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The Communal Office: Benefits of Sharing a Workspace

The Communal Office: Benefits of Sharing a Workspace
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We live in an age in which jobs can be done – and companies can be run – from anywhere. Although 9-to-5 positions do still exist, many companies no longer require their workers to do their job from within the confines of a cubicle. In fact, some of the largest companies in the world allow many of their employees to work from home.

Still, for some of us, working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be. Founders of many startup companies – especially in the tech industry – rely on collaboration and face-to-face communication with their colleagues in order to get their business up and running. For these entrepreneurs, working from home creates too many barriers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they agree with the idea that their employees should be chained to their desk for nine hours a day.

Their solution: Communal workspaces.

Shared offices combine the benefits of a traditional office setting, in terms of socialization and collaboration, with the freedom provided when working from home.

ShareYourOffice recently conducted a survey of entrepreneurs who utilize a shared workspace to discover more about how such a non-traditional setting benefits their companies, as well as their industries as a whole.

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A Meeting of the Minds

Perhaps the most beneficial characteristic of a shared workspace is the fact that so many hard-working, intelligent, and innovative people are brought together under the same roof. The amount of knowledge and creativity passed around these communal spaces optimizes everyone’s chances of reaching that “A-ha!” moment that leads to a breakthrough.

Communication

Though we’ve come a long way in terms of the capabilities of electronic communication, there simply is no replacement for good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction. Though many modern startups don’t mandate that their employees be present for exactly nine hours every day, there certainly are times in which meetings will be called during which the entire team needs to be present.

Having a physical space to hold these meetings in is important to the success of a company. Derric Haynie, co-founder of digital marketing agency Splash OPM, told ShareYourOffice, he “wanted to have a place to meet so that we wouldn’t have to do it…at a coffee shop.” Having a central headquarters of sorts makes it much easier to communicate without having to contend with potential disruptions in a public area.

Collaboration

As previously mentioned, since multiple companies are simultaneously working on a variety of projects within a shared space, the potential for collaboration is huge. Alex Sunnarborg, co-founder of Lawnmower, believes communal workplaces are “quite valuable for collaboration, idea generation, (and) business integrations.”

COO of Remark Waytao Shing takes it even a step further, explaining: “Communal work spaces are great to meet new people, exchange new ideas and bounce technical challenges around.” The members of the various startups within a single communal workspace are often more than happy to share innovative solutions and help each other overcome obstacles.

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Feedback

Shared workspaces are also a great place to get feedback on your work from people outside your company who are still familiar with your work. Soumyadip Rakshit of MysteryVibe, says, “Working in a good co-working space helps spread the word about what we are building and also get feedback during the process.”

While working within a shared workspace, startup teams may come into contact with others who are at different stages within their own company. Not only are these situations conducive to collaboration among companies, but they also optimize the potential for mentor-mentee relationships to form.

Getting Up and Out

One of the main differences between a typical office setting and a communal office is that, in a communal office, everyone present wants to be there. Since working from home or elsewhere is certainly an option, there’s no reason for a member of a team to be there if they’re not feeling up to it. When working in a communal office, you can be almost certain that you won’t run into those dreaded toxic employees who seemingly exist only to make other people miserable.

Breaks Up the Monotony

Many of us stuck in a typical 9-to-5 dream of being able to work from home every day of our lives.

But when we actually get our wish, we realize something we never thought of before: It can be boring. Founder of Odden Creative Darren Odden reported feeling “isolated” during his first entrepreneurial venture, which was strictly based online.

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Having a central hub allows you to get up and out of your PJs and get some much-needed face time with your colleagues. Odden says he found communal workspace NextSpace to be “the right mix of coffee shop and business.” While shared workspaces are definitely focused on productivity and work, they certainly provide team members with opportunities to socialize that they wouldn’t get from inside their homes.

A Sense of Camaraderie

Communal workspaces are full of individuals with similar goals, a similar work ethic, and similar mindsets.

Ryan Heneise, of MemberMan, discusses at length the benefits of working within such a community: “Aside from having a comfortable place to work, it’s nice to be around other entrepreneurs and people doing similar work. There’s a sort of camaraderie that develops as you get to know other people in the office.”

Heneise continues, “You may all be working for different companies on different projects, but you’re all walking down a similar path together.”

The teams working within a communal workspace have different goals, personalities, and talents, but they are tied together by one common factor: they all want to create something to improve the world around them.

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Keeping Expenses Down

All other factors aside, sharing a workspace has a major effect on a startup’s bottom line.

Any time a company can save money on expenses, it can be counted as a win – especially if you’re just getting your business off the ground. Haynie writes, “Larger companies don’t necessarily care about price, but when you’re bootstrapping a startup, you’re going to be more sensitive (to such costs).”

Alex Golimbievsky of JobPact echoes a similar sentiment: “As a burgeoning startup, cash is king. We want to have a conducive environment without paying another mortgage.”

Especially considering that team members of such startups might not necessarily utilize their workspace as much as traditional companies use their facilities, buying into a shared workspace in which employees can come and go as they please is much more cost-effective.

Conclusion

The Digital Age has brought about many changes in the way economies, and we as people, work. Access to computers and mobile devices has made it possible to do work from anywhere with an Internet connection. While the eight-hour workday is not yet a relic of the past, shared workplaces are making a case for the idea that it’s not how long you spend at work, but what you accomplish during your time spent working that matters.

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Featured photo credit: Le Meridien Barcelona—Le Méridien Hub Seating – Communal Table / LeMeridien Hotels and Resorts via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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