The way we work has changed forever since the COVID-19 pandemic.
More and more people are leaving corporate life to find flexibility and freedom as freelancers, creators and entrepreneurs.
Coworking spaces, digital nomad destinations, and online collaboration tools are exploding in popularity.
And a new trend is rapidly growing among busy entrepreneurs and freelancers: virtual coworking.
In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about it:
- What is virtual coworking
- What are the benefits, and why is it so effective
- Who can make the most of it
- How to find the right tools and get started
What is virtual coworking?
Virtual coworking is a productivity strategy where you work at the presence of others, sharing a virtual coworking space.
It's not a collaboration tool, and it's not designed for teams to work together on the same project.
Your coworking partners don't actively engage or interfere with your tasks.
Instead, they provide an extra dose of focus and a sense of accountability and community.
Virtual coworking offers gentle social accountability that boosts drive, focus, and task completion.
It's particularly suitable for adults with ADHD, remote workers, digital nomads, freelancers, and entrepreneurs.
Online coworking is designed for those of us who want to increase productivity, boost motivation and reduce social isolation when working from home.
How is it different to traditional coworking spaces?
Traditional coworking spaces are excellent for face-to-face interactions, networking, and building relationships.
But like traditional offices, they can be distracting, noisy and unproductive.
In contrast, virtual coworking spaces offer a platform for deep work, concentration, and focus.
Virtual coworking comes at a fraction of the cost of renting a hot desk or an office in a traditional coworking space.
Accessing online coworking spaces is also much easier - you don't have to commute or leave your house.
The two concepts, of course, are not mutually exclusive and can complement each other well.
You can work remotely a couple of times each week and use an online coworking space during the rest of the week.
What is the structure of a virtual coworking session?
You connect with either a group of people or a single individual over a video call.
Typical sessions are an hour or two long.
At the start, everyone shares their planned tasks, and after a brief introduction, you get cracking.
Participants work with muted microphones and often leave their cameras on for the added productivity boost.
You can see others working in the corner of your screen, and this gentle social accountability gives you a surprising boost of motivation.
A timer tracks down the remaining time in the session, giving you a deadline and a sense of urgency.
The host might play focus music during the session to improve concentration and get you into a flow state faster.
At the end of the session, participants celebrate their progress.
ADHD Coworking: Body Doubling
ADHD body doubling involves completing tasks in the presence of another person.
It’s a well-established and proven ADHD productivity technique that can be a game-changer for managing ADHD symptoms, promoting concentration, and boosting task completion.
ADHD body doubling online can motivate you to get started, stay focused, and ultimately accomplish your tasks and goals.
If you enjoy working from a café, coworking space or a library, chances are you’ve already experienced body doubling without realising it.
People there don’t bother you, speak to you, or pressure you to complete your tasks. They silently work alongside you. Yet you feel more productive, efficient and energised. Well...that’s body doubling in action.
It explains why working out with a gym buddy or studying in a library with others is so much more productive.
Virtual ADHD coworking sessions offer many advantages, including support, motivation, and structure - all crucial for managing ADHD.
They can boost motivation and make even the most tedious tasks seem less overwhelming and more enjoyable.
And using an online ADHD body doubling app can help you get 2x more done in less time.
What are the benefits of virtual coworking?
Virtual coworking is a simple yet powerful tool that can help you get more done faster.
It creates a sense of community and reduces feelings of isolation associated with remote work.
The presence of others is a motivation boost, making even the most tedious tasks seem less overwhelming.
It serves as a physical anchor that fosters accountability, nudging us away from procrastination and getting distracted.
It provides a structure that can also help reduce procrastination and increase task completion.
The community and shared energy also reduce the feelings of isolation, making tasks seem less overwhelming and even more enjoyable.
The main benefits of virtual coworking include:
1. Improve Focus
Virtual coworking spaces offer a platform for deep work and monotasking that boosts concentration and helps avoid distractions.
The shared presence provides a subtle check against wandering thoughts and unnecessary detours.
2. Stop Procrastination
With other people present, procrastination takes a backseat.
Precommitting to a virtual coworking session makes you less inclined to postpone (tedious) tasks.
3. Boost Motivation
Virtual coworking can kick you into motion and help you get started (and complete) those all-important tasks.
It can make the most mind-numbing of chores seem less boring.
4. Avoid Overwhelm
Discussing tasks, goals and progress can add clarity so you can focus on what matters most.
5. Improve Time Management
The structured time-limited sessions help you set and meet deadlines.
6. Find community
Virtual coworking creates a supportive environment and sense of community that can reduce remote work isolation.
Why does it work?
Virtual coworking boosts productivity by leveraging the power of shared focus, social facilitation, and gentle social accountability.
Marin Mrša, founder of Peekator, summarises well the benefits of working in a virtual coworking community:
'It's very simple, straightforward, and extremely productive! It adds a nice structure to your day and provides an hour of focused work. Every time I joined, I was able to complete most of my planned tasks.'
The presence of others serves as a subtle anchor and motivator, keeping you tethered to the task at hand, nudging you away from procrastination and getting distracted.
Working with others makes procrastinating or getting distracted so much more difficult.
Knowing that others are staying productive will inspire you to follow through.
Even though nobody cares or tracks what you do - you feel guilty browsing social media or slacking.
This passive form of accountability enhances focus, wards off procrastination, and increases task completion.
The mere knowledge of an upcoming accountability check-in can improve positive behaviours by 50%, and regular check-ins can increase the likelihood of achieving goals from 25% to a staggering 95%.
And adding a specific intention to take action at a precise time more than doubles the probability of completing a goal.
Additionally, the shared energy and sense of community reduce the feeling of isolation, making tasks less daunting and more enjoyable, further boosting productivity.
Precommitment involves removing a future choice to overcome impulsivity.
Scheduling time for a task creates a precommitment to complete it.
Often, starting is the hardest part.
Dedicating specific time for a particular task will help you start and get in the zone faster.
3. Timeboxing & the Parkinsons' law
Parkinson's law states that work expands to fill the time you give it.
Freelancers and solopreneurs know this better than anybody!
We lack the structure and schedule that protects office workers and can quickly burn out if not careful.
That's why creating a sense of urgency works so well for us.
Especially when combined with timeboxing and confining the task to a specific time window.
The art of monotasking is the practice of focusing on one task at a time instead of attempting to multitask.
Multitasking often leads to stress, overwhelm and can even make you a little dumber.
Studies show that it might lower your IQ and even shrink the size of your brain.
On the other hand, monotasking helps reduce stress, increases productivity and boosts focus.
Dedicating a block of time to a single task helps us enter a flow state faster.
And the feeling of productivity often gives you a boost to keep going after the session ends.
5. Reduces Loneliness
An ADHD entrepreneur, freelancer, or anyone working from home can spend hours or even days without talking to anybody.
Online coworking reduces social isolation by fostering a sense of community.
You get some light social interaction, connect and interact with a diverse range of people worldwide.
What to keep in mind before trying it out?
Despite the many benefits, it's essential to recognise and highlight some of the difficulties.
For instance, it may not work well for those with social anxiety. You can always turn off your camera, but the productivity and focus boost might be less noticeable.
While virtual coworking communities can help reduce social isolation, it should not be your only tool. Physical coworking spaces, in-person meetups, and networking events can supplement virtual coworking well.
The productivity boost after the first online coworking session often surprises everyone. But sometimes participants admit to needing more time to finish all their work. And there is nothing wrong with that.
The key is to understand better how long tasks take and to spend focused, uninterrupted time on what matters.
Who is virtual coworking for?
Virtual coworking is a perfect fit for anyone working from home.
It's useful for remote and independent workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and digital nomads.
People with hybrid work set-up can also opt for online coworking when working from home.
It also works exceptionally well for adults with ADHD, as it's a form of body doubling.
The reality is that it's suitable for anyone and everyone who needs a boost of concentration to get more done faster.
It could also be for you if you want light social interaction, gentle accountability and a sense of community.
Is it only for adults with ADHD, freelancers, and entrepreneurs?
It doesn't matter if you're an artist or a Zumba instructor; anyone can benefit from a few hours of focused, uninterrupted work.
You don't even need a job to find value in a virtual coworking session.
It can help you start and maintain a habit, structure your day, or finish a personal project.
Some people use them to declutter, clean, study and even cook!
Remote workers and digital nomads find online coworking beneficial because it helps them to structure their day.
Online coworking spaces create a sense of community and offer light social interaction and accountability.
They are also a beneficial tool for those who have recently found themselves without a job - either because of redundancy or retirement.
Anyone switching career paths, pivoting into a new role or needing more structure can find online coworking useful.
Think of virtual coworking as a productivity booster.
What do you want to get done or improve in your life? Well, chances are you can do it quicker if you have accountability and work with others.
What do people use it for?
It's excellent for getting motivated to do something you would otherwise put off.
For some, that's usually a demanding task that requires concentration and focus.
Completing an extensive research project, writing an in-depth article or designing a website, for example.
For others, it’s mundane, repetitive tasks we dislike and delay—for example, doing taxes, invoicing clients or scheduling social media posts.
Online coworking sessions give us the structure, nudge and extra motivation to get these done.
How to select the best virtual coworking community?
When choosing an online coworking space, consider the community, flexibility, gamification and pricing factors.
- Community: Some online coworking spaces put more emphasis on the community aspect. Access to a supportive community is critical if you work solo and from home.
- Flexibility: Online coworking needs to be flexible enough for you. While still providing structure, you want to have the option to choose the sessions that best fit your schedule.
- Gamification: While some online coworking spaces offer no bells and whistles, others gamify the experience for an added productivity boost. Getting rewarded for staying focused and consistent can make it much more likely to complete your goals.
- Pricing: Look at the pricing structure when comparing different options. Consider if you are happy to pay annually or monthly and if there is a fixed budget you would like to stick to.
How to get started with virtual coworking?
While it may seem overwhelming at first, getting started is is quick and effortless.
Once you've found the perfect online coworking community, book a session and just show up.
To prepare for your first online coworking session, you can:
- ✅ Take 1-2 mins to write down your tasks before each session
- 🔨 Break them down into small and actionable items
- ☕ Grab your favourite beverage
- 🕒 Arrive a minute early to settle into your space
And here are 5 easy steps to make the most of each session:
- Get rid of distractions: phone, notifications, open tabs
- Share your tasks: to increase the odds of completing them
- Monotask: work on a single task at a time to avoid a 40% productivity loss
- Keep your camera on: for added productivity boost
- Schedule in advance: precommit and structure your day
Keep in mind that if you live in the UK, you can take advantage of the Access to Work ADHD grant that can cover some of the costs related to managing ADHD at work.
Virtual coworking can be a game-changer for adults with ADHD, freelancers, solopreneurs, digital nomads, and remote workers.
It offers accountability, boosts productivity and could help with social isolation and loneliness.
Starting is easy.
Try a free virtual coworking session with Deepwrk and see if it works for you.