments below!