Increase Productivity and Free Up Time

Ahh, the magical wonder of a shared workspace! No doubt you heard all about the potlucks, the collaboration, the way that you’d suddenly rediscover the meaning of the phrase “work-life balance.” But now that you’re part of a shared workspace, you may be finding it harder to get through your to-do list. Don’t be discouraged! While it can have its challenges, a coworking space has too many advantages to give up on so easily. Try these simple suggestions for being more productive in a shared workspace.

Avoid Conversations That Don’t Help You

The social challenges of a shared workspace may not be apparent at first. At first the small annoyances show themselves, but listening to someone crack their knuckles or tap their pen fades quickly; eventually it can become background noise, easy enough to tune out. The chatty office mates are harder to get rid of. When the guy next to you wants to give you all the deets about his Tindr date when you’re trying to get through your email, the social aspect of a shared workspace can become more harmful than helpful. Fortunately, research shows that an open workspace can actually make office conversations shorter, since there’s a tendency to be self-conscious about oversharing when many ears are listening. Use this as an excuse the next time that you’re getting TMI about your colleague’s late night. (Of course, the plus side of shared workspace is the potential for mentorship and collaboration – use that to your advantage as much as possible.)

Set Aside Time For Your Work Only

For several hours a day, you should let others in your workspace know you’ll be focusing on your work alone – no exceptions. Studies suggest that constantly alternating between doing your own work and fielding questions from others causes you to experience a heavy “cognitive load” since you have to keep figuring out where you were when you get back to your monitor or sketchpad. Though it may seem silly, you’re probably better off wearing big noise-cancelling headphones and hanging a sign to make it perfectly clear – you’re in your own world until 2PM sharp, or whenever you decide that you’re open for collaboration and communication. That is, after all, what you wanted to be part of a shared workspace for anyway – just not every moment of every day (that will kill your productivity).

Optimize Your Workspace

No one is going to get anything done if you’re crammed into the corners with no light coming in and a large potted plant preventing everyone from getting into the bathroom without shuffling sideways. Be bold in standing up and asking everyone else how they’d feel about rearranging things so that everyone has adequate room. While change can be traumatic for anyone and you may get a few protests, reassure everyone that you intend to help everyone feel comfortable about the move. Throw up those blinds, make sure everyone can bring in their personal items, and consider all creative solutions for making your workspace a more productive place to be.  Oh – and get a comfortable chair. Your back is worth it.

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William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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