This week, Small Business editor Caitlin Sykes talks to business owners about coworking etiquette.

From silencing your Baywatch theme ringtone to not pouncing on your coworkers' clients, there's a range of good behaviour that's helpful to observe when you're in a coworking space.

This week I've asked a range of business owners about their experiences of coworking culture and their dos and don'ts for operating in workspaces that are shared by a number of businesses.

Keni-Duke Hetet is the founder of architectural design practice Cube Architecture, which has a team of four based in the Bridge Street Collective coworking space in Nelson.

Hetet started working at the collective in 2012, and believes coworking creates quite a different culture to other workplaces.


"The atmosphere is different here because everyone works in different areas of business, with different rhythms. At the old firm I worked at, when three or four of you were under pressure because of deadlines or for whatever reason, that sense of tension tended to permeate through the office and affect everyone. But I've never noticed those vibes in the collective."

The main rules he's learned about operating successfully in a shared workspace relate to some common sense considerations, such as keeping noise levels down and ensuring there's good communication about using shared resources like printers and meeting rooms.

And there are some real no-go areas, he says, like pouncing on someone else's client to sell your product when they've just stepped out of a meeting, or using the environment to sell your products to coworkers - unless they approach you first.

Jonah Merchant, cofounder and CEO of the BizDojo network of coworking spaces, agrees the coworking environment can be quite different to other workplaces, particularly for those who have previously worked from home or in large organisations.

"There are people working right alongside you, but they have their own businesses, so there can be competing priorities at times and business owners have to make allowances for that."

As such, Merchant says BizDojo's house rules generally revolve around being aware and considerate of the fact there are a range of parties using the space; there is also a non-disclosure clause in its agreement with members stating anything overheard in the shared space is to be treated in confidence.

Craig Weise, a managing director at Armillary Private Capital, predominantly works from the firm's own office in Wellington, but also regularly works from the Auckland city coworking space Alike, where Armillary has an Auckland office.

He says coworking is a comfortable fit for him, especially given the firm's Wellington office is an open-plan environment, but that may not be the case for everyone.


"I'd say don't assume all your customers and stakeholders are as comfortable in a shared space as you are. If someone turns up for an important meeting with you, take them straight into a boardroom to make it clear that discretion is important, rather than leaving them standing around a whole lot of people they don't know to discuss something sensitive."

Coming up in Small Business: The end of year holiday period can be a popular time for taking on interns, so what are the experiences of some small businesses who have taken them on? If you have a story to share, drop me a note: