There’s nothing new when it comes to communication. Professionals who find themselves in co-working spaces might think everything has changed. But it hasn’t. There are still only three ways a person can communicate: writing, speaking and body language. In fact, only one thing has changed: the opportunities for interaction.

In a traditional workplace, most interactions occur in meetings where you’re often forced to speak or at least nod at someone. In co-working spaces, the choice is yours. That’s what makes it harder. No one will fault you for not knowing your co-working mates. And there are challenges, some of which I’ll describe later. But the benefits are worth the effort.

I’m one of the growing number of Twin Cities professionals conducting business from a collaborate, or co-working, office environment. Being surrounded by other smart, thriving business owners motivates and encourages me. I’ve made new friends to share occasional lunch hours and happy hours, and a co-working space makes it super easy to grow my network. Tenants might also provide services to one another at discounted rates.

These are all good reasons to find ways to interact with one another at the printer, in the mailroom or kitchen, or of course everybody’s favorite: in the bathroom (what’s not awkward about that?).

Five strategies to have the best work experience possible include:

  1. Commit to attending one happy hour or team-building event a week. Also, be the one who clears up confusion about happy hours and mixers. Often, it’s not clear who is invited and who isn’t. That’s a detriment to all involved. Encourage your building to use an easel with a poster board announcing, “Everyone is invited” or “TruPerception employees check in here.” Even if you are having a private event, seeing your company’s name on the board helps people get to know you and your brand.
  2. Learn names. It’s simple. Extend your hand and say, “Hello my name is Melissa. What’s yours?” Strike up quick conversations and follow up with an ask. “Will you be here tomorrow / at the next happy hour? I’d love to continue getting to know you.”
  3. Smile often. In fact, smile constantly.
  4. Walk with purpose, but make eye contact. It lets people know you’re open to being approached.
  5. Be the office connector. If you see someone you’ve met, introduce them around.

Overcoming communication challenges in your co-working space

Whether you have a dedicated office or your space provides open seating, co-working environments often attract tenants with different levels of professionalism. Some people may arrive for work dressed for the boardroom while others show up still wearing pajamas. Some

may not respect boundaries, while others stay to themselves. Good communication can create more trust, teamwork and transparency in your co-working space.

One common issue happens when people need to make private phone calls. They leave their dedicated work space and wander into other areas. There’s a chair with a gorgeous view right outside my office. People would sit there throughout the day talking on the phone. It was very distracting. So, I crafted a note reminding wanderers of the two private phone rooms in the common area, and asked the office manager to post it on the window. That note has saved me from going out there 10 times a day to quiet people.

Another challenge is keeping confidences. When you don’t have a personal connection with someone and there’s no reason to be loyal, something you say in confidence may be passed along. Share only what you would feel comfortable hearing repeated back to you by a stranger. Remember you’re not always trying to forge strong relationships. You just want a healthy environment.

Get all the benefits of a co-working space

It’s your company, your space. Take ownership and be a role model. Make it a healthy, welcoming environment.

Be consistent. Tenants are constantly coming and going. Some may only be in the office a few times a month. Others may leave and never return. But that’s not any different than a traditional workplace. Don’t be afraid to make temporary friends. It’s great practice and you never know, it may lead to a beautiful friendship.

About the author:
Melissa DeLay, aka the Message Maven is founder of TruPerception. She specializes in helping business leaders communicate confidently regardless of the situation. In 2017, she was selected as member of Minnesota Business magazine’s 2017 (Real) Power 50. DeLay earned an M.A. in Organizational Communication from the University of Arkansas and a Mini Master of Business Communication from the University of St. Thomas. She is a former board member for the National Association of Women Business Owners. She has shown salespeople, managers and executives at Carlson, Maytag, 3M and the State of Minnesota, among others, how to use communications to achieve their goals.

(Image via Pexels)