Isaac Bullen moved to New Zealand from the UK in December to set up the Asia Pacific office of 3WhiteHats, a digital marketing agency specialising in search engine optimisation. He has been working from the No.9 coworking space in central Auckland for the past four months.
When and why did you decide to start working in a coworking space?
Initially when 3WhiteHats NZ was set up, budgets were fiercely tight, I'd just spent a small fortune moving from the UK to New Zealand and had no clients here yet. So I worked from home for the first few months, which was great to begin with but the luxury soon wore off. I found working from home five or six days a week meant it was difficult to switch off at 6:30pm, and for me personally it was massively antisocial.
The plan was always for the business to find its own premises somewhere in Auckland city, and the need to separate work from home and to interact with other humans was really the driving force for me to look for a coworking space as opposed to having my own office. I still work from home one or two days a week now, just not every day.
What are the main differences in culture that you've noticed working in a coworking space compared with other environments where you've previously worked?
When I was studying and a recent graduate I worked for a large retail bank in the UK and found the corporate environment really well planned and structured, where everyone had a very specific role to play within the wider organisation. But working for a larger organisation tended to mean there was more segregation and you only networked and socialised with people in similar roles.
For the last five years I've worked as part of a small tight-knit team of digital marketing specialists, with a developing company culture, where management connected with staff and there was an opportunity to grow. In this environment the company culture was fed by the entire team and developed as the business grew.
I've found working in a coworking space similar to being part of a small business, where the culture is driven by the sum of its parts. I guess the main difference is that your fellow coworkers aren't your staff or colleagues. We do help, support and bounce ideas off each other here as you would in a small business, but ultimately we're still working on our own projects or feeding back into teams within our specific businesses at other locations.
What are the main pieces of coworking etiquette you've picked up during your time there?
Keep things tidy. No one tidies up my desk at the end of the day or does my dishes here. Also no one wants to hear my Baywatch ring tone. It was funny the first time, but now I keep my phone on vibrate for the sanity of my coworkers.
What other things have you found helpful for getting along with - and not annoying - others when working in a coworking space?
Arranging casual social events, even if it's just going to one of the fast food joints on Fort Street or having a beer after work to network and socialise. I've found that when you're working with other busy business owners it often means you don't get to properly socialise or network with them during the day.
Another thing I've found helpful is to wear headphones if you don't want to be interrupted. They don't have to be playing music; just having them sit on your ears says 'I'm busy, don't disturb me'.
What are some dos and three don'ts of coworking etiquette that you'd share with others looking to move into a coworking space?
• Have conversations with fellow coworkers, but if they have headphones on or are frantically typing, don't do it.
• Offer to make fellow coworkers a hot beverage - it's a good opportunity for a quick conversation. And consider refilling the kettle afterwards to speed up beverage making for the next person.
• Respect other people's personal space. Being in an open plan office means it's really easy to disturb fellow coworkers who are trying to get a job done.
• Eat or drink other people's stuff, unless they offer first or you can replace it before they find out!
• Queue Shania Twain (or any other single artist for that matter) to play constantly if there's a democratic music system, although feel free to contribute a selection.
• Shout or make loud noises. Talk to your fellow coworkers, but try not to disturb others who are working, and consider moving to the soft area or one of the conference rooms for an extended conversation.