Echoing (heh) a bunch of comments in here:
1 - There’s no one personal preference that will work for everyone. Anecdote I like to share from years ago when we started hearing people ask for quiet space: we shared this feedback with our community and the leading feedback we got was “please don’t turn Indy Hall into a library - there are lots of places I can get quiet, I specifically come here for the buzzy energy and sound.”
Lesson: You don’t have to be everything to everyone. Focus on finding people who want the same thing you do, and support them. You’ll always find people who want a different version. That’s fine.
2 - phone calls and conversations are very different kinds of sound. conversations are easier to tune out because they flow naturally, vs phone calls with tend to be louder (people have louder phone talking voices than in person, or just become unaware of their voice when they are on the phone). phone calls also mean you’re only hearing one side of a conversation, which is VERY distracting due to being intermittent and your brain subconsciously trying to fill in the convo.
It’s great to overhear a conversation and possibly jump in. That’s not the case with phone calls.
We encourage phone calls to happen in meeting/phone rooms, and not at desks. Conversations are okay, but extended conversations are better taken to a common space instead of talking across another person.
Lesson: avoid talking across people, or forcing others to listen into your phone conversations.
3 - zones and common areas are your friend. this is way harder to do in smaller spaces, but it’s very possible. make it easy for people to have conversations in common areas, and encourage them to use them as such. create smaller, cozy areas as far away as possible from those noisy areas for when people need a break.
Lesson: design your space to allow for people to choose noisier areas vs quieter areas. When space is limited, focus on creating common areas where sound is more likely to be concentrated (even if it’s not contained).
4 - expectations matter, and everyone was socialized to different versions of what is “normal.” it’s a mistake to believe that people will just automatically understand how to interact around others. part of tours and onboarding is setting explicit examples of what’s okay and what isn’t in terms of sound, and letting people know how to be good citizens of the space. don’t be afraid to re-up this often, it’s easy for people to forget.
Lesson: this ties back to my first point, but in a different way. Bottom line is that YOU get to define what’s normal, and calibrate based on the people in the room. All the more reason to have a community of people involved from the very beginning - you can shake out all of these questions and expectations with them, and *their *preferences, rather than the preferences of people on the internet who are probably never going to work at your space
The #1 mistake in community building is doing it by yourself.
Better Coworkers: http://indyhall.org
Weekly Coworking Tips: http://coworkingweekly.com
My Audiobook: https://theindyhallway.com/ten
Thanks for the tip on sound masking - I’m checking that company and others for something like that.
I think that in larger spaces having a nice sales-y background buzz is good, but would that working in smaller settings? My space is built up of rooms that are only 19’x22’, 12’x13’, and 9’x13’.
For my space, I think acoustic treatment and sound masking could to support a healthy buzz.
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