Teleworkers who miss the networking and collaboration that happens in a typical corporate environment have resorted to coworking. Because of this trend, several coworking opportunities are showing up all over, and you’ll find that Average Web Worker Joe setting up his own coworking space with some friends.
But mixing friends with business has always been tricky. Even if you’re just coworking, you still run the risk of having your friends interfere with your business – or worse, having the business ruin your friendship. However, there are still some ways to establish a professional coworking space with friends.
Set boundaries. When you work with friends, it’s very likely that you’ll take some time out during the day for some friendly chit-chat. As some coworking freelancers say, this often leads them to being unproductive at work. Apart from setting boundaries for each member’s working space, you also need to set boundaries for your time and resources.
This, of course, would vary from person to person. Just because you’re friends with coworkers, it doesn’t mean that your boundaries are the same. For some web workers, borrowing their computer is ok for a short period of time. But for others, they’ll throw a fit if you so much as “borrow” some staple wires.
Be aware of everyone’s expectations. One of the reasons why many partnerships fail is because each party’s expectations aren’t out in the open to begin with. Does coworking automatically mean you can freely collaborate or is it just limited to the shared working space? Discuss what each of you need from the coworking space before you make a commitment.
Define areas of responsibility. Apart from each member’s office, are there communal areas where you will share responsibility? Who’s job is it to replace the coffee filters? Who gets to vacuum the waiting room rug? Just like sharing an apartment with a roommate, you’ll need to define which areas each member is responsible for.
Don’t apply any coworking feuds or disagreements to the friendship. This can be tough to follow, but just because your coworking setup can’t work out, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t meet up for coffee to patch up the friendship. Communicate well where the friendship stands and where the coworking relationship stands to avoid any misunderstandings.
Have universal rules and policies. You can’t just say “John has to keep his area clean because my clients can see his mess.” Doing this will seem like you’re singling coworkers out. Instead, turn your complaints into general rules such as “Areas of a personal office space that are visible from a communal area should be tidy at all times.” Just because a friend is welcome to personal advice from you, it doesn’t mean they’ll welcome business and organizational advice as well. This is why it’s important to have a set of rules that everyone is aware of.
Coworking may be a new phenomenon, but best practices guidelines are finally emerging. By making best practices and professionalism your priority within the coworking space, there’s lower risk of having your friendship negatively affect your work and vice-versa.
Do you prefer to cowork with friends? How would coworking with friends affect your work?