An Introvert's Guide to Coworking

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The principle “one size fits one” is indelibly ingrained in my approach to both life and business since working with Danny Meyer and his team at Union Square Hospitality Group. With that principle in mind, I have a better understanding as to why an introvert might be intimidated by the prospect of joining a coworking community. Not everyone wants to be surrounded by people everyday. We each have different workstyles and needs that need to be considered, reflected and addressed by the workplace environment we choose.

A coworking space may not the right solution for every startup or soloprenuer, generally because it may not serve a specific industry or business need. That being said, a self-described introvert should not avoid the opportunity to work in a community simply because he or she anticipates the experience will daunting or overwhelming. I often find myself acknowledging that a coworking environment is not the right solution for every startup or soloprenuer, but that is generally because it may not serve an industry or business need. That being said, a self-described introvert should not avoid the opportunity to work in a community simply because he or she anticipates the experience will be daunting or overwhelming.

After reading all the articles about the endless buzz of events and socializing happening at most coworking spaces, it’s not surprising that an introvert might fear what New York Magazine recently dubbed the “Introverts Hangover”, an actual physical reaction to overstimulation, after which, all you want is to be at home, alone, where it’s quiet.

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

I’m someone who loves to chat with new people and make connections whenever possible. I thrive in a workspace with lots of fresh ideas and opportunities to brainstorm or talk through an issue with the person sitting next to me. However, I get it––that level of constant engagement isn’t for everyone and it doesn’t need to define your experience with coworking.

In the right coworking space, there can be a “one size fits one" experience that allows you to make the space and the community work for you—whether you’re extremely extroverted and thrive off other people, or more introverted and need longer stretches of quiet space to think and process.

Could coworking work just as well for introverts? We think so. Here are some things to consider:

1.  Ask to be Connected with Community Members

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We all know that coworking spaces can offer so much more than a physical location to get the job done.  A coworking environment should function as both an office space and a hospitality experience -- which means, if you need something, you should ask for it. And that includes introductions There are usually a number of ways to access specific individuals in a coworking community, including seeking out facilitated introductions. If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out -- if it feels like a “cold call” -- ask for help. At Grind members tap into their community manager to help identify potential collaborators and to make casual introductions to people. If walking up to a stranger isn’t your thing, that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be to take advantage of coworking.

2.  Give Yourself Time

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Coming to work at a new coworking space can feel like walking into the high school cafeteria for the first time on the first day of freshman year. Like most things in life, a little time will go a long way to making you feel more comfortable. You will begin to see the familiar faces of a few people that you feel increasingly comfortable talking with. Coworking spaces are designed with serendipity in mind. You may find yourself meeting people in the kitchen while filling up your coffee cup, in the lounge relaxing on a couch or even in the bathroom, without ever having to sit at the popular table or attend a happy hour.

3.  Create the Environment That Works For You.

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Yes, coworking typically denotes big open spaces with people working alongside each other. But that’s just one aspect. Most spaces will also have phone booths, chat rooms, lounge spaces, and conference rooms. At Grind we even have a designated quiet table and a designated quiet room that we call “The Library.” The beauty of a coworking space is you can create the experience that works for you throughout the day. If you need quiet, there’s a place for that. And there is always the universal sign that you do not want to be disturbed—put on a pair of headphones. If you want some water-cooler chat, you can also find it. You can turn up or down the volume on the experience as needed.

4.  Connect Outside of the Confines of “Work.”

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While the concept of ‘networking’ can be overwhelming to some introverts, those same individuals can find it much more appealing to connect with others around a shared interest or goal. That’s where community groups come in.  For example, at Grind, we offer multiple interest groups (what do we call these?) that appeal to different segments of our community. From female founder groups to wellness enthusiasts, by connecting with people who you share something in common with, it can be easier to forge meaningful work connections with future potential collaborators and resources.

5.  Challenge Yourself.

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Remember that ultimately you are the master of your own fate. Set goals for yourself while in the coworking community. Maybe it’s working up to sitting at the bigger communal table, maybe it’s introducing yourself to one person a week, maybe some days it’s simply showing up at all—but these small goals will make you more comfortable in the space and a more active and engaged member of the community. Also keep in mind, as Susan Cain, author of Quiet and expert on all things introvert reminds us, it’s not only OK but important to step away and take quiet, alone time. “Since introverts draw energy from being alone, stepping away for a few minutes will help you come back stronger.”


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Topics: coworking entrepreneurship collaboration cowork entrepreneur productivity networking freelance startup

Written by Felicia Stingone

A marketing dynamo and self-described curious citizen, Felicia Stingone is the CMO of Grind. The former head of brand marketing for Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, Felicia has worked with some of the most widely recognized brands including 92Y, Citi, Hennessy, Smart Water, Subway and Target among others.

Felicia Stingone