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The best thing about coworking is the community. Yes, you’ll be more productive, you’ll make a ton of network connections, you’ll be invited to all kinds of cool events and you’ll have access to all the free coffee you can drink, but what makes coworking so great is being surrounded by talented, focused, freethinking people who sincerely want you to succeed in whatever it is you’re doing.
If you’re new to coworking, there are a few things you should do to tap into this stream of awesomeness as soon as possible.
Here are 15 of my favorites:
1. Introduce Yourself
Introverts beware: the best way to start meeting people in your coworking space is to introduce yourself to your fellow coworkers. Since you’re the newbie, people may wait for you to initiate contact because they have no way of knowing whether you’re there for an hour, a day, or for the next several years.
Most people will give you a friendly nod in passing or when you sit down near them. If you can do so without interrupting their work, take the interaction a bit further by introducing yourself and asking them about what they do.
Remember, a community of a thousand people starts with the first introduction.
2. Spend Time in the Common Areas
Here’s a well-kept coworking secret: some of the best encounters and most powerful connections happen in the community spaces: the kitchen, the couches and the lobby. These areas are generally buzzing with activity, with people chatting, eating, laughing, venting—all the good human stuff. Be sure to spend time in these areas and join in the conversations.
If you keep your head down and quietly slink to the coffeemaker and back, you give the message that you don’t want to connect. Be friendly, say hi, spend a little time.
You know how the most fun place to be at a party is generally the kitchen? The same can often be said of coworking spaces. Put yourself in the mix.
3. Use Headphones Sparingly
Headphones are the universal coworking sign that you don’t want to be disturbed. If you really don’t want to be disturbed, headphones work surprisingly well. But, if you’re open to a hello, an introduction or question, don’t plug in. It sends the message that you’re not interested in the people or happenings around you. If you want to be part of the community, plug-in only when you need to.
4. Attend Events and Workshops
Most coworking spaces have a running series of events, presentations, networking events, Lunch & Learns, and meetups. When your work schedule permits, attend these. They’re a great way to learn more about your fellow coworkers, you can make a few connections, and you’ll get a feel for the culture of the space.
If something is not of interest at all, don’t feel like you need to make an appearance, but if something is remotely on your radar, check it out. You may be happy you did.
5. Attend Happy Hours and Other Celebrations
One of the best things about being in a coworking space is that you get to celebrate wins with the people around you. You also get to decompress and talk about challenges you’re having with people who are in the same boat.
Take advantage of happy hours, birthdays, work celebrations and anniversaries. These types of gatherings are where the supportive, collaborative spirit of a space really shines.
6. Be Helpful and Generous with Your Time
What goes around comes around and I’ve never seen this more clearly and regularly demonstrated than in great coworking spaces. Because they’re packed with a diverse collection of designers, developers, writers, engineers, financial planners, attorneys and much more, coworking spaces are built-in networks of just about everything you need to start and grow a business. And if you can’t find a particular service in-house, you’ll likely be able to get a solid referral from a fellow member.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to help out and the more you help people, the more willing people are to help you. Have an abundance mentality—share generously of your time and knowledge—and you’ll find that when you need help or a favor, people are more than happy to lend a hand.
This can’t be overstated. In a true community coworking space, generosity and an underlying spirit of helpfulness are the heart of everything.
7. Be Active on the Group Email List
Most coworking spaces have a way for members to ask questions, get referrals and share news. Maybe it’s custom software or maybe it’s a simple email list or group. Being active on these tools provides a low barrier of entry to your coworking community.
You can introduce yourself, answer questions or share an interesting link without even having to look up from your computer, and you’ll immediately start connecting with other members. This may not be as good as connecting face-to-face, but it’s a great way to join community conversations.
8. Connect with the Community Curators
You know those people who gave you a tour, got you signed up, showed you where the bathrooms are and introduced you to a few people? They’re community curators/connectors/cultivators/managers and they are fantastic people to have on your side. They’re excellent networkers, they know everyone, and they can connect you to people you can help, learn from and collaborate with. Make sure you know them and they know you.
9. Bring Snacks
You know what people love? Snacks. You know what they really love? Free snacks. Spending a few bucks to bring some chocolate, fruit, cookies or hummus is a sign that you’re friendly, approachable and excited to be part of the community. Don’t worry about being fancy-schmancy (though you can if you want)—the idea is to make a little gesture of friendship and community.
10. Follow your Coworking Space and Fellow Members on Social Media
Find out what social media sites your space and other members are active on. You can quickly introduce yourself through social media and when you follow and share posts from others, they’ll likely reciprocate and share relevant links, images, etc.
Bonus: post photos, videos, and quotes from your space and tag the space in them. This is a great way to share your experience and enthusiasm and it enables your space to showcase its humanness and community with a retweet or repost.
11. Tell People Who You Are and What You Do
Don’t be shy about telling people about yourself. If you’re looking for new design clients, let people know. If you’re available for app development gigs, spread the word. A coworking space is not the place to be shy about your work. People are generally very happy to connect you with people who may need your services. If they don’t know what you do, you may be missing out on great partnerships and business opportunities.
You can put the word out through the community email, your coworking space profile, happy hours, casual chats—whatever your space and style allow. Don’t spam people with pitches, but don’t be afraid to tell people about your services.
12. Get to Know The Space
You know what makes you feel like a stranger? When you don’t really know where you are in a space. You know what makes your feel like a regular? When you know where everything is. Yes, you should definitely know where the bathroom, coffeemaker, and conference rooms are, but take the time to find out where the Band-Aids, spare towels, extra power cords and member wall are. These are the little details that give you a true sense of belonging rather than being a visitor in an unfamiliar space.
13. Try Different Work Areas
Don't get stuck in a rut with where you sit. I know this one from experience. I sat at the community table for over a year, and really loved the proximity and frequent interactions, but one day the table was full and I found myself sitting at the space’s wraparound bar.
Turns out, it’s the greatest thing ever. It’s higher than the tables so my neck doesn’t get strained, it’s tall enough to stand at occasionally so I don’t get death from sitting, and there are regular bar-sitters who have become great friends so I’m not missing out on the social aspect. I change up where I sit to keep things fresh, and I encourage you to do the same but move around a bit until you find your favorite areas.
14. Show up Regularly
Coworking day passes are great. They allow you to get a feel for coworking with zero commitment. That being said, as with a family, the best parts of a coworking community come through spending hour after hour, day after day, year after year together. You see people at their best and at their worst—and people see you at your best and your worst.
If coworking speaks to you, and you really want to give it everything you’ve got, show up. Day after day after day. In my experience, coworking absolutely gets better the more you give. And, bonus, you’ll surprise yourself with how productive you are.
15. Don’t Be “That Guy”
In coworking spaces, you sometimes find “that guy.” You know, the one who talks loudly on his phone for hours and takes conference calls in the community space, doesn’t ever make coffee, doesn’t change the toilet paper roll, leaves dishes in the sink for someone else to deal with—you know, that guy. Don’t be that guy and you’re already well on your way to making a great impression with your fellow members.
Your turn: What tips can you share with someone new to coworking? What lessons came easy and which ones did you learn the hard way? In the comments, let us know.