Don’t Manspread, and Other Rules of Coworking Etiquette

Sep 28, 2017 | Jessica P. Ogilvie

Previously, we’ve talked about what makes coworking a way of life and how to find the right coworking spot. Now let’s assume you’ve found a place you like and moved yourself (and your team) in. You’re surrounded by other entrepreneurs, other teams. What is the etiquette in a place like this? Many of the rules are the same commonsense stipulations we’d like to hope everyone follows while working at, say, a coffee shop or other public place, but you’d be surprised.

Oh, you’d be surprised.


Okay, not really. But kinda. See, the thing is, we’re sure that the call you’re taking is super important. Of COURSE it is. But that doesn’t mean that anyone else wants to hear it, needs to hear it, or — and this is important — will be impressed by it. Yes, you might be talking about your screenplay that’s quickly moving through the production process, or your successful funding round, or your new VIP board member — but everyone else is more interested in their own work. That doesn’t mean you can’t take calls; just be aware of your noise level, and don’t do it for what you think is the benefit of others.

Clean Up After Yourself in the Kitchen

This is a no-brainer. It’s such a no-brainer, in fact, that it’s incredibly offensive if you don’t do it. If you don’t have time to wash out your coffee mug because you have a call in two minutes, don’t take it to the kitchen. That way, if you don’t manage your time correctly, you have to live with the smell of your four-hour-old coffee, and not the people sitting near the kitchen.

Speaking of the Kitchen, Take it Easy on the Free Coffee

We’ve all been guilty of this. You didn’t have time to get coffee on your way because you woke up late, because you stayed up late, which means you need coffee even more than usual. So maybe you take two … then three … then four cups of that delicious fresh-brewed Stumptown goodness. You can get away with it once, maybe twice. But don’t make it a habit.

Keep Your Personal Belongings Contained

You probably wouldn’t show up to a friend’s house and immediately dump the contents of your bag out onto their couch or dining room table, so don’t do it here either. That goes for the chairs next to you, the areas on the table next to you, other people’s offices that aren’t being used, and shared spaces like kitchens or couches. Unpack what you need to do your work, and stow your belongings beneath your feet in the area in front of you. Simple!

Tell Your Friends

Most coworking spaces are relatively new, and even if they’re not, they often depend on their members spreading the good word among friends for new business. That’s because the freelance/small business world is small (but growing!) and if you are a good fit for a certain space, chances are your friends will be too. Besides, it’s a win-win — you’ll have an insta-coworker!

Read People’s Social Cues

This blog post made headlines a while back for the author’s inability to discern that a woman wearing headphones was a woman who wanted to be left alone. Instead, he took it as a challenge to see whether he could hit on her successfully even despite the clear, universal indication that she didn’t want to be talked to. Don’t be that guy. In a coworking space, assume that anybody who is working doesn’t want to chit-chat unless they make it abundantly clear that they do. That doesn’t mean you can’t say hello, but leave it at a quick hello. People have work to do.