Having office space to share can definitely be a great thing. But even if you and your office mate are the best of friends, it still has its challenges. Think of any other time in your life where you shared space with another person – whether it was your parents, a total stranger at summer camp or your freshman year at college. This is the same type of situation; you have to adjust to another person’s quirks, habits, and styles. Yet unlike a shared living space scenario, moving out may not be so easy. For this reason alone, it’s crucial to communicate and keep a high level of mutual respect in order to maintain harmonious office co-habitation.
You may not be thrilled at the idea of having to share your office space with another person but there are a few ways to not only make it more bearable, but even improve productivity on both sides:
Claim your own workspace
Even if you’re co-habitating in the smallest closet-sized office in your department, try to claim a little corner of the room to call your own. This still gives you some personal space that you can arrange or decorate any way you’d like, and get your own work done without fighting for desk space or computer access.
One of the best things about sharing an office is that you have a live-in proofreader, spell checker, project teammate, or general sounding board who can give you feedback on ideas. I’ve shared an office for over two years, and this is definitely one of the perks. We constantly read our works in progress to each other to gauge how something sounds or if it should be worded differently. If you work in the same department with your office mate, try to collaborate on projects when possible. It will lighten the workload for both of you…and as the old saying goes: two heads are better than one.
Compromise, compromise, compromise
This goes back to the first rule of office-sharing—communicate! If they listen to music as they work and you prefer quiet, ask them if they would mind keeping the volume down or using headphones. They may be oblivious to some of their personal habits that are absolutely maddening to you. Speak up! It could be an easy fix if you bring it to their attention. Politely, of course.
Adapt to each others’ work habits
You might find that your work habits are rubbing off on each other. Maybe you’re the driven, “get it done now” type who thinks nothing of working overtime, while they’re a bit more laid back. But a few months from now, you might discover that you’re starting to ease up a bit on your intense focus and feeling a bit less stressed in the process, while they’re buckling down and improving their own performance. Along the same lines, many folks struggle with staying organized. If your office mate is one of them and their desk shows it, offer to help them get their files and work area in order. Not everyone is naturally tidy; rather than criticize or complain about their casual housekeeping methods, offer to help them.
Give each other some privacy
Everyone gets the occasional personal call at work, not matter how much we try to avoid it. It can be awkward if you’re the person listening to the call rather than the one on the phone. If this is a one-time happening, give your co-worker some privacy if they don’t decide to take the call someplace else. Take a walk to the copy room or stop by to talk to another co-worker about a project. But if it looks like it might become a habit, ask your office mate if they would mind leaving the room for personal calls – especially if they’re for something you would really rather not overhear.
Office sharing is very different than sharing the wall of a cubicle. The shared office has no visible barrier between you and your office mate whatsoever. Like it or not, you’ll be up close and personal with each others’ lives and it can put a serious cramp in your productivity. Giving the above tips a try should help you cope – or even excel – in this type of environment.
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