None of your business: Discretion while co-working

People sitting at tables in a modern co-working space

None of your business: Discretion while co-working

February 17, 2023


February 17, 2023


None of your business: Discretion while co-working


Tony Hallett
Managing director

Tony set up Collective Content in 2011 so brands can more easily become publishers and tell stories. This built on 15 years in media, from reporter to publishing director at Silicon Media Group, CNET Networks and CBS Interactive.

A long time ago, in a journalist career far, far away, I edited a series of confessions from readers at the publication where I worked. The series went under the catch-all title ‘Digital Blunders’. Things like errant reply-alls leading to firings, accidentally sexting an aunty, tell-all voicemails forward-sent to 800 phones. People couldn’t wait to reveal all. It was popular and even led to a BBC TV programme.

But more recently, we’ve witnessed or heard about similar gaffes and poor judgment – only this time from the world of co-working.

We all get that working from a traditional office, where everyone around you is on your team, is a safe environment. The same can be true for remote working from home (WFH), as we clock in and out over Zoom, Teams and the like (the Covid years have confirmed that).

But co-working, by its nature, means working around people who don’t all work with you. And when it comes to voice calls, or even speaking to your company colleagues who are next to you, that can be tricky.

Exhibit A…

In just the last six months, we’ve witnessed:

The MD of a rival agency shouting at a subordinate. We almost wanted to offer the guy a job, given he was being poorly managed – and he might have been pretty receptive at that time.

An antisemitic rant from someone who didn’t know the person next to us had put him on speakerphone. Sure, ‘open’ calls, where you not only hear the person in the co-working space close to you but also the person at the other end, are a no-no. But the much bigger point is don’t subject the rest of us to your contact’s bigotry.

Real-life job interviews. I get it. People use public or semi-public spaces for interviews. But use some judgment on what details you air. And think about how it makes a candidate feel. Only Starbucks should be conducting job interviews in a Starbucks. The rest of us need to do better.

Respecting confidentiality

So what to do?

  1. Accept that some conversations really do need private space. If that’s not possible in person, falling back to a call is better than bringing strangers into your meeting space.
  2. Don’t mention your clients’ names. At Collective Content, we have a system that makes it hard for anyone listening in to guess who a client is that’s being discussed. And clients on calls are never heard by anyone outside our agency.
  3. Be transparent about where you are. If you’re in a co-working space, whether private or somewhere like a café, make a point of showing people the context – and point out that you’re using headphones. We all love the 5-second pan around the room, so don’t be shy. (But alone at home, sure, keep your camera locked off so that pile of laundry is just out of shot. We’re all together on that.)

New ways of working are important because they allow our businesses to operate and grow in various ways. But client confidentiality and just being a decent human being are still more important. Can you hear me?

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