Coworking is a style of working built primarily on open communication and collaboration. In such an open environment, there will be noise and information flowing throughout the entire office. But openness and collaboration are what drive coworking and are why it has struck a chord with so many people across the world.
With such an open environment, there are sure to be some problems with handling information and collaboration. Coworking can meet these with collaborative solutions. These problems can be made insignificant and the solutions you use can strengthen the community and promote collaboration going forward.
After 2 years and over 60 coworkers at BCNewt we feel we can offer solutions to some of the most common HR conflicts in coworking. These solutions should not only solve any problems, but also help grow your community going forward.
Q: What happens when two members of the community are collaborating on a project and the project fails?
A: No project shared among coworkers has failed in BCNewt, mainly because the collaborations are through paid services or exchanges of services. This is funny in terms of efficiency, because you are sitting next to your partner / provider / client, and this makes it much easier to develop projects.
The most common complaint would be coworkers saying, “My client-coworker is bothering me by asking me about a certain service or idea many times per day”. As a coworking space manager, I try to keep the privacy of the deal between the 2 or more coworkers, and until today I haven’t needed to interfere.
Q: Does the noise from people having conversations or meetings disturb others in the office?
A: The most common intervention is to remind coworkers of the rules for spontaneous meetings, which is very simple: have your meetings in the meeting room. In this way, we avoid disturbing others.
The noise usually comes from groups of 3 or more people, which very often is a symptom of a wonderful vibe, but also younger coworkers. So, it is important to have strong communication from the group leader and to have an open channel to resolve potential noise issues. Spontaneous business meetings are addressed in the meeting room to cut down on noise.
Q: What happens when people do not properly integrate into the community, are not actively engaged or seem to keep to themselves?
A: The community manager must also monitor how people are (personality, mannerisms, etc.) to see who they would best fit with in the coworking community. We also typically work to schedule events for the whole community whether they are related to work or not. One of ours would be an “Afterwork” where typically all members of the office will go out to have a drink and socialize, getting to know each other better.
Other events are more centered to the businesses of our coworkers and are designed to help them learn and network with us. Events like this have included a presentation on how to grow your small business and a presentation on SEO.
We also use online tools to engage members and invite them participate, like doodle.com and meetup.com, which helps the community stay active in our social gatherings. The manager should listen properly to the coworkers’ feedback, about their topics of interests and needs, and organize the office in the right way. Also, we ask new members to present themselves and their business project so all peers are aware of the newcomers to the office. These presentations are recorded on video and inspire other coworkers to improve themselves.
Q: What happens if you have to chase members for payments? Or there is a change in their schedule? How flexible are you?
A: Coworking is founded on being a different, more flexible experience for those who choose to join a community. We lend ourselves to being more flexible with people in terms of adjusting time at the office or paying later than planned. However, it is not like we will give space away for free because people cannot pay, but we are not as rigid as a more traditional office space.
Entrepreneurs will typically say, “Hey, I can’t afford this anymore, so I’ll go home,” when money becomes an issue. Payments are not usually an issue for people joining a coworking space as we are very clear and upfront about the costs required to join BCNewt.
Q: How do you ensure that sensitive information is protected? Is that a large part of managing the coworking space or do people typically self-regulate?
A: Coworking offices are usually built on a basis of trust and respect throughout the community. It is part of why people love coworking so much, they can come as they are and not worry about the person next to them judging or taking advantage of them.
In regards to keeping intellectual property safe, we advise that coworkers establish ownerships and rights to property before they collaborate formally. This is to help avoid any confusion over who has rights to what is created or thought of, and is a point of reference for any ownership disagreements. If a coworker is working on something more sensitive, we advise them to use the meeting room to maintain their privacy and avoid sensitive information being passed to someone who does not need it.
The interior design project at BCNewt considered the fact that less paper is used everyday in our work lives. We consciously decided to not provide shelves, just lockers with a personal key for document storage. Freelancers or single entrepreneurs don’t demand shelves as a solution, but growing startups do, so we allow them to have some space for that.
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Image via BCNewt