Virtual Coworking Is Giving Our Need For Connection A Workout

What happens to coworking communities when they can’t be physically close to one another? The theories are being put to the test as people practice physical distancing.
  • Even though many people around the world are living and working in near-isolation, we need each other now more than ever.
  • What happens to coworking communities when they can’t be physically close to one another? 
  • The theory is that the community will move with you, a test coworking operators are going through as they take their communities online. 

Like many people-focused industries, coworking has been forced to put its regular activities on hold, at least temporarily, while the world adapts to physical distancing measures.

Here at Allwork.Space we choose to refer to these measures as ‘physical distancing’ rather than ‘social distancing’, as we believe that social experiences can (and should) continue — even while we keep physically distant from one another. We are human after all, and we thrive on social contact. It’s a natural part of our wellbeing, and while many people around the world are living and working in near-isolation, we need each other more than ever.

Amy Banks for Psychology Today explains the thinking behind physical distancing vs. social distancing as acknowledging that “the virus has no power over our ability to support and nurture one another in this time of extraordinary threat.”

Advocating for re-naming the national strategy as physical distancing, Banks says that this change emphasises the need for human connection so we can remain safe, “but also hold onto the heightened need we all have for one another right now.”

Giving our need for connection “a workout”

Banks noted that we all need our connections during this extraordinary time.

“Perhaps now more than ever we must be intentional about giving our neural pathways for connection a workout.”

And that’s exactly what the coworking world is doing.

Coworking was born out of our need for person-to-person contact, connections, and collaboration. Thousands of shared hubs and communities have mushroomed across the world in the past decade or so, driven by our natural desire to be close and interact with other people. That’s why millions of people, even those who can do their work remotely, choose to work from a coworking space every day.

So what happens when that physical place is suddenly removed?

Some coworking owners have always said that the physical space doesn’t matter, that communities can move, and will move, with you. That theory is being put to the test during the health crisis as coworking spaces take their communities online.

Virtual coworking

Last week, Cat Johnson hosted a Coworking Convo dedicated to virtual coworking, how it works, what’s working, and what’s not.

Virtual coworking brings workspace communities together in a digital space. This usually involves a scheduled video call using a platform such as Zoom, to which displaced coworking members can log in and work or socialise (or both) with their coworkers.

Suggested Reading: Virtual Coworking: Keeping Members Connected During Lockdown

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Some sessions are structured, and may involve a work sprint or a workshop with an expert speaker. Other times, the sessions are open and flexible, enabling people to join for a little while and simply enjoy being around other people.

More than 170 participants joined Cat’s online discussion, which shows just how important this activity is at the present time.

Attendees shared some of the things that are working for their online communities, and the challenges they have faced over the past few weeks.

Here are some of the takeaways from the Convo (find out more about future Coworking Convo events here):

  • Virtual lunch: Some members and community managers regularly sat down together for lunch, and this activity translates over to a digital platform relatively well. In the case of Anne Kirby from The Candy Factory, she is continuing her tradition of treating different members to lunch each week by having a delivery sent to their homes. They then meet virtually and enjoy their takeout via Zoom.
  • New membership category: A lot of spaces have launched new membership models, such as Dayhouse Coworking, which has a new Work From Home Membership for a suggested fee of $29 per month. The new membership features work sprints, movement breaks with a fitness coach, happy hours, and expert speakers, plus the benefit of spending time with the Dayhouse community.
  • Bring in the experts: Partnering with expert speakers for workshops adds value to your members. It also supports your marketing efforts, as speakers will often share their online event within their own network, which has the potential to bring in new members.
  • Beware burnout: One of the problems coworking operators expressed was trying to do too much all at once. Running multiple Zoom calls per day with different schedules quickly became unsustainable, and after the initial couple of weeks, attendance dwindled due to ‘Zoom fatigue’. Instead, the general advice is to focus on delivering one or two sessions per day, with quality speaker content and/or a structured session such as a work sprint.
  • Take it offline: With screen time rocketing, sometimes it helps to take things offline. Angel Kwiatkowski from Cohere Coworking created a calendar of events in printable format and mailed it to her members, so they could put it on their wall, or on the fridge. It actually bumped up attendance as they now have a physical reminder.
  • ‘Finish Up Friday’: Shout out to Cohere’s Angel Kwiatkowski for this fantastic idea. Every Friday, members bring their “garbage heap of tasks” and the things they keep ignoring on their to-do lists, and work on these tasks together, online.

If you’re looking for inspiration for virtual coworking events, take a look at Cat Johnson’s list of 25 virtual activities for coworking communities.

How is virtual coworking working for you? How are you keeping your community engaged? Get in touch and share your ideas with us.

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