Once upon a time there was a team of event producers who delighted in an overly spacious office environment. Everyone had their own large office with custom desks and filing systems. There was a large conference room, a kitchen, a waiting area, and even an extra room for storage and organization. It was a land of plenty.
Then came three little words: Shared. Work. Space.
If we told you that everyone at Coterie Spark was ecstatic when our office environment got turned upside down, it would not be the truth. Like any team, we all have different personalities and comfort zones. A large amount of our time was spent in our own offices with the door closed while we met in small groups, spoke to clients, vendors and partners, or tried to minimize distraction so we could knock out some of the more tedious tasks on our plates. Everyone’s main concern: HOW DO WE STAY FOCUSED? Runner up concerns: 1. Do I have to leave the office every time I have a call? Where do I go? 2. Where do I put all of my things? 3. How do I function without ALL of my files? 4. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, does a shared work space make us hate each other?
Now that we are kicking off our 10th month at the WeWork Houston Galleria location, we feel pretty confident in answering the above concerns and want to share our journey with anyone else considering taking the plunge into a shared work space environment.
SO, HOW DO WE STAY FOCUSED?
Good question… with LOTS of different answers. In our experience, there are two big keys to maintaining focus when you share a small work space with people: 1. Respect. Be aware of your office-mates and know when people need a really quiet environment. We have days when the music is going and everyone is blasting through things. We also have days when all you hear are keyboard strokes and you might only say 5 words to the other people in the room. It’s about being aware of where everyone is, checking in, and respecting the needs of others. 2. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones. Self explanatory.
DO I HAVE TO LEAVE THE OFFICE EVERY TIME I HAVE A CALL? IF SO, WHERE DO I GO?
Most of this answer falls under the respect answer above. If it’s a short call and you know other people in your office have their headphones on, do it. Or ask “do you mind if I take this here?” When most of us have more than a quick call, we usually take it to the phone booth stations WeWork has set up on every floor. It’s a nicely sized area with a desk and power hook up where you can have a private conversation without worrying about your office-mates.
WHERE DO I PUT ALL OF MY THINGS?
We can sugarcoat this if you want, but the answer is, you DON’T put all of your things in your new office. You decide what you really need or really like. For some of us that answer is a picture frame. For others it’s a little motivation in the form of artwork. Others really like to keep a succulent that is barely alive, but just won’t quit (who… me?!). You decide what you need for work and then you see what you have room for. And so far that has worked out really well for all of us.
HOW DO I FUNCTION WITHOUT ALL OF MY FILES?
When you print out a piece of paper for every proposal and every venue and every contract and every email with important information and EVERY banquet event order, you have a lot of files. (Side note: on behalf of all BEOs, we’d like to apologize to trees everywhere.) This was a tough one to figure out, so we just decided to go as paperless as possible. That process is an entirely different blog post, but I can tell you that it has been AMAZING in so many ways and if you have ever considered it, you should go all in. Be on the lookout for more on that. Results: everyone has one teeny tiny file cabinet. And everyone has lots of extra room in there.
So, does this fairy tale have a happy ending or have we all turned into trolls who spend so much time together that we can’t stand each other? Hey, we’re human. Everyone is a troll sometimes. Luckily our new work environment allows us to get away from the group when we are feeling particularly troll-like. Overall, it has been wonderful. Our team feels more connected, there’s a lot more group brainstorming, a lot more talking over questions instead of sending 10 emails back and forth to someone who is in an office down the hall. Plus, with a team of Executive Producers sharing a work space, it’s easier to get feedback, fresh ideas and advice when our clients or projects are in need.
A quick run through of other added benefits: Conference rooms of all shapes and sizes available to reserve via the WeWork app. Cool and cozy common spaces that are easily available for casual meet ups, chats, or staff meetings. SPA WATER – a different mix on every floor (it’s the little things). Mixing and mingling with other professionals in other industries. Coffee, tea, kitchen items, already ordered and stocked and all available during working hours. A front desk presence always there to receive guests and packages… This all means no more ordering toner, printer paper, coffee, utensils, washing kitchen dishes, cleaning out office refrigerators, and even more things we can’t remember that we ever did before.
Should you take the plunge into a shared working environment? There are lots of things to consider, including if it’s right for your industry and your company culture. When you test new waters they can feel cold and uncomfortable. But once you jump in and start swimming, you warm up fast! We might not be the Michael Phelps of shared work spaces, but for now we’re pretty comfortable calling ourselves the Baywatch of WeWork. We can swim in this ocean and breathe life into our work at the same time, red bathing suits not included.