Don’t always play well with others? Here’s how to navigate a co-working space.

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I recently started sharing an office space with a fellow writer. Even though I’ve known her for years, it quickly became clear that we had different work rhythms and could easily distract each other with an estate sale listing on Craigslist or, you know, chocolate. Clearly, we had to develop some guidelines for working productively and companionably.

Establish ground rules on day one. Don’t get fooled by thinking you and your office mate are go-with-the-flow kind of people. Talk about how you are going to divvy up expenses and the space, what your days typically look like (do you make a lot of calls in the morning, for example?), general office hours, and any other needs you have. Post numbers for tech support and emergency contacts, as well as Wi-Fi passwords and info.

Know your triggers. Something will irk you pretty darn quick if you don’t take an inventory of your own peeves and take preventative measures. He isn’t a mind-reader and won’t know that you consider from HERE to HERE your workspace, you live for a paperless office, or that you find gum chewing hella-annoying. Share your list and make sure you take in his personal beefs as well.

Sound off. And by that, I mean you should use your headphones or earbuds and listen to your music and podcasts without invading her airspace. Take calls and video chats in another room if possible. If you are chatting her up and she’s continuing to look at her email or has a strained look on her face, take that as a cue to clam up and table the discussion.

Get comfortable. Find a happy medium when it comes to things like lighting (I hate overhead lighting as a rule), temperature (my officemate is always cold) and décor (one tasteful succulent, sure; a thicket of houseplants, newp). Note any sensitivity you have to allergens and smells (please don’t throw your leftover kimchi in the office trash can).

Share, and share alike. The beauty of a co-working space is that you can share expenses for not just rent but office equipment and supplies. Putting paper clips and staplers aside, talk about what you both can bring to the table in terms of devices and tech. Is her laser printer better than your all-in-one? Can you share a Dropbox account or other backup solution? Loosen your death grip on your stuff and realize the many joys of sharing.

Jennifer Worick is a veteran freelancer/contractor, publishing consultant and New York Times bestselling author. Email her at