In the tech sector, where telecommuting is rampant and inexpensive office space is not, working from co-working spaces has become a viable and affordable option. The typical co-working space is an open-plan office space that allows its members to work in a more professional environment than their garages or bedrooms.
Think of a co-working space as a big, open office, filled with dozens of different companies, all under one roof. Picture long tables full of laptops and busy workers tapping away or making phone calls – almost like what you'd see at some coffee shops, but with more resources for getting work done, and less hissing from cappuccino machines.
Some co-working collectives allow drop-ins to use the space for a day here or there, while others require a monthly or yearly commitment.
To work effectively from a co-working space, you need to be as self-sufficient as possible. So get yourself organised with these five tips.
1. Always bring headphones and chargers
When I asked for tips on staying productive in a co-working space, practically everyone said they bring headphones. Go one step further and buy a set of headphones you can always keep in your laptop bag. That way, you'll never forget them.
Some people use standard earbuds to play music or talk radio, while others invest in more expensive noise-cancelling headphones for a truly quiet experience. If you intend to play music or other audio, make sure the volume is low enough that no one around you can hear it.
In addition to carrying headphones, you must keep charging cords and cables for all your devices on you at all times. If you're prone to forgetting them and leaving them at home, buy back-up cords and leave them in your bag. I find three-in-one USB chargers handy.
2. If you forget something, ask
If you do forget something essential, such as a phone charger, set of headphones, or HDMI cable, ask someone who works at the co-working space if he or she has one that you can borrow. Some co-working spaces, such as WeWork (which has locations across the US, and one in London) may even have more unexpected resources. Ben Kessler, director of marketing and communications at WeWork says community managers typically have a stock of disposable toothbrushes, mouthwash, and even sewing kits.
One thing not to do is interrupt other paying members of the space to ask for a favour. That should be a last resort.
3. Book meeting rooms for quiet time early and late in the day
Martha Smith, head of social media for the online shopping and swapping site Swapdom.com, works from an open-plan co-working space that she sometimes finds distracting. When she needs to focus on projects that require a lot of concentration, she makes use of the conference rooms and meeting rooms, but she tries to only reserve blocks of time at the very beginning and end of the day, when fewer people need them.
4. Use temporary, private spaces when you don't need a full membership
Sometimes even a private meeting room isn't private enough to get your work done, depending on what your work is. For example, actors need a space to rehearse where they can speak out loud – and they might only need a space for two hours every so often rather than all day, five days a week. Julien Smith founded a company called Breather that rents small, private, office-like spaces to individuals who need them for as little as 30 minutes. (Yes, I know what you're thinking, but users must agree to only use the space for appropriate activity. At any rate, rooms are cleaned after every reservation, according to the FAQ.) Breather's locations cover New York and Montreal, with offices in more cities, including San Francisco, said to be coming soon (hopefully London might be on the cards before long).
5. Treat common areas like sacred spaces
Co-working environments almost always have their own bathrooms and kitchenette or break room. In both co-working spaces and more traditional office settings, people are very sensitive about the condition of these shared spaces, so tread lightly. Scrupulously clean up after yourself. Never leave anything in the sink (ever), and report problems like a lack of soap in the dispensers immediately.