I might not work in an office anymore – but I certainly learned a lot while I did! And now that I’m working from home, and Mr Science also spends much of his time working from home, these tips are useful to apply in the home office space, too. Whether you’re working in a workplace or a home office, here are thee ways to improve communication with other people sharing your workspace:
1) Be respectful of other peoples’ time.
Now that Mr Science and I both work from home 80% of the time, it can be really tempting to interrupt one another or start chatting about something unrelated to work. We knew that this was something we should be really careful about before I even started working from home, and so pretty much every time we feel the need to go over and interrupt the other, we’ll ask if the other person has a couple minutes, or we’ll be perfectly upfront and say “come back in 10!”. It works perfectly.
This is an important issue to take into consideration no matter what kind of environment you work in. Whatever your question is, remember that your time is not more valuable than that of anyone else! Regardless of what everyone’s jobs are or status is, it’s disrespectful to assume that other people can drop everything for you or that they are happy to be interrupted in the work that they are doing. Keeping this in mind can dramatically improve inter-office communication and relationships with everyone in the workspace.
2) Communicate immediately if something isn’t working.
We’ve already discussed how to communicate effectively, but this is something that bears repeating. The longer you let something go, the more resentful you’re going to get, and the worse the situation will become. If something is taking place that frustrates you or doesn’t work for you, first identify what the problem is and check if there’s something you can do to deal with it quietly and on your own (e.g. shut the door with a sign saying “do not disturb” to prevent people from walking into your office all day).
If it’s not something that you can completely deal with on your own, bring it up with your coworkers. Perhaps you need to schedule regular meetings with people to share with each other about the different projects everyone is working on. Or you might want to get a group together to brainstorm new ideas for a way of dealing with things. Or maybe you just need to talk to your co-workers and find out if anyone else is having the same issue – it might be just you, or it could be the whole office that is struggling with something. Either way, the only way you’ll resolve it is to communicate effectively and immediately!
3) Put systems into place to prevent problems from arising.
This last one is extremely important. It was really interesting to watch how our office dynamics and culture changed in the two and a half years that I worked there, from starting out with about five people working in the space to expanding to more than 15 people. Quite frankly, you can’t run an office, or work in an office, the same way with five people compared to having 15 people. And while everyone got along well, there were certainly some mishaps in communication channels.
One of the best things we started doing was to have whiteboards outside of everyone’s office, on which people wrote when they were going to be out of town or if they were attending a workshop. It helped for everyone in the workplace to know where others were at and to know when they could expect people to not be around. In the last week or two that I was there, we implemented a new (and revolutionary, in my opinion) use for the whiteboard: to write when you were holding a meeting at your desk, so that other people wouldn’t come and interrupt a conversation you were having with their own questions.
How can you apply this in your workspace? First, identify where problems are arising, or where there are potential problem areas. Then brainstorm ideas for how to fix those problems, if time and money and resources were a non-issue. You’ll be surprised at the creative ideas that can come out of something like this – which often don’t require a huge amount of time or money or resources! The concept of ignoring limitations enables you to think very broadly and not to dismiss good ideas which can be adapted to fit your environment.