Shared spaces

Remember the day when you and your entire small business team sat around the table in your office for a meeting. Times have changed. While that scenario still plays out in many companies, thanks to mobile devices and cloud-based services your team can be anywhere and at any time dial into an audio or video conference, even an impromptu one.

While some of your team may be working from home and others from the road; still others may be working in co-working spaces. Shared working environments are increasingly becoming an attractive option for employees who work remotely but prefer to be around others all or part of the time. In fact, a co-working space might be your headquarters for the time being while your small business is getting off the ground or as you expand geographically.

There’s no question that we are experiencing a co-working movement and that it’s “undeniably here to stay,” writes deskmag in November reporting on the results of the most recent Global Coworking Survey. According to the survey, the number of co-working spaces grew by 36 percent in the last 12 months, putting the number of spaces worldwide at 7800 with a resident count at about a half million people. The survey also points out that while more and more co-working spaces offer additional team and private offices, the vast majority of members (about 78 percent) still mainly work in open spaces.

More than cost-saving

Saving money on office space is one reason for the co-working space trend, but it’s not the only one. New shared office environments are popular among many companies – both emerging and established – because they are sparking a new informal collaboration among employees of different organizations.  Out of that collaboration is a hope for new ideas and creative problem solving, says the Wall Street Journal in “Looking for Ideas in Shared Workspaces.” Some co-working spaces even have workshops, meet-ups, breakfasts, professional classes or conferences to encourage more collaboration.

The noise conundrum

While co-working spaces can help cut costs and provide employees with a potentially collaborative environment, they do present noise issues, which can impact both productivity by decreasing the ability to focus and participation in virtual meetings. Noise cancelling headsets can help. They cancel out background noise to ensure audio clarity on a call or video conference as well as create a private space where someone can enjoy preferred sounds over workplace noise.

As it turns out one antidote for a noisy work environment may be music. A study conducted some years ago involving 256 company employees found that performance improved considerably for the sample group listening to music through headphones. When headphones were taken away, performance went down and was similar to that of the control group.

Ambient noise also can provide similar productivity gains for small business workers seeking to create a personal space in a noisy environment. In fact, ambient noise not only masks noisy coworkers, a moderate amount actually helps to boost creativity. A University of Illinois study subjected participants to different levels of ambient noise while they taking a creative thinking test. Those exposed to a moderate amount of ambient noise – 70 decibels – outperformed those in the three other groups.

Ask about etiquette policy

It’s important when evaluating co-working spaces to find out if they have rules for etiquette among members, such as don’t use your speakerphone in the office and try to keep your voice down on calls or when talking to others in the room. Conversation isn’t the only source of noise in the office. Sound-activated keystrokes and “you’ve got mail” announcements also can break someone’s concentration.

If co-working spaces answer your workplace need, find out which Plantronics headsets are the right fit for you small business team working in them.