Office etiquette: 5 tips for multiple businesses sharing an office space

While there’s no doubt that businesses can thrive in a shared office space, sharing space is always going to be a little challenging. Here are our tips to make it a little easier…

As business owners, startups and entrepreneurs, we’re living in truly exciting times. Gone are the days of the traditional 8 – 5 work grind in bland office cubicles and the spectacular ‘corner office’ views.

Instead, we’re witnessing the rise of a fascinating co-working culture that not only saves businesses some serious money, but also creates an enabling space to network meaningfully.

While there’s no doubt that businesses can thrive in these sorts of conditions, sharing space is always going to be a little challenging.

So, here are five tips for keeping things bright, breezy and positive while working in close proximity to other startups and entrepreneurs:

1. Create clear boundaries and ground rules

When it comes to sharing office space with other companies or startups, there’s really only one golden rule: respect each other’s space and schedules.

Now, while this may sound pretty simple in principle, you’ll soon find that it’s actually hard to put into practice if you don’t have any basic ground rules to work with.

One of the very first things you should do when moving into a joint office- or coworking space is to establish what these rules are. If you find there aren’t any, well, it’s best you go ahead and put some in place.

A few simple things you can do to ensure that things don’t descend into chaos, include:

  • Setting up a booking system for meeting rooms
  • Creating a cleaning schedule for shared kitchens
  • Electing specific individuals from each company to take responsibility for communications with one another

2. Encourage knowledge-sharing

One of the greatest joys and opportunities of sharing an office space with other businesses is the wealth of knowledge you have at your fingertips.

Harness this by having monthly or quarterly opportunities for people to share insights into their projects or research. This is a great way for colleagues to socialise more broadly and even for businesses to establish possible collaborations.

These can take the form of an informal gathering with snacks and drinks on a weekday afternoon or be something slightly more formal – it really depends on the predominant culture in your shared office space.

3. Get social

Apart from the knowledge-sharing events mentioned above, informal hangouts with fellow businesses on a regular basis can do wonders for cultivating a friendly office culture.

In order to ensure that the responsibility for these events gets shared equally, you can set up a rotating hosting schedule to run throughout the year.

This will also encourage each business to think creatively about fun activities when it’s their turn to host.

4. Beware of ‘Novemberitis’

No matter how positive the vibes in your shared office space are, tension is bound to arise at some point. This is most likely to happen at certain, more stressful times, such as financial year-end and, of course, in the run-up to the festive season when everyone suffers from ‘Novemberitis’.

While you should always be respectful of one another’s space and schedules (as mentioned in the first point), it’s even more important to be conscious of your actions during these more stressful times.

You can even help take the edge off by having coffee delivered your stressed-out colleagues from another company or offering help with something you might have expertise in that they don’t. At some point, you may need to have that little favour returned.

5. Keep the communication channels open

In the end, keeping up good relations in a shared office or co-working space really comes down to good, clear and constant communication among businesses.

When tensions do arise (because they will), disarm the situation by talking it out rather than burying your head and avoiding conflict.

Though there are great advantages to sharing spaces there will be some conflicts that arise. Remember with these tips, the sooner you sort issues out, the better for everyone involved.


11 August 2020

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