Picture this: you’ve settled into your new coworking space, drinking locally-roasted coffee and snacking on free granola bars, when you suddenly realize that you’re not actually doing any work.
Coworking spaces brag about their lively vibe and modern aesthetic, but they’re not always the most productive work environment. Sometimes, open offices can even get in the way of productivity, according to Share Your Office.
I don’t mean that coworking is a bad idea—communal work spaces have been shown to increase employee happiness, which in turn boosts productivity. But on a practical level, it can be hard to get your schedule in order when you’re surrounded by as many indulgences and distractions as you’d have at home.
These three hacks will help you to stay focused and use your coworking space’s amenities to your advantage, rather than having them work against you.
1. Reward yourself for completing tasks.
Free food and drink at the office can be a dangerous thing. The temptation to get more coffee, tea, or snacks could send you wandering through the kitchen, where you’ll remember that there’s a leftover bagel from breakfast that you could toast, and a colleague you can catch up with. The break will only amount to a few minutes, but if you find yourself taking 5-minute breaks every half hour, it might be hard to focus on bigger tasks.
At the same time, you’ll be more likely to innocuously “stretch your legs” every time a difficult tasks pops up on your schedule, leading to procrastination. Try refilling your coffee just before you begin a task, and don’t get up again until you make significant headway into it. This way, you’ll conserve your focus without stressing yourself out by staying seated all day.
2. Be mobile (if you’re on a laptop).
The beauty of offices with lounges and other open areas is that it’s easy to move around. If you work on a laptop, you can choose your location based on the type of work you’re doing. Need to buckle down and focus? Pick a quiet corner, and maybe wear headphones to indicate that you’re not up for chatter. Have some phone calls coming up? Try moving your station near a phone booth or an open area to pace back and forth, instead of running from your desk every time the phone rings.
This trick wouldn’t work as well if you’re at a stationary desk, of course, but you always have the option of taking calls in different rooms (or even outside). Not only is the change of scenery good for your sanity, but it can also help you avoid distractions when you’re focused, without having to isolate yourself for the whole day.
3. Calculate when you want to be spontaneous.
It sounds silly, but there’s a time and a place for spontaneity, and sometimes that requires a bit of planning. If you’re an extrovert and you find yourself chatting with your fellow coworking members more often than you should, consider wearing headphones or simply keeping your eyes on the screen to signal that you can’t afford any distractions. Likewise, during low-focus activities like clearing your inbox and chatting informally on Slack, you can be as open to spontaneous distractions as you’d like.
To some extent, controlling spontaneity would take the fun out of coworking. It’s an unfortunate trade-off that you might have to make if you need the productivity boost. Looking at it the other way, your colleagues probably have work they should be doing, too, so you’re not harming anyone by making the office more productive.
These tips aren’t the be-all and end-all of coworking, but they’ll give you a head start in making the most of your new office. If you want your coworking space to have long-term value, it’s crucial to invest in personal productive habits before you get swept away by the free beer.