Coworking – what does it mean for inclusion?
The changing world of work – why inclusion matters
Can you remember a time when you’ve been interviewed in a coffee shop or a restaurant? This is often considered regular practice nowadays, but many years ago I used to greet recruiters with a degree of nervousness. I’d be apprehensive about being overheard by someone who knew my boss. Or spotting someone who knew the work I’d done, or the companies who’d previously employed me. I also dreaded the idea of having to talk in an open public space about my personal achievements, or having to outright sell myself while the person next to me was trying to enjoy their morning coffee.
These days, organisations like The Office Group, WeWork and Workspace are rapidly changing our world of work. The rise of co-working is disrupting our office environments. And the more open, entrepreneurial, ‘sit down for a coffee and a chat’ spaces are becoming much more the norm.
One consequence of this shift is how those private conversations – the interviews, the appraisals, the performance reviews – are now being had (and heard) in far less formal spaces.
Coworking and confidentiality
As someone who spends a lot of time in a co-working environment, I’ve recently overheard two such exchanges. One was a disciplinary meeting between a manager and an employee in a booth in a shared corridor. The other was a series of job interviews held face-to-face in an open lounge area, with various other people/businesses busy working around them.
I’m sure this kind of thing is happening more and more in co-working spaces. But both these scenarios have potential implications from an inclusion point of view. Interview candidates may feel exposed and unable to talk openly about themselves, their background and what they can bring to the new role. It can make them feel uneasy about sharing information when it comes to probing questions. And for those who become extremely anxious about interviews it only adds an extra layer of stress and worry. Clearly you are then putting these candidates at a possible disadvantage from the start.
For existing employees, conducting any HR or 1:1 manager and employee meetings should never be held in an open and public forum. The ‘private booths’ you see in shared offices rarely are private. This again adds extra stress to an employee who is there to discuss a private matter, especially if they have been building up to approaching you about a problem or concern.
If it’s a performance review, having a potentially emotive conversation should never happen where an employee feels vulnerable and open. As a manager, you need to be aware of your employee’s dignity and respect. These conversations should be arranged in a private room where the risk of being overheard and disrupted is negated.
5 top tips for being inclusive in a co-working environment
1. Always book a private room for meetings such as performance reviews, 1:1s or private discussions.
2. Do not conduct face-to-face interviews in an open co-working environment.
3. Be aware of having conversations overheard which could be considered sensitive.
4. Think about your brand! In a co-working environment, people will be coming and going all the time. Remember these could be your clients, customers or competitors!
5. Think about the wellbeing of the individuals you’re meeting with. Ask yourself: how comfortable or awkward would you feel having this conversation in an open forum?
Ruth Cooper-Dickson is founder and Managing Director of Champs Consultancy and a close friend of EW Group. She is a passionate, hands-on wellbeing specialist focused on pragmatic outcomes. Ruth is also a Mental First Aider and has supported over 500 individuals on a voluntary basis. Listen to our episode of Reworked with Ruth to find out more and to learn more about her 5-point wellbeing plan.