Confessions of a Virtual Coworker: 5 Unexpected Benefits From Virtual Coworking and Events

Prior to this crisis I was already a remote worker, but that didn’t mean I worked from home all the time. 

And like everyone else, I had a routine. 

Complete my high-priority tasks first thing in the morning, get ready, then  go to a coworking  space. 

Upon arrival I usually had a friendly chat with the manager on-site, then grabbed a cup of water from the kitchen and headed to my desk for the day – saying hi to any familiar faces along the way.

There were many days where I didn’t talk to anyone else the rest of my day. I may have been heads down on a project, or didn’t see anyone I knew, or perhaps I just wasn’t in a chatty mood that day. Regardless, my routine provided the ability to have a work mode, based on my environment and the different people in it, then return home and switch over to personal life mode.

TechSpace, a Deskpass partner space

When the crisis hit, like everyone else I had only 1 place to work: at home, with my partner and pets, all day long.

Luckily, we were already building the Deskpass Virtual Community so we acted quickly to launch and coordinate a daily event schedule:

  • Monday & Thursday: Power Hour Coworking Sessions
  • Tuesday: 2-Hour Coworking Session
  • Wednesday: Expert Chat + Q&A Session
  • Friday: Members Lunch or Members Happy Hour

Like most businesses, we needed to adapt and take our service virtual to retain our members, but also to create new value. 

When we first launched, I attended these events wearing my ‘Deskpass’ hat – we were delivering a service to our members and I was there to observe and be of assistance. 

Very quickly, my Deskpass hat came off because I was the same as everyone else: stuck at home, with lots of feelings and frustrations, while trying to retain some semblance of routine and a sense of professionalism.

For 6 weeks now I have participated in a daily virtual event, and although it would take much longer (or perhaps never) to provide the same benefit as my old routine, I am experiencing many of the familiar feels and satisfaction.

Schedule Prioritization

Our virtual coworking sessions (more on how these work in a bit) start at 11am daily, which means my morning meditation, workout, gratitude journal AND my high-priority tasks AND leaving a few minutes to make sure I don’t look too ‘homely,’ all need to be completed by 11am. So even in this bizarro world where it feels like anything-goes…I’m still waking up at my normal time. I have a reason to stay on track and get everything done in order to show up for the event on time.

Familiar Faces

Many Deskpass members are attending these events consistently, from all over the nation. Seeing the same people is comforting, because it’s familiar, and what word is close to familiar? You guessed it: Family. The people you likely feel most comfortable with.

However, at the beginning of this self-isolation period I saw a lot of posts from people who were isolating with their ‘chosen family’ rather than relatives – because these were the people they felt most familiar, comfortable, and safe with. I thought that was beautiful. 

Now I think about that every time I join an event and see familiar faces. No one is required to participate in these virtual events (myself included), but the amount of members that join consistently shows that we can have a chosen virtual family as well.

Small Talk

Love it or hate it, it’s a thing. Small talk provides people a way to ease into a group and feel connected before diving into the work session. When the same people attend, you learn a little more about them each time and that sense of community grows. 

Our Community Director Megan does a fantastic job of encouraging small talk in the very beginning but within 5-10 minutes of the event start time she has everyone switch gears, go on mute, and start doing their own work. So the small talk doesn’t drag on, deterring productivity, but it does allow for a much needed dose of human interaction.

Accountability

This one packs a punch. There are a variety of ways to run a virtual event, and for Deskpass virtual coworking sessions we advise everyone to mute their audio but leave their video on (turning it off for bathroom breaks or other personal needs of course).

I minimize the Zoom screen once we start, and everyone else does too – so although we’re all on video together, no one is staring at you the whole time. But you KNOW they’re there, and you act accordingly.

So I’m not snacking, I’m not checking my phone, and I found that I’m not even getting distracted on my computer either because of this sense that ‘we’re all working now, together.’

Virtual coworking works. And for those worried about it being weird, it’s not. Unless you make it weird….so don’t.

Anticipation of Benefits

This one was a delight to recognize.

Last week, I hit my wall. Regardless of my morning routine that usually kicks me into gear and shakes that ‘groundhog day’ feeling – I was still just blah. Annoyed at self-isolation, and for once totally unmotivated.

But I had our Power Hour Session on the calendar, and had committed to attending every one of our virtual events. 

Yet the thing that actually got me to attend: the anticipation of the way I feel after each event! 

Similar to that accomplished feeling after a good workout – I knew that I would feel better afterwards. 

And I also knew that seeing the familiar faces of my fellow community members, would remind me that no one is in an ideal situation right now, but we’re all trying to get through it.

And sure enough, after that event I stayed in my seat and kept working, using the sense of accomplishment to fuel the rest of my day. 

Find Your Virtual Community

When this crisis started, we quickly scheduled our hangout video calls with friends, and built up our Watch Later queues to address our personal needs. 

What about your professional needs? How are you structuring your work day to stay productive, avoid distractions, and maintain human contact?

*This post is written by Deskpass co-founder and chief community officer, Nicole Vasquez.

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