Who Ate My Sandwich? Faux-Pas and Etiquette of Coworking Culture

Have you ever experienced the frustration of finding your lunch missing from the office fridge? Or the annoyance of hearing someone’s overly loud phone conversation in the next cubicle? These issues and many others are becoming common in coworking spaces. As a matter of fact, 1 in 3 coworkers admits to stealing food that wasn’t theirs from the office fridge.

Coworking spaces have become increasingly popular over the years, and they are expected to grow at 13% annually. They offer a flexible and collaborative working environment for professionals, especially freelancers, entrepreneurs, and startups. Coworking spaces also come with benefits, such as: 

  • Cost savings
  • Flexibility 
  • Networking, and 
  • Collaboration opportunities, etc.

But coworking also has its own set of challenges, such as negotiating the unwritten ground rules of communal areas and dodging faux pas. With more people sharing communal spaces, it’s essential to observe proper etiquette. This is vital to sustaining a respectful and productive workplace. In this article, we’ll explore the etiquette of coworking culture. We will also discuss some common faux pas, including the infamous sandwich thief. 

What is Coworking?

Coworking is a modern concept of working that involves sharing office space with individuals or businesses. It has become popular among freelancers, entrepreneurs, startups, and remote workers who seek flexibility, networking, and collaboration opportunities.

By 2024, around 5 million people will work in over 40,000 coworking spaces worldwide. This is an increase of 158% compared to the year 2020. Most of the top coworking offices are now equipped with access control, mobile credentials and top security and safety features. 

The Etiquette of Coworking Culture

Coworking spaces have their own culture and etiquette. Yet, there are certain common guidelines that you should abide by.  These guidelines may change from space to space. But their goal is to guarantee that everyone may work in a secure and effective atmosphere.

Follow the Golden Rule

Treat others the same way you would love to be treated. Coworking spaces are collaborative environments where everyone is working towards a common goal. Respect others, be friendly and supportive. Avoid gossipings or speaking negatively about your colleagues. If you have an issue with someone, address it directly and professionally.

Avoid Distractions

Coworking spaces can be a bustling environment, and it’s easy to get distracted. However, distractions can hinder productivity and disrupt others around you. Avoid distractions like playing loud music, watching videos without headphones. Don’t or engage in loud conversations. If you need to take a break, step outside or find a designated break area.

Be Mindful of Food and Drink

Food and drink can be a contentious issue in coworking spaces. Some spaces offer communal kitchens. Others may have restrictions on eating and drinking in the workspace. Be mindful of the rules and clean up after yourself. If you’re unsure about the rules, ask the space manager for guidance.

Respect others’ space and privacy

Coworking spaces offer shared space. But it doesn’t mean that you can use others’ space without permission. Respect others’ privacy and personal boundaries.

Follow the Rules

Get to know established rules and guidelines of your coworking space and follow them. This includes booking meeting rooms, using shared equipment.

Clean up after yourself

Coworking spaces are shared workspaces. It’s important to keep them clean and tidy for everyone to use. Make sure to clean up after yourself.

Be mindful of noise levels

Coworking spaces are usually open-plan, so it’s important to be mindful of noise levels. Keep conversations at a reasonable volume, use headphones. Avoid noisy activities such as phone calls or video conferences. 

Follow the dress code

Coworking spaces usually have a casual dress code. But it’s still important to dress appropriately for the environment.

Be welcoming, considerate, and cooperative

Be kind and considerate since coworking spaces provide an opportunity to socialise with new individuals. Introduce yourself, engage in small talk. Be open to collaboration and networking opportunities. Coworking spaces are designed to be collaborative environments.

Use this to your advantage by connecting with other members, exchanging ideas, and offering assistance to one another. Don’t be shy about reaching out to others. Establishing connections because collaboration is a big part of the coworking culture.

Keep Confidentiality

Many professionals use coworking spaces for sensitive work, such as legal or financial matters. Keep these matters confidential and respect the privacy of others. Don’t pry into other people’s work or discuss sensitive topics with others.

Faux-Pas in Coworking Spaces

Despite the etiquette guidelines, coworking spaces can still be a breeding ground for faux pas. Here are some common faux-pas to avoid:

Eating someone else’s food

This is among the biggest mistakes people make in coworking spaces.. According to a survey by American Express OPEN, 18% of employees agreed to have eaten someone else’s lunch from the office fridge. In the UK, 39% of respondents admitted to stealing food from a coworker without asking for it. This is disrespectful, it can cause friction and disputes at work.

Taking someone else’s workspace

Taking someone else’s workspace is another common faux pas in coworking spaces. Coworking spaces offer flexible seating arrangements. But it’s still important to respect others’ space. Take permission before using someone else’s space.

Loud phone calls and making too much noise

Coworking spaces are meant to be collaborative environments. That doesn’t mean you should be loud and disruptive. Avoid taking loud phone calls in common areas, and be mindful of your volume when speaking to others. Too much noise is one of the challenges of a coworking space. Too much noise can distract and disrupt others at work. While collaborating and engaging with others, be mindful of your noise levels. Use headphones for phone calls and video conferences. Keep conversations at a reasonable volume. 

Messy workspaces

Though many people have their style of working, it is vital to always maintain a high degree of cleanliness and hygiene. Keep your workspace tidy. This boosts productivity and shows respect to fellow workers.

Stealing supplies

Just like stealing food, taking supplies from someone else’s desk is considered a no in coworking culture. Ask before taking any supplies and ensure you return them.

Hogging meeting rooms and  resources

Meeting rooms are often in high demand in coworking spaces. Use the meeting room you booked within the allotted time, don’t overstay or overbook it

Be mindful of other members who may need the room after you.

Coworking spaces also offer shared resources such as printers, conference rooms, and kitchen facilities. It’s important to be mindful of others and not hog resources.  Be considerate when using shared resources. Limit your usage to what you need and consider that others may need it too.

Tips to Avoid Faux-Pas and Make the Most of Coworking

Some tips to avoid faux pas and make the most of your coworking experience are:

Label your food

Labelling your food is a simple yet effective way to avoid office lunch theft. Use a permanent marker to write your name or initials on your food container. This will help others recognise that the food is yours and avoid confusion.

Get to know and communicate with others

The chance to network and work with other professionals is one of the advantages of coworking spaces. Have time with other workers, rapport with them and form bonds. 

It can open ways to more business opportunities, friendships and business relationships.

Communication is key in coworking spaces 

If you have any concerns, don’t hold back from communicating with others. This can help avoid misunderstandings and conflicts. Use a friendly and respectful tone when communicating with others.

Use shared resources wisely

In coworking spaces, there are shared resources,like printers, scanners, and meeting rooms. Make sure to use these resources wisely and considerately. Don’t hogg resources.

Be mindful of others

Being mindful of others can go a long way in coworking spaces. Think of how your actions can affect others. Be respectful of others’ space, privacy, and personal boundaries. Clean up after yourself.


In addition to cost savings, flexibility, networking, and collaboration opportunities, coworking is a well-liked method of working. Coworking, however, also comes with its own share of difficulties, such as negotiating the unwritten ground rules of shared workplaces and avoiding faux pas. 

You can encourage a healthy and productive workplace for both yourself and others by adhering to etiquette rules, avoiding typical faux pas, and making the most of your coworking space.

Photo credits: Coworking London