As a freelance writer, I know the benefit of getting away for a retreat. However, though retreats are great for getting some fresh scenery and doing deep work, there are times when an extra dose of alone time isn’t exactly what I’m looking for. Sometimes, I crave being surrounded by like-minded people and a sense of collaboration that comes from working in a shared space.
Working from home has plenty of advantages—including convenience and flexibility—but it can also get lonely. Research shows that working remotely long-term increases social vulnerability and makes two in ten workers feel lonely.
The fix? I suggest in-person coworking sprints. Knowing that getting out of the house for some face-to-face collaboration could make all the difference, I recently joined a friend for a few days working out of the Hoxton, a coworking space in Chicago where I live.
Here’s what I learned from the experience of coworking. I’ll share the benefits I discovered, as well as some tips to consider when choosing a collaborative workspace for yourself.
Beating the remote work blues
As a freelance writer, I work independently. The lack of interruptions keeps me highly efficient, but it can also be fairly isolating.
I’m not alone in feeling this way, either. Despite technology making communication easier, 64% of freelancers still report feeling lonely every day. While we can join industry-specific Slack groups or chat with our friends and colleagues on Zoom, nothing can replace face-to-face interaction.
This is exactly why I decided to seek out a coworking space and to meet up with a fellow freelancer for a few days of remote work in a lively, people-filled setting.
Benefits of coworking spaces
For professionals who work remotely, coworking spaces offer many benefits. With 1.08 million workers working in these spaces within the U.S., it’s clear that today’s remote workforce is taking advantage of them.
My friend and I both accomplished a great deal during our time at the coworking space in Chicago. This raised productivity isn’t novel. In fact, 74% of people feel more productive when they work in a coworking environment. There are several factors which contribute to getting more work done among others—here are a few.
- The change can make you happier. Newly-released research shows a change in scenery and routine can be uplifting. If you feel like your workdays at home are blending together into one endless mass, consider changing your workspace for a few days. If it’s any more motivation: Researchers have found that a happy worker is a more productive worker.
- You can explore new surroundings and meet new people to find new ideas. Coworking spaces can inspire creativity. Changing your location means meeting people with diverse backgrounds and seeing things you will never see at home. You can draw inspiration from these interactions and gain access to ideas you might not have received from your own professional network. It’s a good idea to socialize between work sprints, which can help relieve stress. Personally, I love being around people, so it’s an extra dose of motivation for me.
- It becomes easier to hold yourself accountable. Heading for a quick break at a cafe in the middle of the day can be a pleasant change of pace–but working in one (or a restaurant) presents some challenges. These establishments tend to be noisy and overwhelming, so it’s nearly impossible to get anything done. It doesn’t help that most people are chatting away while they’re there. If we had decided to work in a cafe, I am sure we would have done the same thing. At a coworking space, on the other hand, everyone works. In addition to that, the atmosphere itself is conducive to getting things done.
- Routine tasks are no longer an issue. Mundane tasks eat up your time when you work from home. You need to remember to replenish the printer paper and toner, brew some coffee, and prepare some midday snacks. None of these were my concerns when working in a collaborative workspace. Working From offered free snacks and drinks, so I didn’t have to prepare them myself and could focus more on my work.
- Well-designed spaces breed satisfaction. I love my home office, but coworking spaces offer a different work environment. Working From is elegant, spacious, and well-maintained. An organized and clean workspace can make anyone feel more productive and efficient. A 2017 study shows employees report a higher level of work satisfaction when measured cleanliness is better. Consequently, higher productivity results from greater satisfaction. When you have a clean, beautiful workspace, you can devote more energy to completing projects as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Aside from increased productivity, coworking spaces allow you to network with professionals from other niches. Eighty-six percent of people report expanding their personal networks just by joining collaborative working spaces. Growing your professional network is key to a successful freelancing business. In fact, I get most of my gigs through referrals.
What to look for in a coworking space
Coworking spaces are popping up everywhere: they’re projected to surpass 40,000 by 2024. My friend and I did some research before finding the right one. If you’re planning to join one, here are some things to keep in mind.
- Location. Choosing a coworking space in your vicinity makes for an easy commute. But besides distance, you also need to check the neighboring area. For instance, The Hoxton was in a prime location. In our case, we were in a great neighborhood that was good for walking and had lots of great restaurants on-site (so we could grab a quick lunch with ease). I’m also a big fan of Barnfox locations for more retreat-style co-working trips, or SoHo House for taking meetings and video calls if I need a swankier backdrop.
- Amenities. For maximum productivity, the coworking space you choose should offer everything you need. Coworking spaces vary in terms of amenities, and some may require an additional fee. In our experience, we had easy access to printers, top-speed WiFi, and plenty of charging ports.
- Facilities. Each coworking space is uniquely designed. Beyond aesthetics, practicality should be your priority. We knew our space should have a community kitchen, meeting spaces, shared spaces, and booths for taking calls. Having dedicated quiet spaces enabled me to take calls without the noise of the shared spaces.
- Extra perks. Apart from working in an environment that allows you to focus, it is equally important to choose a coworking space that meets all your needs. Gym, patios, and complimentary drinks often come as part of the package. Make sure you check these out before you make a commitment. In our case, we have access to a yoga studio at The Hoxton and other hotel facilities, so I got in a few stretches after spending hours in front of a computer.
- Cost. Consider the membership rate if you plan to use the coworking space frequently. In my case, a day pass was just $30 and included access to two floors of beautifully-designed workspaces.
Visiting a coworking space is a perfect way to break up the monotony of working from home. This new type of collaborative environment may offer just the right mix of benefits for your workdays.
Kaleigh Moore is a writer and consultant for companies in the SaaS industry.