I really enjoy working from cafes. I love the ambience, the people, the smell of coffee, the sense of freedom…everything. I find that I’m able to focus really well in that atmosphere and get a lot of stuff done. Ever since Covid happened, though, things have changed. For obvious reasons, I’m at home almost 24*7 and around family. So the ambience is a lot different from that of a cafe! Last year, after I’d quit my startup, I’d had a period of working from home by myself. That had been one of my least enjoyable experiences.
So in March when it became clear that the coronavirus situation was going to last a while, I started thinking about potential ways of making working from home more pleasant and productive. I considered Ultraworking which is an online productivity tool and a sort of a ‘virtual coworking space’. They function differently, though. They host what’s called ‘work cycles’ which are 30 minutes of focused work periods followed by 10 minutes of moderated breaks. These work like a charm for productivity. The only issue was that I didn’t quite like the 10-minute breaks when I was in a flow state. Since a large part of my day goes into writing, I like uninterrupted chunks of time to ‘get into my zone’.
When I thought some more, I realised that I could create my own virtual cafe! I’m a part of an online community that has about one hundred members and we are a jovial lot. I bounced the idea off them about working together for a couple hours every day. There was a resounding yes from them! So we started getting together at the same time every day for 2.5 hours. We get together online on Zoom, tell each other what we plan to work on, work for 2 hours, and then reconvene to discuss how the session went. To me, this is ‘virtual coworking’ because you’re working around others but without interruption. Get some coffee and you’ve got your personal cafe going!
The benefits of virtual coworking
Declaring to a bunch of people what you plan to finish creates a sense of accountability. You need to accomplish what you said you would! Knowing that other people are watching you and want you to win is a big motivation! You get a sense of accomplishment at the end when you share that you did finish what you intended to.
As I shared earlier, I like working from cafes especially because they give me a feeling like I’m not alone and I find it stimulating to just the right extent. Covid times can be isolating and lonely. Being in a virtual coworking space can really help you feel like you are in the company of others. In truth, you are. Just not physically.
Virtual coworking can help you have a better sense of time and get good at timeboxing. Timeboxing is when you set a particular time limit for completing a task – and complete it in that time. We’ve observed this time and again in our work sessions. If you end up doing the same kind of task during work sessions, you get better and better at estimating the time the task will take.
Working in the presence of others helps you focus better. Your mind is less scattered and you’re less inclined to randomly check Facebook or slack off. You become more productive.
When the same set of people work together daily, you become invested in each other’s projects and progress. It’s a wonderful feeling. You feel supported and you offer support to others. Since people know what exactly you’re working on and are following your progress, they cheer you on and even offer to help when you need it. For eg., the other day, I was working on a freebie for my website. A friend who was on the work session offered to take a look at it and provide feedback. He came back with amazing insights and actionable tips which I certainly wouldn’t have thought of by myself. It really transformed the content for the better and I was super grateful for the help he gave me so willingly.
If you are working by yourself and feel like you desperately need other people around you, I highly encourage you to either seek out a virtual coworking space or create one yourself with your friends. It’s great for your social life, your productivity, and most importantly, your sanity.