How Etiquette Can Keep a
Shared Workspace Pleasant

Open Workspace

Philosophically or economically, some businesses or organizations choose to operate in one large room.  Whether that large room is divided by cubicles, desks, or work tables that accommodate several people, the space is shared in some capacity.

In a shared workspace, tact, courtesy, and sensitivity to the needs of your coworkers are most important in creating an overall environment of productivity and accomplishment.

Respecting Boundaries

The greatest challenge in a shared workspace is dealing with boundaries.  Depending on how open the work area is, boundaries may be visibly implied or imagined.

In a cubicle area, though the walls may be short, there is an implied personal space for each person.  The same goes for a work area filled with desks.  The desk is the implied personal space.

But in a room with large work tables that are shared by a few or even several coworkers, the boundaries may become a little blurred.  If the same people sit in the same space daily, it’s easier to imagine what the boundary would be for that person’s space.

Respecting the boundaries of a shared workspace means that you:

  • Never borrow office supplies from someone’s space without first asking.
  • Observe someone before interrupting – if she is on the phone, typing thoughts onto the screen, or counting lines on a spreadsheet, it’s probably best not to interrupt at that moment.
  • Never assume that because someone is visible that you can launch into a conversation without first checking his availability.  “Tim, could I ask you about last month’s sales diagram?” or “Excuse me, Sarah, could I interrupt you for a moment?”
  • Go to a more private area, or outside the workspace, to take personal phone calls.
  • Avoid a heavy application of perfume or fragrance.
  • Avoid eating foods at your workspace that have a strong odor and may be unpleasant to coworkers.
  • Take care of personal issues and grooming in the restroom.

When we work in very close proximity to others, observing personal space responsibilities is vital to our own and others’ peace of mind.

Communicating in a Shared Workspace

Recognizing and respecting your personal space needs and those of your coworkers, makes working together pleasant and a place you enjoy coming to.  Unknown expectations regarding your shared workspace can erupt into irritation and resentment. 

It’s important to communicate one another’s needs and expectations.  Managers and supervisors can encourage this communication.  They can also set expectations before they hire a new person to work with the established group.  

An open work environment is not ideal for everyone.  If you suspect you fall into this category, consider carefully any offer that comes with this work style.  It’s important to discover and know what type of environment most contributes to your productivity. 

If you enjoy constantly being around other people, can communicate effectively, and don’t mind having your work visible to others, an open workspace may be ideal for you.

But problems can be met and faced if you find yourself in an open space environment, regardless of productivity styles.  Communication is key, and of course the main thing is to stay open for opportunities and be ready to adapt!

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