Career Advice Workplace

Guide to Sharing Office Space

By: Xiaofan Gao
Oct 5, 2020 • 7 min read

Guide to Sharing Office Space

As many of you already know, the environment you’re working in can be critical to your overall performance. If you have your own office, you’ll have more space for materials, documents, and even personalized desk decorations! There’ll be fewer distractions and you’ll gain a state of relaxation because you won’t feel like anyone’s looking over your shoulder to check if you’re working. On the other hand, not everyone has this luxury. Some employees are forced into sharing office space with their team or other close coworkers. Here is your go-to guide for sharing office space! 

sharing office space

Challenges of Sharing Office Space

If you’re sharing office space with others, you won’t have the luxury of complete privacy. Say goodbye to decorating your desk. If you’re lucky, you’ll have just enough room for all your office supplies and desktop computer. Distractions will come in the form of people sitting right beside you, as they talk, hum, or tap out rhythms with their fingers and feet. The uncoordinated click-clacking of multiple workers typing away is already loud enough, especially if the office space is small, due to the way sound works. But worst of all, there’s the constant sense of dread stemming from the “what if” of someone glancing at you the one second you slacked off. It makes you tense up as you go about your day, leading to poor focus and performance. 

Finding Success

This doesn’t mean you can’t find success in a shared office space environment. You certainly can; it’s just that you’ll have to give and take with your fellow neighbors. As with any relationship, even at work, it’s all about compromise. 

sharing office space

Be Willing to Compromise 

If I was only allowed to give one tip, it’d be this. Compromise. You won’t believe how many people come into work with the typical “It’s my way or the highway” attitude. Yes, there will be times in life where you must stand your ground, but when it comes to sharing common space, give others the chance to do what they want. If one of your office mates wants to place a plastic potted plant on their desk and water it every day, by all means, let them! You’ll find that it’s much easier to ask for things in return, due to the tendency of reciprocity in human behavior. If you don’t budge on anything, you’ll look like a jerk, and no one likes jerks. 

Keep Your Workspace Tidy

The tidier your workspace is, the less often you’ll be fumbling through your belongings, which can be noisy and distracting. Sure, doing it once or twice is okay, but if you have to rummage through your files 10 times in an hour because you forgot where you put something, you’ll be getting some annoyed glances. Keeping a neat space can also reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings between coworkers. Hey, when items go missing, everyone’s a suspect, and fingers are pointed. Arguments erupt, and we don’t want that. 

sharing office space

Control Your Noise Level

Ensure your voice isn’t too loud while talking to someone in person, over the phone, or by video.  When you want to listen to music, use headphones or earphones to avoid distracting nearby workers who may not appreciate the blaring tunes. If a nearby cohabitant tells you to quiet down, assure them that you will and do so immediately. Don’t increase your noise level to spite them. It might be a temporary victory, but that kind of behavior won’t get you anywhere in the long run. What if your neighbor’s the noisy one? Ask them politely if they could lower their voice/music, and list out your reasoning. For instance, I would let them know that whenever I hear music, I always write out the lyrics instead of what I’m supposed to be writing. Since my job requires me to constantly email clients, I would appreciate it if the music could be turned down, so I don’t end up spending the majority of my day deleting song lyrics off of my screen and waste time retyping emails. 

Agree to a Set of Rules

Let everyone in your workspace brainstorm some rules they’d like to set. This is the perfect time to make requests like “don’t peek to see if I’m working, because it makes me anxious” or “if you’re going to eat any products with peanut butter in them, please do so outside our workspace, because I’m allergic to that.” Assign a mediator, preferably an outsider who won’t be working alongside anyone, to avoid bias beforehand. When disagreements occur, the mediator can step in and help the two sides come up with a satisfactory solution for everyone involved. Once the rules are set in stone, add consequences for breaking them. If someone has a first-time violation, a warning should suffice, as it can be chalked up to forgetfulness. I highly suggest repeated violations be taken up with HR, but it’s up to the particular workspace members to decide what will happen at the end of the day.

sharing office space

Spend Time Bonding

Not surprisingly, people get along better when they understand one another and find out what they have in common. If you’re a creative individual with many ideas, feel free to be the organizer for these events! Some fun bonding activities include 

  • Hiking and camping in the woods for an entire weekend
  • Round robin video game tournament 
  • Movie night marathon with the favorite movie each person selected
  • Build and battle with your catapult 

Make a Routine

These can be a one-time thing or done every week. It’s up to everyone in the workspace to decide. However, I recommend gathering everyone together at least once every month, even if it’s just for a brief check-in. Staying connected with your fellow “roommates” is an important step for creating a comfortable and friendly environment to work in.

These are just some tips we have on sharing office space. If you have any advice, let us know on our social media pages!

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