What to Do if You Are Renting in a shared space like a WeWork or Regus Next to Neighbors From Hell!

Just over half a decade ago, I was convinced to try a novel office setup. The building where we were headquartered had to undergo some serious construction and we were forced to move out for a few months. I liked our main offices and didn’t want to invest the capital to rent a large, temporary new space, which I would have had to lease for an extended period of time. Instead, I was looking for something to hold us over until we could move back into our own, comfortable office space. Luckily, I had a friend who told me about a new coworking space that brought all types of businesses together. At this point, no one had heard of WeWork (Regus had been around for decades, but was so expensive at the time). I was hesitant at first, but the prices were unbeatable. I agreed to give WeWork a shot despite my skepticism. Once I got into the office, I knew that I was experiencing the future of the workplace and I have never looked back. Beer pong on Fridays, a meditation room? I felt a little bit like I had gone to work for Google. 

Since then, both of these companies, as well as hundreds of other operations in their mold, have grown enormously (WeWork is now valued at $16 billion and Regus brought in more than $2 billion in revenue last year) and successfully established themselves in every major city in the US. Perfectly attuned to the needs of startups, these shared working spaces have proliferated in lock step with the start-up boom. While these small, inchoate companies were the initial target market for these workspaces, the model has proven popular amongst a much wider swath of the business community. All of which is to say that this is no small trend; these new work environments are here to stay. Part and parcel of these spaces are a whole new and novel set of workplace issues to sort out. Not to worry, the Workplace Guru is here to help.

Chief among this new set of problems is how to deal with the people you work with who don’t work for your company. In a traditional setting, as an employee, you are under the authority of whoever is paying your paycheck. Whoever that may be can fire you, can reprimand you, can promote you. Until recently, the only definition we had for coworkerswere those people who were paid by the same person or company that paid you. What made you coworkers is that you both worked for the same company and were beholden to the same rules, the same employee handbook, and the same code of ethics. Whether they were nice or not, bullies or not, good at their jobs or not (and do not get me started on what goes on in the bathrooms at these places), you had a formal way to interact with them if you had any issues that you couldn’t work out on your own.

In today’s very trendy and millennian-oriented shared work environments, it is far more complicated to deal with problems you might have with those who work close to you. We have a new definition of coworkers; for lack of a better analogy, it’s like having step-brothers and sisters, they are somehow related but not by blood. The rules for dealing with these coworkers are different. I have had personal experience with this issue at all levels--I, myself, have had problems with other “coworkers” in these spaces and I have had employees who had similar issues and came to me for help. Sometimes the issue is as simple as someone speaking too loudly with their office door open. Other times, it can be far trickier problems that border on harassment. The point is that any issue you might have in a normal office, likely will present itself in these new spaces, but whoever is giving you a hard time might work for a different company. I have found that the best way to deal with this situation is similar to the way you might deal with it if you worked at a big corporation, where different employees report to different bosses. If it becomes a real issue, don’t let your anger get the best of you, don’t make a scene. Instead, go to the general manager of the office--usually an employee of the company that rents out your space--or the person who runs your facility. They will likely send out a full office email and people might get the message. The problems tend to reflect the rent you are paying, if it’s a low rent place that attracts startups, you can expect issues. If you can afford to pay a bit more, you might get some more solid walls and a different community of officemates--more CPAs and small law firms. That being said, paying higher rent does not necessarily mean your neighbors will have more class or better manners.

Ultimately, though, you don’t have much recourse in these spaces! The reality of this new sort of work environment is that you have to figure out a way to deal with the people you work around in the same way you might have to deal with noisy neighbors in your apartment building. They pay rent; they have just as much right to the space as you do. Of course, unlike in your house, often they share your refrigerator, coffee maker, and bathroom. Yes, it can be as annoying as all heck when they are talking loudly while walking down the hall, or when someone dresses inappropriately and you have a meeting with an important client, or when they don’t hold the elevator like a traditional colleague might. Welcome to working in 2017. Oddly, though, these spaces can foster a more intense work community than traditional offices do. All of this is discounting the complications inherent in the age differences of workers in these spaces. As these spaces become more popular with companies that hire older workers, these problems become more common. If you’re looking to rent a space like this for your company, it is essential to consider this fact. Different rental companies and different buildings have different personalities, for example, WeWork has a reputation as a younger more rowdy space while Regus is a bit more buttoned-up and formal. WeWork think Silicon Valley, Regus think Mad Men-light. And if neither of these options are quite right for your business, there are hundreds of other companies who fill in the gaps and even brokers who deal exclusively in these types of searches (see, for example, theinstantgroup.com). Work to find the right fit for your company and employers. It can be hard for older workers not to get irritated with some of their younger neighbors, and I know it works in the reverse as well. There are ways, however, to work around these complications. My best piece of advice--no matter, which type of shared working space you end up in--is to become part of the community. Create relationships with your new coworkers, try to stay for the Friday night beer pong tournament sometimes, even if it isn’t your speed. Go to the happy hour in midtown, even if you’d rather be somewhere else. If you have won fifteen straight games of beer pong with Derek who sits across the hall from you, it is a lot easier to tell him to be quiet the next time he’s gabbing away on his cellphone. If you’ve bought Angela a drink, it’s a lot easier to ask that she clean her coffee mug. This is the future--and it’s a good one--everyone just needs to learn how to adjust.

​Please “like” this or comment; and share it. Stephen Viscusi is the CEO of The Viscusi Group, a global executive search practice specializing in the interior furnishings industry located in New York City. Viscusi is the author of the HarperCollins book "Bulletproof Your Job". You can visit his website at www.viscusigroup.com or follow him on twitter at @Stephenviscusi, Instagram at Stephenviscusi and Facebook  Write him at Stephen@Viscusigroup.com