💻 REMOTE WORK
My new secret weapon in boosting productivity - virtual coworking
For the last 6 months, we’ve seen dozens of articles come out claiming that remote work is bad for productivity.
Personally, I think there is likely some truth to that…
But not because there is something about remote working that makes people less productive, but because it’s a new style of working and people haven’t yet figured out the mechanics of how to maximize their productivity in this new style of work.
As someone whose been working remotely for over 7 years, I’ve tested many different tactics, and there are a handful that have stood the test of time:
📅 Time blocking - creating dedicated events in your calendar for specific tasks
⏲️ Pomodoros - Breaking up work into 25min work sprints followed by a 5min break when you can take a breath, and look into anything that crossed your mind during your work sprint.
Neither one of these are anything new, but they really do work when you actually use them consistently.
Now I have a new favorite that I think will also stand the test of time…
At its core virtual coworking is a really simple concept - get on a video call with a couple of friends or coworkers and continue to work while on the call.
It works because it adds a level of accountability to your work.
You know there is someone “watching you” so you have an additional reason not to check your Instagram for the 3rd time in 30 minutes.
How to get the most out of virtual coworking
When structured correctly, at the start of every coworking session you should state what you want to accomplish during the session. At the end of the session, you have to tell your fellow coworkers if you accomplished that or not which creates focus and additional accountability.
Virtual coworking isn’t something you should use constantly. I think turning your work days into 8 hours of video calls is likely not the best idea.
🏗️ working on a specific project with a tight deadline
🛑 something you keep procrastinating on
🎬 daily work & productivity “primer”
How to start coworking virtually
You don’t need fancy tech or to pay hundreds of dollars to get the benefits of virtual coworking.
A great way to get started is to find a couple of friends and set up a recurring coworking 1-hour event once or twice a week and just do it over Zoom. Preplanned coworking bursts like this are great because you can schedule to work on important, focus requiring, tasks during that time.
If you want to coworking virtually more often, or you want to be able to jump into sessions randomly there are a few great services I’ve personally used for this:
Focusmate is the first virtual coworking service I tried out. It’s run by Taylor Jacobson, a past That Remote Life guest, and has a very easy-to-use UI.
When you log in you will see a calendar with dozens of coworking sessions other members have scheduled and you can choose to join any of them or schedule your own session.
Focusmate also has very reasonable pricing. As a free user, you get 3 sessions per week, but if you choose to pay just $6.99 per month you can partake in unlimited virtual coworking.
I discovered Groove recently on LinkedIn and have had the chance to talk with some of the leadership team and I really like their approach.
Unlike Focusmate, Groove does not have a web interface, just a phone app. At first, I wasn’t a huge fan of this but after trying it out it’s really grown on me.
Groove’s UI is beautiful, but not as straightforward as Focusmate’s. It seems like they’re investing way more time in creating a community and connecting “groovers” to each other.
When you start a virtual coworking session in Groove you get on a FaceTime-like call with other people in your Groove, and the app guides you through the process. It selects an individual to share what their goal is for the session and then asks you a few fun “priming” questions.
Once the session starts, the video ends and you’re moved to a screen with a progress bar & chat where you can share updates on your goal. When the time runs out, the video call restarts and the app again guides you to share how your work session went.
Groove is still in beta, but if you want to try it out for free you can request access on their website.
Virtual coworking vs office work
Anti-remote work CEOs often say that they don’t like remote work because they aren’t able to “look around and see people working”.
As an office employee you know that either the CEO or a manager is close by and if you’re clearly not working you will get called out.
Some may see virtual coworking as an easy extension of that. Isn’t remote work all about freedom and flexibility?
I completely understand this viewpoint and there is some truth to it…
Personally, I see virtual coworking as a way to inject some of the accountability benefits of office-based work into my remote work. I love knowing that a few days a week I have a scheduled event that other people are also showing up to. It’s something for me to shape the rest of my schedule around.
However, the key difference is that I choose when to cowork virtually according to my life and schedule, not according to someone else’s.