I often say that working at home is like a winning lottery ticket. There’s no more wasted time commuting, no office drama and no dress code.
There is the freedom and flexibility to work from where you want when you want.
And I don’t know about you, but I love being able to better coordinate my schedule around my daughter’s schedule and activities.
Even though I LOVE working from home something missing.
Missing is the camaraderie and fellowship of coworkers, the sense of community that an office setting provides and the immediacy of being able to ask someone for feedback about a project.
And, If you are anything like me, sometimes you enjoy brainstorming with other people. It helps to help spark creativity and renewed excitement for a project.
The downside to working from home or working remotely is not having face to face interaction with colleagues – until now!
With the new way to co-work it’s now possible have face-to-face connection with others while you work at home.
I have been participating in a Virtual Co-Working Group and I cannot say enough good things about this work at home video co-working option.
With today’s technology you can work virtually, face-to-face, with other people as if you were in a co-work space but from the comfort of your own home!
What is Co-Working?
Traditional co-working spaces were started in San Francisco in 2005. The purpose was to give freelancers a space to create community and collaborate with more structure then a local coffee shop.
There are a number of different options when comes to physical co-working spaces.
Some co-work spaces take the form of executive suites with offices and amenities including state of the art conference rooms. These are also referred to as virtual offices (not to be confused with virtual online co-working!)
Another popular co-working space option is the open office concept. These tend to be large open raw spaces with tables to work from, high speed internet, communal printers and copiers, hot coffee and a couple of quiet rooms for phone calls.
Most physical co-working spaces are membership based and many have memberships that can be used in multiple cities and countries. This works great for people who travel and need conference rooms at different locations around the country or world.
I tried the drop-in membership program at my local co-work space and discovered a lot of advantages to working from there.
And then I discovered virtual co-working!
What Is Virtual Co-Working?
Virtual co-working takes the concept of the co-work space and brings it into your home. Virtual co-working uses video technology to enable you to work face-to-face with other people in an online setting.
To make the most out of working online virtually it’s necessary to have access to the internet. You will also a need a way to communicate by video.
What you don’t need is fancy virtual office software.
You can set up your online co-work group using any video conference call option that allows multiple participants including Zoom and WebEx.
But my favorite way to set up a virtual co-work meeting is by using a Facebook Group as the free video host. This is done through the chat functionality.
Facebook Groups are a great option for virtual co-working session because they also allow you to grow and nurture a virtual community.
How to Set Up a Virtual Co-Work Work Session
There are many different ways to organize a Virtual Co-Work Session.
- The group can all do similar work during the time like a writing group or you can work on your individual task lists.
- You can meet at regularly scheduled times or there can be spontaneous work sessions when a couple people are available an log on.
- The group can have a designated co-work event leader or it can be a large group with a pop in host option and no leader.
To have a successful Virtual co-work event, there are also a number of important ground rules to consider and clearly communicate.
- The group should agree before a work time block starts how long the work time blocks will be.
- The length of breaks should also be set and
- The break time discussion should be agreed upon.
- Will the breaks be focused on collaboration?
- Will they be for accountability and reporting back work completed?
- Or will breaks be time to socialize?
- Or maybe your breaks will be a combination of those or something totally different?
If your group is gathered for the purpose of collaboration you should still consider work time blocks. It gives participants time to implement the ideas discussed and return to the group for additional feedback.
Establish your virtual co-working ground rules at the beginning of each session. It will give everyone in the virtual co-work group structure to work productively from.
How Long Should a Co-Work Sessions Be?
There are two effective time blocks options for virtual co-working including the Pomodoro Technique and Power Hours.
The time management method the Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s. It’s made up of 25 minute work blocks followed by 5 minute breaks.
This method works great for smaller groups gathered for brainstorming work sessions. It’s also good for newer groups getting to know each other and for groups that love to socialize.
An alternative is the Power Hour, 45-50 minutes of work time followed by a 10-15 minute break. This works well for larger groups.
It also works well for groups who are working on writing assignments or projects that need longer focused work periods.
You may choose to alternate between the two or try something entirely different.
The virtual co-work group I participate in finds a combination of the two allows us to complete our work but also gives us time for group collaboration and socialization.
Benefits to a Virtual Co-Working Community
Virtual co-working isn’t for everyone. My husband is still perplexed by the group of women on my computer monitor working quietly until we all burst into conversation for our breaks.
There are however great benefits to creating a virtual co-working community. It reduces the isolation and disconnection that comes with working at home.
And peer pressure is a great motivator to show up to get work done!
As the relationships in your virtual co-working group grow you will likely find mentors, cheerleaders and virtual collaboration for your business endeavors.
The more your group works together the more you will get to know each other’s professional skills and talents. You will also get to know each other personally just like in a traditional office setting.
The goal of a virtual co-working group isn’t to cultivate warm leads or client referrals. However, it is always possible that could occur providing an additional benefit to assembling as a community of colleagues to virtually co-work.
Virtual co-working is a natural out growth of the popular co-work space movement begun to provide freelancers a more structured work environment and a community to collaborate with.
With the growth of the work at home and remote workforce workforce virtual co-working provides that same structure within an online virtual community.
Successful online co-work sessions have ground rules, time blocks and social interaction.
Some virtual co-work groups have designated hosts while some are pop in and self-lead, based on the existing group ground rules.
Virtual co-work groups lead to amazing virtual communities of people who motivate each other not only through collaboration but also though good old peer pressure to show up and get their work done.
Share this article with you colleagues in your work at home network and start your own virtual co-work group today!