Co-working spaces are unique settings where employees are struggling to find ways to stay focused, in freedom filled environment, which can be seen as lackadaisical cooperation.
There’s plenty to like about co-working spaces, but there’s also a lot to criticize. Depending on the shared working spot you work at, you’ll have a different list of pros and cons. A general thread between all co-working enthusiasts is that while it does plenty to help you appreciate the benefits of cooperative industry and professional socializing, it can be tough to work out of a flexible office space if you’re having a day where you need to focus entirely on the task at hand, and are struggling to find ways to stay focused in a rowdy shared office space.
It can be a nightmare roaming the office for a slightly quiet spot, trying to cancel out as much noise and behavior as possible, and making it clear to everyone around you that you really need some peace and quiet for about three hours. However, with a little bit of organization and a little more prosocial behavior, you’ll have no problem finding ways to stay focused in a rowdy work environment.
It’s All About Pros and Cons
Open offices, shared spaces, and co-working offices share a few general philosophies: people work best when they’re working together, and shoe box cubicles are not doing the professional world any good.
Overall, people in flexible spaces are far more productive than their counterparts. Even though it may seem that spending a large chunk of your day conversing with your teammates is opposite of being a productive team member, there’s plenty of research demonstrating that people generally work better in a co-working environment.
It’s all about embracing the pros, and working around the cons. If you’ve recently made the switch to a coworking environment, then you’ll need to accept some change.
Shared spaces can be very different from normal offices in their overall layout, as well as their size, and in the variety of the professionals who occupy them. If you’ve recently switched to a co-working space, reserve a couple weeks to get to know everyone, adjust, and embrace the benefits of having a little more intimacy with your coworkers.
Sure, they’re more likely to see what you’re doing on your screen – which means you’ll want to be more careful about how and where you browse – but by embracing that, you’ll have the opportunity to share a little bit about yourself, how you motivate yourself at work, what you do to get into the flow, and how your coworkers do it (and what each of you do with your downtime).
Take the time to ask others how they accomplish work. They might surprise you with useful insights on how to organize your work, their successful ways to stay focused, and reap the benefits of an open environment.
1. Lay the Foundation
If you feel like the environment you are in isn’t conducive to productive work, just come out and say it.
Don’t be aggressive, speak it with a tone of genuine curiosity, and you’ll get some real answers. Others might even feel the same but weren’t ready to acknowledge it or bring it up. Or, consider asking your team leader to bring it up for you.
This isn’t meant to be a matter of laying down the law – it’s meant to invite discussion on the creation of basic boundaries, a rule set allowing the group to mold the work environment into a place where everyone can get their work done, and still reap the benefits of a social co-working space.
2. Choose Noise-Canceling Earphones
No matter how much you talk it out with the others, your first goal shouldn’t be to create an environment of deafening silence.
That’s oppressive and does the opposite of what co-working achieves through an improved morale and camaraderie. A certain measure of volume is expected in a social setting, and just because you’ve got work ahead of you that requires pure focus doesn’t mean everyone else can’t enjoy their reprieve from focused work.
Because of those moments, it’s in your best interest to invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones or earphones (depending on which you prefer). Some offices instate an unspoken earphone rule: one bud in means you’re focused, but may be interrupted for something important, and two buds in means you’re not to be touched.
3. Find a Better Spot
If there’s more going around you than just an auditory distraction, then consider packing up and moving to another corner of the office.
Co-working spaces tend to be quite spacious, with several nooks and crannies for workers who require a little more peace and quiet time away from the common area. If every silent spot seems taken, move to a less rowdy spot.
4. Just Take a Break (Away from the Office)
Some days, your preferred space in the office is taken or it’s very distracting. That’s okay, it happens, and it gives you a good excuse to breathe a little new air and stretch your legs in a completely different location:
- Head out to the local library,
- Hit up a coffee shop, or
- Go work from the park.
Taking a break away from the office might also help you breathe a little extra creativity into your work and gives you the freedom to choose where you want to concentrate.
5. Put Your Phone on Silent
In the day and age of the smartphone, people have become easily manipulated by their phones. Start to cut your phone out of your life by setting a strict rule every time you sit down to work on a task that requires concentration: no touching the phone until you’re done.
If the phone is important for something (like reviewing notes you’ve taken down at some other date), transfer that data over to your workstation/laptop. Alternatively, put your phone into airplane mode to avoid any and all calls, texts, messages, and notifications.
Every time your phone buzzes, you’re distracting yourself from work. If you decide to let it be, the urge to check your phone grows. Even if you’re just checking and not opening the notification, those few seconds away from your work only serve to disrupt your flow.
6. Take It Up with Management
When all else fails, it’s time to take it up with management. If the office isn’t suited for concentrated work, speak to management of the co-working space. Inform them that you’ve tried everything to concentrate.
If they’ve heard similar complaints, they can take appropriate actions to help make the workplace a little more conducive towards focused work. But if you seem alone in this complaint, it might be a good opportunity to seek alternative work arrangements.