The surprising psychology behind our online coworking buddies
The traditional office has evolved beyond recognition since 2020. That means all kinds of coworking spaces are a vital part of the future of work.
Remote workers and freelancers continue to search for ways to make flexible working as productive as possible. A coworking space is one useful tool.
This post will explain the science behind coworking. Solo copywriters and marketers will understand why finding coworkers could be the missing piece of the productivity jigsaw.
Coworking spaces for solopreneurs
As a solopreneur, I’ve found that the surroundings of any physical coworking space feels much less important than the community and support you find there.
That’s why virtual co-working is just as useful as setting up shop for the day at a hot desk in the town centre.
Habit-building and productivity experts have known for ages that it’s crucial for those who work on their own to find in-person accountability. Here’s why behaviour design expert Nir Eyal recommends finding study buddies who will hold you accountable for getting things done.
Joining an online coworking space is one way to find your study buddies quickly and easily.
I’m going to show you –
- How online coworking spaces work
- Why you should try one out
- The psychology behind supercharged productivity from coworking
Marketers and copywriters – this is your virtual co-working handbook.
What are virtual coworking spaces and how do they work?
Online co-working sessions generally follow similar patterns –
- Intention setting
- Deep work
Let’s dig into the details.
First – intention setting
Firstly, coworkers have a short period of intention-setting.
That just means you commit in public to what you’ll do in the allotted time.
Depending on the size of the coworking group, you might do this verbally (for small numbers) or via the chat (for bigger groups).
Next – focused work in coworking spaces
You follow intention-setting with a period of deep, focused work.
In my online Writers’ Room, we work together for 50 minutes.
Finally – check-in
Every coworking session ends with a check-in.
This is when you reflect on your intentions and report back on achievements.
The rules of engagement for online coworking
During focused work, co-workers stay muted (usually with cameras on) to focus on the task in hand.
They should keep distractions to a minimum (I always tell participants in my Writers’ Room that, if they find the camera distracting, they should switch it off too).
Most participants find that virtual coworking is more effective with cameras on.
Who uses co-working spaces?
Employees who are looking for ways to make hybrid/remote work more productive often join online coworking sessions.
However, my experience shows that the most likely participants are freelancers or self-employed workers. They may be digital nomads or solopreneurs who spend most of their working day alone.
Some sessions are aimed at a specific niche of participants. My own Writers’ Room is for copywriters and marketers.
My Writers’ Room regulars are solopreneur marketers and copywriters who need to make time to do their own marketing.
Do coworking spaces make you more productive?
What are the benefits of co-working that keep participants showing up week-after-week?
The great news is this – participants frequently report insane productivity.
They can’t believe how much they get done in an hour.
Co-working can help writer’s block
They often admit that they wouldn’t have even started their project if they hadn’t committed to the coworking session.
This supercharged productivity helps co-workers get their jobs done on a deadline.
Online co-working is usually affordable. Many sessions have zero cost to participants.
Co-working is a top way to boost your productivity habits.
The two main benefits of virtual coworking spaces
What are the benefits of joining a coworking session?
These are the big ones.
1 Accountability and
2 Group energy
1 Accountability to stick to your writing process
Accountability among coworkers is the biggie.
By making a regular date in your diary for focused cowork, you make it more likely to get projects off your to-do list and out into the world.
My mission is reassure other marketers that it’s perfectly normal to struggle to do your own marketing, even when client work is a breeze.
That’s why it’s worth making a habit of scheduling time for your own business development.
Assign regular time for it and you’re more likely to do it.
My mission is to reassure other marketers that it’s perfectly normal to struggle with your own marketing, even when client work is a breeze.Sue Moore, Virtual Gold Dust
The fixed time constraint of a co-working session also gives you the chance to sprint with a task. Maybe even to complete it faster than you thought possible? It certainly stops the task expanding to fit the whole day.
Joining a coworking group gives you the best chance to create a habit and make that habit feel like a ritual.
The fixed time constraint of a co-working session gives you the chance to sprint with a task and get it done.
2 Group energy in online coworking spaces helps writer’s block
When you don’t have regular watercooler moments at work, a coworking space can provide a supportive community. If you’re the type who draws energy from the company of other people, this is vital.
Even if we have a team around us, only a quarter of marketers meet regularly with others outside their own companies to discuss ideas.
As the Marketer Happiness Report points out – “we’re often trapped in our own bubbles or echo chambers”.
The group energy from coworking gives marketers like you –
- Reassurance from seeing your struggles are not unique.
- Bigger business networks.
- More eyes on your business.
What’s the psychology behind productive coworking spaces?
Effective coworking is all about habits and behaviour change.
Even if you only have a subconscious awareness that other eyes are on you as you work, it still helps nudge your behaviour towards better productivity.
Our prosocial natures mean that we mimic the behaviour of those around us.
One journalist wrote about how ADHD and co-working. She explores here how “body doubling” helped her concentration, accountability and flow.
If you always work on your own, where are you getting this productivity prompt from? Without social support, we make it so much harder to build productive habits.
When we feel like we’re being watched, our behaviour changes.
The Pygmalion Effect: how we rise to others’ expectations
The group dynamic of coworking also allows marketers to take advantage of other people’s expectations. These expectations can push us to ramp up our output and performance.
It’s partly down to a psychological principle called the Pygmalion effect.
“Although the Pygmalion effect occurs mostly subconsciously, it shows that others’ expectations can greatly influence our performance. When someone thinks highly of us, we work hard to maintain those expectations … We are likely to push ourselves harder because we believe that we can achieve success.” [THE DECISION LAB]
The Pygmalion Effect: we tend to rise to others’ high expectations of us.
Consistency bias: why public commitment helps the writing process
Our brains are also biased towards consistency. When we make a public commitment (even just among a few coworkers) we are more likely to do as we promise.
Consistency bias: declaring your intentions in public makes it more likely you’ll finish a task.
Social mimicry: how other people help us stick to writing habits
We often mirror the behaviour of other people in our social group. That’s a perfectly natural way to build friendship and community.
“… humans are faster and stronger when they test their speed and strength in the company of other people, rather than alone.”Adam Alter, Drunk Tank Pink
The company of other people can also lead us to performance highs that we may not reach alone.
A social psychology experiment carried out at Indiana University back in the 1890s suggested that cyclists performed better in the company of other cyclists than they did on their own.
[Read more about this experiment in Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter, chapter 4: The Mere Presence of Other People].
People who walk as they talk to each other on their phones tend to synchronise their steps, even though they can’t see each other.
Misattribution of arousal: other people are exciting
The misattribution of arousal helps explain why we might consider taking a date to a fairground or horror movie.
According to the American Psychological Association, misattribution of arousal happens when the “physiological stimulation generated by one stimulus is mistakenly ascribed to another source.”
In other words, it’s why we associate feelings of excitement with the person who was with us when we watched the scary movie or rode the fairground ride.
The physical feeling of the experience tends to go in a mental melting pot, alongside who was there beside us.
This means our brains make inexact connections about what actually caused us to get butterflies in our stomach in the first place. We misattribute our excitement to the humans with us, as well as to the experience itself.
We continue to associate physical feelings of excitement with the people who were with us when we watched the scary movie or rode the fairground ride.
Psychological hacks that maximise coworking spaces
Finding the company of others to do your best work is one smart productivity strategy.
But how can you take this to the next level?
You can even maintain the shared spirit of productivity when the coworking session is over.
How temptation bundling builds productivity
Save your boring tasks for your next coworking session.
As there’s a heightened sense of something new or interesting when you co-work, you’re more likely to make progress with an unappealing task than if you tackle it on your own.
Habit expert, James Clear, calls this hack to improve your productivity and willpower “temptation bundling“.
Temptation bundling happens when you deliberately pair something you’re not keen to do with some other task that appeals to you.
Keep those eyes on you
You now understand why having other eyes on you while you work can supercharge your productivity.
That’s why online coworking spaces are so effective, especially with cameras on.
But what about when the session is over, and you’ve got another week of work to tackle before you join your coworkers again?
How can you optimise this brain bias?
The secret is to find ways to keep eyes on you as you work alone.
Even if we’re not actually being watched, the feeling that we are is enough to change our behaviour.
Keep photos of loved ones (or someone you admire) close to your workspace.
Use those photos to remind yourself WHY you need to be productive. And take advantage of the effect that other people’s eyes have on our brains. It’s a trick that the big brands use well.
Why the life-size photo of the security guard at this shop?
Because even if we are only subconsciously aware of eyes upon us, we are more inclined to behave honestly, in line with our values.
Never work alone again
Just like having more eyes on you can help supercharge your work habits, you can also fool your brain with sound.
If you miss the background noise of other people, try the genius Sound of Colleagues website.
This allows to select and balance the sounds that make you feel productive. You can add the sounds of a printer, coffee machine or a background hum of office chat.
Where can you try a virtual coworking space?
If you’re ready to see if virtual co-working helps boost your productivity, a great place to dip your toe is with Focusmate.
You can get three free sessions per week. You’re matched up with a co-worker online to keep you accountable for getting stuff done. Certainly easier than willpower alone.
Next-level co-working for marketers and copywriters
If you’re a marketer or copywriter who’s looking for more eyes on your work, join my free online Writers’ Room. It’s where we get our own marketing done.
You get the energy and eyes of the best coworking spaces. I’ve also added a couple of next-level optimisations for your brain.
My feedback room
Sometimes we all need an extra nudge to get started. Or we need some new eyes for feedback on a work in progress.
That’s why I open a breakout room in my coworking sessions if anyone needs some support.
It’s where participants come for personal feedback from me on their writing projects. We’ve talked there about all kinds of jobs – sales pages, book proposals and pitch decks.
This feedback room is open to any marketer or copywriter who joins my Writers’ Room.
My “smile file”
I build a shared group “smile file” of all the wins and tasks we’ve completed through coworking.
This helps remind my coworkers of their previous success, as they tackle another project. It keeps can-do energy high.