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How to Share a Workspace ... With People

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Shared workspaces are becoming increasingly popular and may be better than cubes for law firms, both large and small. For tough economic times, reconfiguring offices into a more shared space seems like a great solution.

But how to share a workspace is a whole other matter, reports Forbes. With sharing comes a fair share of distraction, disruption and compromise. Before you bemoan the death of your corner office, know that there is a way to, as Tim Gunn would say, "make it work."

Here are six tips on how to share a workspace -- without going insane:

  1. Have open and honest conversations with (annoying) colleagues. If you are tired of overhearing your colleague talk about their string of bad OkCupid dates, thoughts on potential Kimye baby names or impassioned rants on the absurd price of gas — talk to them directly. Even though you fantasize about it: Don’t be snarky. Being passive aggressive won’t help at all. Suggest making personal phone calls in the hallway or outside.
  2. Behave the way you want others to behave. You can’t go around telling people to pipe down if you’re violating the rule yourself. “Keep your voice down, keep your personal calls to a minimum and don’t gossip about colleagues,” suggests New York career coach Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, reporting for Forbes.
  3. Stagger work schedules. If you and your colleagues have different peak hours of productivity, consider staggering your lunch breaks so that less people are around to distract you. But if that doesn’t jibe with the space’s relationship with punctuality, another option is to have established quiet hours. During those hours, colleagues can’t just swing by for chats and prolonged impromptu meetings must be held elsewhere in the office.
  4. Rearrange the furniture. If you’re less flustered by audio distractions than visual interruptions, you might want to whip your chair around. As long as you’re not too hung up on feng shui, rearranging your furniture so that you’re facing away from colleagues is a relatively simple quick-fix to visual ADHD.
  5. Use the cloud. One of the main reasons why lawyers have offices with physical barriers is to keep their clients’ information safe and private. In shared space with an open floor-plan, this could be cause for concern. But one possible solution is to use cloud computing. With an easy way to password-protect client data, cloud storage and confidentiality can work together. In fact, the Professional Ethics Committee of the Florida Bar recently concluded that Florida attorneys could ethically use cloud computing in their law practices without violating their duty of confidentiality. For physical documents, the Luddite solution of filing cabinets with built-in locks is an old reliable.
  6. Laugh. Humans are social beings. Sometimes in office environments, we get so caught up with getting the work done that we forget social interaction is an essential part of living. Like social media, sharing a workspace can be a great time to kill three birds with one stone: work, socialize and network. As we’ve learned from “The Office,” Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, sometimes it’s the minor irritants in life that give us the greatest fodder for laughs.

If all else fails, try taking everyone on a relaxing retreat to diffuse the tension.

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