With many offices moving towards a model of shared work space it is important to discuss best practices. We thought some of the things we’ve learned over a year of sharing office space might be helpful to others working in close quarters. Our three main tips are communication, flexibility, and mutual appreciation.
Communication: Talk! Decide together on norms for your office.
We recognized that sharing a space impacts how we use it, and it was important to establish a line of open communication starting with a discussion about fair expectations and agreed upon practices that work for both of us. Dim lighting? Music? Work-style? Preferred method of communication? People have vastly varying work-styles and preferences and communicating up front, and as minor issues arise, will save you major headaches. Make sure the rest of the office knows the best way to communicate with you as well.
Flexibility: Understand the line between personal preference and what a reasonable expectation is.
Asking your co-worker not to talk constantly on speakerphone is reasonable. Expecting absolute silence is not. While it is not always possible for one of us to be out of the office when the other has a meeting, in some instances we can set our meetings at the least invasive times. We have to rely on that open line of communication where we discuss the upcoming events and share each other’s calendars. You can even set specific blocks on those calendars for “quiet time” where each person can work on their high concentration to-do items.
Mutual Appreciation: Respect the work your colleague does and appreciate the adjustments they make to accommodate the space.
Not only do we share the same space, but we also share the same mission; to serve the student population. We do, however, have very different roles in how we accomplish this. Fortunately the operations role requires minimal verbal communication and therefore can reduce the overall office noise by primarily using email and instant messaging, especially when a student is in the space for advising. When a student is present it is tempting to interject or to ask a question but it is important not to break the perceived separation in the space both for the comfort of the student and for the concentration of the colleague. In this instance we elect to send an instant message to either ask a question about the conversation or to preemptively answer one that the student poses. It also helps that we have a physical barrier which creates that perceived separation of two spaces.
Short of the friendly office warfare these three rules have helped us maintain a great working relationship in our shared space and we hope can help you do the same.
This post was co-written by Kial and Andrea, who share an office at American University’s Kogod School of Business where Kial works as the Operations & Technology Coordinator and Andrea as a Career Management Advisor.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Jake Nelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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