Sharing Spaces: Working Independently in Shared Space

The semester has not yet started and it’s already time to start scheduling office hours. In the past, scheduling my hours meant choosing when I was available. The hours I spent in the office worked around the hours I wanted to spend in the office. I officed alone; I scheduled my space accordingly.

Now I share office space with three colleagues. Though we share the same space we all have different officing styles. One of my colleagues rarely uses the office at all. For her, the office is a place she can pop in between meetings and on her way to and from somewhere else. My other two colleagues use the office to study, read, meet, eat lunch, engage with friends and socialize. Other than my scheduled office hours, I use the office to hold meetings and interviews. I like having a dedicated space to meet but I rarely use it when I’m working on projects, writing, reading or doing other independent work. For me, an office is collaborative space; but only when I’m in the mood to collaborate.

Between the four of us we have different office styles and needs. How will we co-office effectively?


This year I plan to schedule my office hours around times my colleagues will not be in the office. I find it distracting to hold meetings with people who aren’t in the meeting. But to share space I also have to make a conscious effort to schedule time in the office while my officemates are there too. Socializing is a large part of sharing space.

I can still office effectively at home and get my work done and bring projects that don’t require solitude to my office space.

Do you share office space? How do you balance your office needs with those of your officemates?







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The Right time and Space: Adjusting Work to Suit the Work Space

I’m sitting in the library sharing space with my youngest as he works on a school project and I try to do work of my own. Though it’s one of the most convenient, reliable and multi-purposed public space, the library wasn’t our first choice.

My son has a project due tomorrow that he has to create and print out today. I don’t have printers at home. I expected to work at one of the computer labs near our house but when we got down there, the doors were locked. We went to the porter’s lodge to ask the porter on duty to unlock the door; no one was there. The next computer lab was also locked.

“We could go to the Learning Zone,” I suggested.

The large brightly lit public space with multiple seating arrangements, work spaces and printers seemed ideal for what we needed.

“It’s too crowded,” my son said.

I didn’t bother mentioning that there were only about five people sprawled around the entire space: If the space didn’t feel right, my son wouldn’t get any work done. Instead, we find a quiet, empty alcove in the library and settled in. Within minutes we are both set up and working side by side.

“How do you spell…,” my son asks.

I stop writing, tell him and he gets back to work.

“What about…”

I save the document and start researching instead. When I’m writing I need quiet, privacy and minimal distractions. When I’m working on other projects I can deal with distractions. Because I work in flexible spaces what I work on often depends on where I work.

Thirty minutes later my son has created a project he’s proud of.

Does your work style reflect your workspace? How do you adjust your work load to your work space?

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Being Flexible About Space

Since the first day of summer I have wanted to work outside on my balcony. Although summer is officially over, I’ve decided today is the day. The sun is shining; there is a crisp breeze blowing and more encouraging than the threat of rain, my neighbor’s children are not running around outside on the roof.

I share space with plenty of different people that I will never meet. But because I often office from home I hear many of my neighbors at some point of the day. Crying, laughing, screaming, singing, talking; during the day it all threatens to drive me to distraction. Depending on what I’m working on I can tune them out with music, reading out loud, closing a window or repositioning myself but what do you do when moving is not an option?

Luckily today I don’t have to think about that. I can enjoy this space in solitude. I have Wifi and one or two hours of battery. I have inspiration, space and opportunity. All around me birds flutter and chirp. In the distance, the sporadic roar of a helicopter is followed by the lazy buzz of some sort of a parachute attached to a motor drifting slowly across the sky. A few moments later a helicopter loudly whirls high above. I can’t see it but the loud whip of the blades and motor tell me it’s huge. The birds, in competition with one another or with the mechanic birds in the sky, seem to be singing even louder.

I go back in. Inside I work with the window open. The planes provide a comforting backdrop for my clicking keys while the crisp breeze and chirping birds put a smile on my face.

Sometimes flexible space means adapting to my office; other times it means adapting where I office.

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Where Does Your Office Style Begin?

It’s a brown, brick short building that’s easily overlooked on a campus full of larger, wider more colorful buildings with their multiple windows and shiny surfaces. I walked past this building once a day but until now I haven’t given it much thought. On the outside the building appears bland and dated. It’s easy to ignore and even easier to walk by.

Today as I walk up to the building I notice the green streaks over the windows and the glass doors; the subtle calmness. Inside I’m greeted by a cheery receptionist tucked away in a brightly lit wooden alcove with the word “Reception” in bright, bold letters emblazoned on the wall. In this bold vestibule the receptionist isn’t the only thing hidden away. The entire space is a modern office space designer’s dream.

The floors are shiny and white. They are lined with bright green accented rugs adorned with swirls and lines. Down the hall, in between wood paneled walls, one side of the large open space has three meeting rooms of various sizes. Outside of each meeting room there is a white round table and small cluster of chairs. The set up seems ideal for de-stressing: it looks like a picnic area. Across from the meeting rooms there is a row of what looks like personal glass encased offices. They are actually one-on-one meeting rooms with glass walls and doors. Each meeting room, though temporary space, is set up as if it is a permanent space: each has a computer, printer, desk, chairs and colorful artwork.

Inside this building the décor is welcoming, modern and functional.

Does your space reflect your company?

The interior of this space may reflect the personalities, goals and mission of an ambitious department but if the outside says “Do Not Enter” which voice will potential clients hear?


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Navigating New Space

After months of planning, marketing, organizing and orchestrating, the day of my writing panel has finally arrived. Two out of three of my panelists are at the bar where I left them and I’ve gone over to our event space to see if I can get in early and get a feel for it. The more familiar I am with a space the more comfortable I feel. I like knowing the way the space is laid out before guests arrive. I want to be sure there are enough seats; that the panelists have room to sit together without being too close to one another; that there are power outlets and that the temperature is moderate. I want to arrive early enough to troubleshoot potential problems.

I wasn’t always this conscientious as a host. The more events I plan the more I think about the space and the people I’m hoping to fill it with.

I arrive at 2:30. The room is still set up from the previous group. The desks are arranged in four clusters. The layout is unusual for my event but that’s not the biggest problem. Before I can check if the windows open and look for electrical outlets, I count the chairs twice. There are 17 of them. With three panelists and one host that leaves chairs for 13 guests. But there are to be 20.

One of the many volunteers the university has arranged to be on hand helps me locate chairs from a nearby space. We arrange them and rearrange the tables. Within minutes the room is just right. By the time my panelists arrive and the first guests trickle in I am comfortable with the space.

Do you host meetings, talks or events outside of your office space? How do you navigate new spaces?

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