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Sharing an Office Space Has Its Challenges and Rewards

Sharing an Office Space Has Its Challenges and Rewards

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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Career Tips

Congratulations! You’ve just begun the dream job you’ve always wanted. It’s your first day at the company and you’re shown into your new workspace – an office you will share with a colleague.

Start a management degree at American Public University.

Not what you expected when the HR recruiter ran down a list of company benefits that you’d soon enjoy? Relax. Things could be worse; you might still be on the street looking for work.

Sharing office space with a stranger can be as enjoyable as two kids in a sandbox or as torturous as two wrestlers in the ring.

Overcoming the Challenges of Sharing an Office

Nonprofit program manager and freelance writer Sara Hodon says, “Having office space to share can definitely be a great thing. But even if you and your office mate are the best of friends, it still has its challenges.”

“You have to adjust to another person’s quirks, habits, and styles,” she points out. “But there are a few ways to not only make it more bearable, but even improve productivity on both sides.”

With a tranquil and productive environment in mind, Hodon offers five tips for successfully sharing your office space:

1. Claim your own workspace – Even if you’re sharing in the smallest closet-size office, try to claim a little corner to call your own. This gives you some personal space to arrange or decorate, and you can get your own work done without fighting for desk space or computer access.

2. Collaborate – One of the best things about sharing an office is that you have a live-in proofreader, spell checker, project teammate or general sounding board who can give you feedback on ideas. If you and your office mate work in the same department, try to collaborate on projects when possible. It will lighten the workload for both of you.

3. Compromise, compromise, compromise Be sure to communicate. If your office mate likes to listen to music and you prefer quiet, ask him or her if they would mind keeping the volume down or using headphones. Your coworker may be oblivious to some personal habits that are absolutely maddening to you. Speak up! It could be an easy fix if you bring it to their attention. Politely, of course.

4.  Adapt to each other’s work habits – You might soon find that your work habits are rubbing off on each other. Stay cool. A few months from now, you might discover that you’re both starting to ease up a bit.

Along the same lines, many folks struggle to stay organized. If your office mate is one of the untidy souls and his desk shows it, offer to help put his work area in order. Not everyone is naturally tidy; rather than criticize or complain, offer to help.

5.  Give each other some privacy when needed – Everyone gets the occasional personal call at work. It can be awkward if you’re the person listening to the call.

If this is a rare happening, give your coworker some privacy. Take a walk to the copy room or stop by to talk to another coworker.

But if it looks like phone calls might become a daily routine, ask your office mate if he or she would mind leaving the room for personal calls – especially if they’re about something you would really rather not overhear.

Additional Tips for Peacefully Sharing Your Workspace

The ShareMyOffice blog offers a few no-nos to make co-habiting in a workspace as peaceful and productive as possible. 

1. Don’t be messy – Be considerate at both your desk and in communal areas. Some people might have a real problem with messiness and can’t concentrate if they’re looking at your stacks of papers and last week’s lunch.

2. Don’t talk too much – Yes, you can discuss last night’s episode of that TV show, but keep social talk to a professional minimum and on a quiet level – no one likes to hear spoilers. Also, assess who wants to be talked to. If someone has headphones on or in the midst of some work, save the chat for later.

3. Don’t just sit at your desk – Make use of all the facilities within the office, whether this is space outside, a conference room or a more social environment. If you need to speak to someone privately, either in person or on the phone, use a vacant meeting room instead of your desk. Your guest and your coworkers will appreciate your consideration.

At the end of the day, as Lily Herman of the Muse wisely points out, surviving (and thriving) is about understanding the nuances that come with being close to other people all the time. “Be considerate,” Herman says, “think about how you’re treating others, and definitely don’t leave your lunch out for more than a day. Trust me on that last one.”

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