First of all, you might be wondering what is virtual coworking even is. We may understand standard coworking as intentionally going to a physical office space or similar to work in close proximity to other remote workers, who may or not be working directly with you or in the same companies and/or projects. Well, virtual coworking is basically the same, but it takes place in a virtual office, in a similar way that there are virtual formats of meetings and events.
The exact format that a virtual coworking session takes will depend on who is running it and what methods and software they decide to use. Many that I’ve come across consist of online conferencing software such as Zoom, where a host and participants will enter a video call meeting, with or without cameras on. They will probably introduce each other (if they don’t all already know each other), they will often announce what tasks they are working on in that session, and most likely they will all be muted whilst getting on with their work, often at set intervals that a host would facilitate.
These sessions might run at set times, or they might even run 24/7. They don’t have to involve video either – when the social media app Clubhouse was popular a couple of years ago, I was a member of a group that would run regular virtual coworking sessions, where you’d just use your voice to say what you’re doing.
Virtual coworking sessions can be run by single individuals or by larger organisations and small businesses. For some virtual coworkings, you might need to pay a fee to be able to partake, and for others, it’s completely free. Some might be open to all of the public, and others might be a service within a particular membership.
Now, let’s go into the reasons and benefits why people do virtual coworking…
Cost-effective and flexible compared with commuting to an in-person coworking space
I regularly use in-person coworking spaces myself, so I do really like them and they have their purpose. However, I know not everyone lives near one or can afford one. Whilst there are a few free in-person coworking spaces about, often you will have to pay to use one, whether it’s on a pay-as-you-go, day rate or monthly membership. Some virtual coworking services do cost too, but they will almost always be cheaper since they’re not providing you with an actual office with all the necessities and amentities that come with them – they’re just facilitating a virtual room for you to use.
It’s obviously also worth taking into account that you might have to pay for transport to get to an in-person coworking space. Plus, there’s also the time taken to travel there, which could be used instead to do more work or other activities. Therefore, similarly to why working from home compared to working from office can be beneficial, so can coworking virtually rather than commuting to a physical space.
I’m sure we all have certain business tasks that we struggle to get started and/or finished, perhaps because they’re boring and hard, and we’re struggling to motivate ourselves to get them done. Well, you can sign yourself up to a virtual coworking session and set yourself a goal to complete a particular task during it.
Also, every virtual coworking I’ve been to has each attendee announce to the whole group (whether in speech or text) what they’re planning to work on. Obviously, you don’t need to give full details or break confidentiality, but a simple statement like “I’m going to finish my financial accounts for this month today” or “I will batch create a bunch of social media posts for a clients” is good enough. It’s for you to know the exact details, but at least by telling these people, you’re now holding yourself more accountable to completing those tasks – (especially things that are for your own business, which are often notorious for falling to much lower priority compared with billable client work).
Networking and multitasking
Virtual networking events are a great alternative to accesssing a professional network without the costs and time associated with travelling to an in-person event. However, even events held online will take up one or two hours of your time, which you might not even have when there’s so much work and other life things to do. Or maybe you just don’t feel like sitting and chatting non-stop to loads of people for a couple of hours.
Well, virtual coworking sessions are actually a pretty good opportunity to meet new people and network, without actually having to take too much time out of your usual working day, since you are attending them to do your work that you would have to do anyway. So most of the time you will have your head down and working on your stuff, but it’s at the intervals that you can chat to other people in the virtual coworking room and get to know them. Also, you’ll often see everyone’s details on the platform so that you can go connect with them on social media and elsewhere in order to keep in touch and potentially later collaborate or buy each other’s products.
Having company while working from home
Let’s face it – some people can find it lonely to work from home, especially if there is no one else around when you do so. So if you ever feel like you need some company that isn’t your pet cat, or that dying plant on the window sill, then attending a virtual coworking session can be a good way to achieve this. You can have some virtual colleagues and be networking simultaneously while being in the comfort of your own home where you can control your own environment.
I think I am sold on this virtual networking thing now – so where can I go attend one?
Heads up: This list contains affiliate links to services that I truly adore, have personally tested, and highly endorse. Should you decide to sign up through any of the links provided, I will be rewarded with a small commission. Rest assured, the price of the product remains the same and you won’t incur any additional costs. Thanks!
- Freelancer Magazine Virtual Coworking – This is completely free and one that I often attend, having been a fan of their magazine for a good while now. They recently increased these Zoom sessions from once a week to three times weekly and brought on a whole team to help facilitate these. I am one of the facilitators of Freelancer Magazine Virtual Coworking, so you’ll see me running some of the sessions 🙂
- Cowork Crowd – This one you have to pay for, but you get what you pay for they provide a lot with a 24/7 virtual coworking room. Plus, they have several moderated video call sessions Monday to Thursday if you want to meet the facilitators and have some structure by committing yourself to particular times and dates. I also really like how they have a function where you can not only write your tasks, but also tick them off when done for everyone to see!
- Coworking Cooperative – Another great virtual coworking service with sessions happening several times a week and opportunities to meet folk across the world. There’s also an option for on-demand coworking with the founder, Magda Therrien, on a pre-recorded video as if she is having a virtual coworking session with you – pretty cool idea if that helps some people!
What do you think of virtual coworking? Are there any that you attend and would recommend? Please leave a comment or drop me an email to let me know! email@example.com