I am sure you have noticed that the era of public telephone booths is coming to an end. On the NYC streets there are only four remaining public phone booths - waiting there for Superman to change his costume, or more likely to give a homeless person a break from the cold. I wouldn’t bother to note this striking revelation except that recently I have begun a tight personal relationship with a phone booth and it’s not that remaining relic a few blocks from my house.

Most of my work days start inside a booth, sitting in a small dark cell, speaking with someone from Gizra HQ, located across the ocean from me.

Have we mentioned our US office before?

Gizra expanded to what some people say is the greatest city in the world, operating from a co-working space in Manhattan – a space where the booth I speak about is located. The booth provides privacy and is also the right place to go in such an environment, when taking a phone call or meeting. I doubt that the guy I am sharing a power strip with cares to hear me speaking about Drupal modules, NYC tax breaks for startups, or Brice’s daughter’s ear infection.

This is what Gizra's USA NYC office looks like.

Out of the total 20+ Gizra team, there has been increasingly more of us working remotely. Some of us are in Israel but live far away (well, relativity) from the city of Tel Aviv, and others, are on different continents altogether. It has been a real challenge for all of us - those that work remotely, and for those that work from desks at the main office - to not be strangers to each other, and to feel that we are part of the same team, sharing the same culture, visions, values, and even internal jokes.

I would like to go back to the phone booth.

Co-working space practices, The Gizra Way

After few months here, I came up with the Gizra Way practices for co-working spaces. This is not one of those “Do not steal someone else’s food from the fridge.” or “Don’t bring stinky meals” lists. If you don’t know that, then you should look for a basic etiquette class. Do those still exist? Anyways…

  1. Time box your day (and put your headphones on) : When working by yourself without anyone around to interrupt you, it’s easy to be carried away and not notice that you have been researching hotels for an upcoming trip to DC for more than hour now. Fix a time period for every task in order to put boundaries on the task so that you don’t need to skip lunch (see #2). I use a timer that alerts me every 25 min, and encourages me to take quick mental breaks. In Gizra, we use our own grassroots system to log in project contribution hours, we call it Productivity. Why the headphones? This is the open space equivalent for “do not disturb” sign. If your co-space neighbors do not know that, move to a different desk or a different space altogether.

  2. Do not eat at your desk/laptop: Go out for lunch, and if the weather permits, eat outside. Packing your own lunch or ordering in? Take a real break from work and your screen, and have it in the common area. You won’t be sitting there by yourself for too long, and that person sitting next to you might be someone who is looking for your expertise, or can help you on a project that you’re working on.

  3. Investment in community: One of Gizra’ core values is contributing to Open Source projects. Treat the co-working space as your community and find ways to share your knowledge or expertise with your peers: mentorship program, seminars, free tips, and if you feel very happy - throw a happy hour event.

  4. Step out of your comfort zone: and go to a happy hour event.

  5. Pack your stuff and go home (or to the nearest bar): Finish your work day at a reasonable time. We don’t believe 14 hours work days are more efficient. In fact, it’s most likely less efficient, so even if your neighbors are working late, you should leave to be fresh tomorrow. If you do not have your own friends, family, or hobbies - exercise # 4 and drag the amigos along with you to the nearest watering hole.

  6. Just be kind: Basic decency rules of life don’t change according to where you are.

  7. Yeah, use the phone booth for your phone and Skype calls: it is a throwback to the good old days.