Nearly everyone who has worked in an open-plan office has been driven crazy by the sound of a coworker sniffing, crunching on carrots, or typing on the keyboard. Something that normally seems innocent and innocuous suddenly becomes a chronic distraction, and you are no longer able to concentrate on the important tasks you need to complete.
As the owner or operator of a coworking space, this issue is something that needs to be taken seriously and can be a controversial decision to have to make. From the start, you should decide what coworking space policies you want to put in place and make sure they are clear in the membership agreements.
For some, working with music is a must. It helps to mask other noises like typing, chewing, or background noises floating in from the street. By having music playing softly in the background, it helps to push the background noise aside and allows your members to concentrate.
For others, it can be a huge distraction that encourages conversation and other noises. Since your space will most likely be made up of both types of people, what can you do to keep your members happy?
It is impossible to please everyone, so one way to give everyone a variety of options is by utilizing different spaces for different atmospheres or purposes. While some people feel like they need music to concentrate, it can be the reason why other members leave a coworking space.
To create a space that works for both types of people, try to create two different areas if you have enough room. One can be a silent room that is more conducive for solo workers. In this room, you might not allow phone calls or talk, and there will be no music playing. Instead, you could consider playing white noise or ambient sounds to help break up the silence.
The second area could be a more relaxed space, where music is played. Even if the members decide to turn off the music some days, it is okay because the option is there and available if the members want it.
However, if it is impossible to have two separate spaces, you might create a coworking space house rule that states music will be played in just the mornings or evenings. It is better to err on the side of silence or ambient sounds because your members can wear headphones and listen to their own music if they choose.
For those who own a niche coworking space for artists and creative types, then music might be a necessity. Studies have shown that a moderate noise level helps to increase creativity because it helps to promote abstract processing. Having music play might inspire the community and help build beneficial relationships.
For coworking spaces that aim to build a strong community, music might also be preferred. Starting a conversation in a dead quiet room might be uncomfortable for some members, so music might encourage more conversations to happen and therefore help strengthen the relationships that are naturally formed in social environments. By not playing music too loudly, members might be more likely to converse with each other.
If you do decide that having music is necessary, the next decision is what music is right for you and your space. You might consider rotating the type of music you play so that the sounds stay fresh. Your members can always request to change the music if they don’t like it.
Consider the type of members you have too. If they are more creative types or writers, perhaps instrumental or classical music might be preferred, so the words don’t distract them. The music should never be so loud that it impedes phone calls or distracts members to the point that they can’t get work done.
Once you have implemented your coworking space policies on music, send out a survey to gauge your member’s happiness, including what they think of the noise level and the music that is played. It can be an excellent opportunity to get feedback in general from your members, and then you can take the proper action. While not everyone will agree, you can get a feel for what is right for the majority of your members. This general sentiment can inform your coworking space house rules.