- Flexible workspace operators are keeping people socially and professionally connected through virtual spaces.
- Many coworking spaces have now moved their communities to a digital setting, which demonstrates the strength of these connections.
- Virtual communities might not be quite as good as the real thing. But it’s a valuable way of staying connected, sharing ideas and resources, and offering support during these challenging – and worrying – times.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all aspects of our daily lives. Work, travel, exercise, social activities, even basic food shopping: they are all subject to strict limitations, with some activities suspended for the foreseeable future.
But while social distancing and isolation measures may keep the coronavirus at bay, how do we keep connected both socially and professionally with teams, colleagues, and coworking communities?
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One solution lies in virtual networks.
For coworking spaces with carefully curated business communities that thrive on daily interaction, collaboration, shared learning and social gatherings, the lockdown is hitting hard.
Many coworking spaces have now moved their communities to a digital setting, and it’s testament to the strength of these connections that their members are continuing to participate and collaborate – despite the physical distance between them.
After the pandemic hit, Community Manager, Joy Taylor, started running virtual coworking sessions when Canvas Coworking Inc in Toowoomba City, Australia, was forced to temporarily close.
“We are doing our best to adapt and manage our way through the coronavirus so that we can be stronger on the other side,” she said.
Canvas Coworking launched in mid-2015 and Joy has built a thriving community of 170 members, including remote workers, freelancers, sole traders and small business owners.
“We run a lot of programs and events to encourage our community to build their skills, behaviours and connections that will serve them well in their entrepreneurial pursuits.”
These programs have now been switched to a virtual setting with the help of video conferencing channel, Zoom, to help members keep up their training.
But that’s not all.
“We run two virtual coworking sessions each day, from Monday to Friday. We do this to give our community the opportunity to keep in touch with each other, and feel like they are not ‘alone’ even if they have to work from home.”
Each session is scheduled for an hour, but they often last for up to two hours. They are advertised publicly on social media and are open to anyone, including non-members.
“We have had a few non-members in so far. Some of them we already knew, others we had never met before.
“Mostly we chat, though sometimes there is a minimal amount of conversation and everyone is just working quietly.”
The main benefit, according to Joy, is the opportunity for members to ‘meet’ other people in the area and also get to know their fellow coworking members a little better.
“Some of them have never met each other before, as they work on different days, or they have just never had the time or occasion to sit down for a general interest chat.
“They really seem to like learning about each other’s interests and hobbies. Quite a few have found a common interest that they never knew they shared – even though they have ‘known’ each other for years!”
The benefits for members are clear, and Joy’s efforts are also attracting more people to the Canvas Coworking community.
“Some of our community members are really enjoying the opportunity to work alongside other people for the first time.”
Virtual communities might not be quite as good as the real thing. But it’s a valuable way of staying connected, sharing ideas and resources, and offering support during these challenging – and worrying – times.
And of course for workspaces like Canvas, keeping up collaboration digitally adds value to and helps raise awareness of their offering to the wider business community – ready to welcome new members as soon as the space re-opens.