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I am looking into coworking space (shared office). The work I would do there involves a lot of video chat and the like which in a normal office may disturb people working in an office environment.

I have read through the contracts and terms of use of the spaces I am investigating, but while they do reserve the right to deny use to people who are disruptive, there is no clear definition of what constitutes disruptive behavior.

I do not want to just visit each one in turn and see how it goes. Many of the coworking spaces where I live require a deposit to use, and have monthly pay. They would also require me to fill out paperwork to use the space, which would be added time and hassle that I want to avoid as much as possible.

I do not want to directly ask them if it is okay for me to video chat, as I am concerned that:

  1. They will try to 'upsell' me to a private office (which is 5x more expensive) regardless of the suitability of the shared space
  2. They will tell me it is perfectly fine just to have me plop down the deposit and pay for a month of space prior to asking me to pay for an office

When calling the coworking space to get more detail, what is an appropriate way to determine the acceptable level of noise?

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    Why don't you want to come right out and say what kind of noise you plan on making? I'd be inclined to say something like "My work involves a lot of phone and video conferencing. Would that be too disruptive in your environment?" – PurpleVermont May 16 '14 at 15:51
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    @PurpleVermont, my experience with people wanting you to give them money is that they will tell you anything to get you in the door and then the reality will turn out to be quite different. So coming out and saying that I am the one who will make noise will likely have them telling me that everyone does it, while telling them that I don't want noise (in the hopes they will tell me the noise level) will likely have them telling me it is dead silent. I want to know how to get a real answer without having to visit each one (if such a thing is possible). – jmac May 16 '14 at 16:02
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I would suggest calling each space you are considering and telling them outright that you need to do a lot of phone/video conferencing. If they say that will be no problem, ask if they can give you contact information for one or two current clients. If you call and ask them, they are likely to give you a more realistic answer. You could ask them what the typical noise level is like and what is acceptable (as if you were concerned about being disturbed) and then ask them if they think it would be disruptive if you were on phone/video conferences a lot of the time. They're more likely to say "yes, that would be disruptive" if it would, since they are the people who would potentially be disturbed by it.

I have to say that I don't personally think a co-working space is likely to be ideal for that type of thing. I spend a lot of time on phone conferences in my home office, with my door shut. If I were in a location where the noise from me being on my calls was typical, I would find it too noisy to concentrate on my own calls (or other work) among all the other chatter. But perhaps you are better at filtering out other sound. In that case I would definitely invest in a great noise-cancelling headset with directional mike so whoever is on the other end of your call doesn't have to filter out additional noise. You probably don't want to sound like you are calling from a call center with a lot of chatter in the background.

  • I have worked in rooms with hundreds of people in them, and people less than 8 feet from me in every direction. Noise is no issue at all from me. But the noise canceling headphones/mic idea is a good idea. (I would work from my home office were I to, well, have one, which I don't, so short of moving...) – jmac May 16 '14 at 16:32
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    @jmac: Your comment is irrelevant since it's not about how much noise you can tolerate, but what others are willing to put up with. Personally, I think frequent video conferencing in a open shared office would be rather obnoxious to everyone else. – Olin Lathrop May 16 '14 at 20:22
  • I'd just like to add that while such an approach is quite reasonable, it is also reasonable to invest in a good pair of over the ear closed-back headphones and a quality near-the-mouth microphone. And if you find that you must provide tele video, then just accept that you need the whole room and buy it. (or have a person you trust to never use the room rent the other half with you paying the bills). – Edwin Buck Dec 26 '18 at 16:38
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Ask for references! That is, people who are currently using the space. The space manager could still give you bad contact info just as they could lie in a phone call, but that might weed out some of the possibilities.

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When calling the coworking space to get more detail, what is an appropriate way to determine the acceptable level of noise (preferably without saying, 'I plan to make a lot of noise by being on the phone all day, is that okay with you?').

Then what about saying, “The type of work I do requires me to be on the phone or be on Skype regularly & I want to make sure I am not disrupting others?”

For all you know there could be special spaces setup in different co-working spaces that accommodate needs like this. But whatever you do taking the tact of reading the contract & trying to sneak in under the radar will not win you any friends.

  • All of the spaces I am looking at clearly show what sorts of services they offer, and what the layout of the space is. I do not want to be upsold to an office which is about 5 times the price of a shared open-office type workspace, nor do I want to piss everyone off by tricking my way in. Ideally I would be able to get a clear explanation of what is considered 'disruptive' without having to explain how disruptive I plan to be (leading to a potential upsell or outright lies). Not trying to be devious here. – jmac May 17 '14 at 0:56
  • @jmac Well, how about trying one out, then if that stinks? Just move onto another… And so on… – JakeGould May 17 '14 at 0:57
  • generally the places in my area charge by the month, and require a deposit on the space. It would be more costly to attend several, it would take time to fill out paperwork in each, and it would be disruptive to have an irregular schedule. The whole point of calling first is to help limit the options prior to actually using one in order to minimize that disruption by weeding out any of these spaces that are absolutely not suitable for what I plan to do. – jmac May 17 '14 at 2:00
  • Sounds like you want the benefit of going from place to place without actually going from place to place. Good luck with that. – JakeGould May 18 '14 at 13:26
  • that is exactly what I want (and what the question asked for). If this is impossible (which I will I would wager is not the case), then please explain why it is impossible to figure out these things. We do not need to try every restaurant to figure out which ones we may prefer, nor do we need to hire every potential employee to see if they work out. Filtering out bad fits is really important if you don't want to waste time. So how can I do that for coworking spaces? – jmac May 18 '14 at 14:46
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Let's inverse the question: Assuming that they accept people doing a lot of calls, isn't it likely that also your calls are disturbed by your neighbors?

In my opion, if you have this regularly, take a separate small office or ask if there are phone booths available (i saw that once)

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I've been in a couple of coworking spaces. Some of them will have sections designated for a bit more noise than others. One even had little rooms the size of a phone booth. But typically, they are not partitioned like an office would be, and that could be a concern.

If you are going to be engaging in lengthy video chat, there are two problems:

  1. The video will eventually capture whomever else is in the coworking space with you, violating their privacy. If you don't believe this is a problem, just look at how much uproar Google Glass is causing when used in public settings.
  2. You'll have to use the computer's built in mic or a headset with microphone. These devices aren't really conducive to be used quietly.

Video chat really fills up the space it's being done in. Don't know if coworking is the best option for you.

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    While coworking may not be the best choice for me, this really isn't helping answer the question of how I can figure this out by phone. Any chance you could edit your answer to address how to get a better idea over the phone of the acceptable noise level in a coworking space? – jmac May 17 '14 at 1:57
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I suggest that you hang around the co-working space for a while several days in a row to see for yourself the hustle and bustle there. I don't think the video chats are any noisier than ordinary conversations. Some co-working spaces have private rooms which you can rent, if it comes to that.

The number of ways somebody can be disruptive is infinite, so I don't expect them to give a full definition for it, in case someone comes up with a totally innovative way of being disruptive :)

Follow-up comment from jmac "I want to do a phone screen because the problem is not wanting to spend 3 weeks in 5 different offices, 4 of which I will likely never revisit. Which is why I asked a question on how to phone screen these sorts of offices. So any chance you could edit your answer to reflect the question a bit better? Thanks!"

Let's try this: "Our group will include (say) 3 or 4 people who will be video chatting at the normal voice level all day. Would this disturb others in the co-working space?" If the answer is "yes", then the next question is "do you have rooms available for rent in your co-working space?" Presumably, some co-working spaces have rooms for rent, and others don't.

This might help: How Coworking Spaces Handle Noise

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