My coworking space is great! I have really made friends here and we all help each other out. The problem is, sometimes I am really in the middle of writing, and when I get interrupted by a question from a coworker (which I am happy to answer) it breaks my flow for over an hour. How can I turn off without seeming 100% anti-social?
Anti-Social Sal – NYC
Dear Anti-Social Sal,
In order to truly benefit from a coworking space, you need to set ground rules for yourself. Yes, the routine comes easier compared to when you’re working in a café or home office, but it still needs attention. One way to do this is to set personal times when you allow yourself to be distracted. Just before lunch, for example, is ideal, because it can’t interrupt you for too long, and your concentration is probably waning anyway.
Note the ‘allow yourself’ in this. Just because you have set yourself ground rules, doesn’t mean other people will follow them. Luckily though, just as ‘knowing the people in your space’ created your conundrum, it’s actually its own remedy, too.
If you know those people well enough to share advice and exchange ideas with them, you should also know them well enough to politely tell them that ‘now’s not the time’. Just because you’re not answering right then and there, doesn’t mean you’re not answering at all.
To avoid conflict, set another – more convenient – time to speak, and then devote your full attention to them then. Your fellow coworkers will be grateful for it.
Strike a balance with this strategy, too though. There’s value knowing the difference between a quick question and extended discussion; and setting a later date to discuss your favourite colour is a time waster. Understand the difference, then be strict with yourself: take simple questions as such, and avoid getting too involved or give responses to questions that haven’t been asked.
If it’s the act of being interrupted that really gets your goat, consider wearing earphones (my last column talked briefly about ear-phone etiquette) when you’re in the middle of a concentration streak, or when a deadline’s looming. There are also neat contraptions to help let others know when they’re able to approach you. Flockd is one of these, helping coworkers connect in the real-world when it suits them most. It was developed in partnership with Green Spaces and New Work City, so you can be sure it’s designed with coworking in mind.
You have to be strict with these rules, but if you deliver them politely, everyone will be happier for it. Remember too that sometimes it’s okay to say no. You joined your coworking space to work, and fellow community members shouldn’t expect you to share your know-how too often for free!
Being able to ask people questions – and offer your feedback – is one of the greatest advantages of joining a coworking space. Click here to learn more about coworking, and here to start searching for a flexible desk within a professional community in your neigbourhood. And here to ask Anna a question of your own.