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Coworking Is Not About Workspace — It’s About Feeling Less Lonely. Even during COVID-19.

During the Covid-19 time, many people who are not used to do so- started working from home, and while the benefits were highlighted, now is the time to look at the difficulties the situation brought.

Working remotely has many benefits: flexible hours, no commute, autonomy, and control over how you work, to name just a few.

But as any remote worker will tell you, there are also considerable challenges. According to a variety of studies, isolation and loneliness are among the biggest complaints. Working remotely means missing out on the human interaction and social aspects that being in an office provides.

And when these days quarantine and isolation became a government strategy, how could someone who is working from home to not feel the "loneliness epidemic"?

According to Vivek Murthy, the former Surgeon General of the United States, increasing numbers of remote and independent “gig economy” workers is one of the key reasons for the growing “loneliness epidemic”. Murthy also points out that loneliness is much more than just a social problem. It’s also a health problem, “associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity.”

Even before COVID-19, nearly 50% of Americans surveyed said they experienced loneliness. That figure is only expected to climb because of COVID-19, and it’s well proven that loneliness can have a major impact on mental health.

Steve King's research on coworking spaces shows that these shared, member-based workspaces where remote corporate workers, startup employees, freelancers, and others “work alone together” can substantially reduce the isolation and loneliness associated with remote work. Some of the key findings from our surveys of coworking space members show that:

  • 87% of respondents report that they meet other members for social reasons, with 54% saying they socialize with other members after work and/or on weekends

  • 79% said coworking has expanded their social networks

  • 83% report that they are less lonely since joining a coworking space

  • 89% report that they are happier since joining a coworking space

The research also showed a variety of other work-related benefits associated with coworking membership. Most members (84%) reported that working in a coworking space improved their work engagement and motivation. Most also reported being able to concentrate better due to fewer distractions compared to working from home or in coffee shops.

But despite focusing on the work aspects of coworking, the research found that it was the social ties of coworking that proved most valuable to members. When asked to list three words that best describe coworking, three of the top five words mentioned by coworking members — community, fun, and social — relate to social aspects.

It’s clear from the research that a major driver of this growth is the social aspects of coworking. Humans are social creatures who like being around other humans, and regardless of advances in remote work technology, this won’t change. The early coworking pioneers recognized this and focused on building supportive communities that included social activities. One of these early pioneers, Alex Hillman of the coworking space Indy Hall, went so far as to say “coworking is not a workspace industry; it’s a happiness industry”.

But how the co-working spaces will look like in the post-pandemic world?

“Co-working spaces have the potential to provide vital business services to support the remote workforce closer to where they are, especially as residual anxieties linger over taking public transit,” says Brent Capron, design director of interiors at architecture firm Perkins and Will’s New York studio.

In order for co-working companies to continue their expansion, they’ll have to be designed to address workers’ concerns over spacing and sanitation. Members may gravitate toward spaces where they have assigned seating at desks that are farther apart. They’ll expect access to cleaning supplies, as well as frequent deep cleaning protocols, and general environments that are attuned to keeping members healthy and safe.

With these precautions in place, experts think workers will be more likely to leave their home offices for a work environment that offers more than just desk space.

Simply put, by creating community, reducing isolation and loneliness, and designing the space for a post-pandemic culture, coworking benefits both organizations and workers due to greater levels of work engagement, productivity, and worker happiness.

By Steve King- HBR

Jennifer Liu- CNBC

Edited- Dor Harchol

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