How coworking combats the loneliness of the gig economy
The self-employed life poses many challenges, but one of the biggest factors can be the solitude experienced by many – dubbed the “loneliness epidemic of the gig economy”. So is coworking the solution to this growing problem?
There’s no disputing there are many benefits to being self-employed, or remote working for an organisation, also known as telecommuting. Flexible hours, heightened productivity and a better work-life balance are huge advantages of this kind of working lifestyle.
However, it’s sadly not all positive news, as the rise in the gig economy and flexible working have come hand in hand with an increase in social isolation, career stagnation, and family conflict, according to research carried out in the USA.
How serious is the loneliness epidemic?
While we can all understand how loneliness can have impact mental health and general wellbeing, did you realise loneliness can actually be as harmful to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day?
According to stats gathered by the Campaign To End Loneliness, loneliness increases the risk of high blood pressure and sufferers are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, increasing the likelihood of death by 26%.
Lonely people are more likely to be depressed, develop dementia and even commit suicide.
So what can we do about loneliness in our working lives?
It’s clear to see how remote workers and the self-employed can experience feelings of isolation and loneliness when spending long periods alone working from home.
For startups and freelancers, office space can simply prove too costly – not to mention risky – when they are first starting out and unable to commit to a long-term contract.
However, these changes to our working schedules have led to an evolution of the modern workplace – and coworking is a growing trend that can play a major role in addressing the isolation felt by individuals working from home.
In fact, more and more people are turning to co-working as a solution to keep loneliness at bay when working for yourself – and the benefits don’t end there.
It’s estimated that there are now 35,000 coworking spaces in the world, with 11,500,00 sq ft in London alone, which is predicted to increase by another 3,000,000 sq ft by next year.
So what exactly is coworking and what are the benefits of flexible workspaces?
What is coworking?
Coworking means working out of a shared, communal workspace with other freelancers, startups, self-employed individuals, remote workers and homeworking professionals.
Most coworking spaces offer spacious desks, chairs and power connections, so you can turn up with your laptop, plug in and settle down to work.
Better still, coworking usually offers flexible terms, so there’s no need to sign up to a lengthy contract.
Many North West coworking spaces now offer a WiFi connection and free tea and coffee, so you have everything you need to stay productive throughout the working day.
Who is coworking suitable for?
Coworking is a fantastic way for home workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs and the self-employed workforce to get out of the house, away from the laundry pile and into a motivational environment designed to inspire productivity.
If you’re feeling pangs of loneliness from sitting in your home office for long periods of time, coworking could be just the tonic.
Coworking can also prove useful if you travel a lot for work. Many people find themselves looking for a professional base in a certain town or city for a single day or just a few hours in between jobs, so finding a great coworking space in that location can help them to stay productive while out on the road (without outstaying their welcome at Starbucks).
If you are self-employed, you may consider taking on an assistant to help out as your business expands. If you work from home, this can prove problematic. So, this is another situation where coworking can come into play.
Booking out a couple of hotdesks in a coworking space can enable you and your new assistant or colleague to work together in a professional environment for as many hours or days as you need to, without you having to sign up to a long-term office contract.
How can coworking prevent loneliness?
In a 2015 survey, 83% of people questioned reported that coworking made them feel less lonely.
The flexibility of coworking means you can tap into its benefits just as much or as little as you need to – ideal for professional commitmentphobes who like to keep their options open.
For many, a regular slot in a coworking space is a great option as it enables them to enjoy the consistent social interaction missing from their home working life.
For others, who enjoy the solitude of working from home for the most part, coworking can simply offer an occasional change of scenery to keep the creative juices flowing.
One of the best ways coworking can prevent loneliness is by not only encouraging interaction, but promoting positive engagement with those around you.
As coworking spaces are full of individuals doing their own thing, there’s none of the office politics or watercooler dramas associated with working for a large company.
According to the Harvard Business Review, these positive interactions can not only combat loneliness, but actually help coworkers to thrive in their chosen profession.
Joining a coworking community means you’re far more likely to find a bunch of supportive and encouraging people you’ll be proud to call your coworking colleagues.
After all, for many self-employed people, it isn’t just the physical interaction which can be missing from their working life, it’s also the sense of having a “tribe” to back them and support them through the day to day challenges of running a business.
Taking a regular spot at a coworking flexible workspace can help you to find your tribe, and their support will extend outside of the four walls of your workspace.
Once you’ve found each other there, you can connect and support each other through social media like LinkedIn, or set up a group chat through Messenger or WhatsApp to provide advice and support on an ongoing basis. This could be all the motivation you need to see your business thrive.
What are the other benefits of coworking?
Of course, coworking isn’t just a way of keeping loneliness at bay – there are a multitude of other advantages to working in a shared space.
In a study by Small Biz Labs, 84% of coworkers surveyed reported feeling more engaged and motivated, while 67% said coworking had made them more successful. They also gave it the thumbs up for helping them to grow their network, learn new skills and make new friends.
In fact, 89% of coworkers said it had made them happier than other working setups, with 78% crediting coworking with keeping them sane.
Certainly, once you’ve taken the plunge and signed up for a co-working session, you’re highly likely to meet likeminded individuals and establish some great connections.
Not only could you make some fantastic friends, you could even foster some meaningful professional relationships that could seriously benefit your business. This could mean new clients, collaborators or colleagues – whatever your business is lacking to take it to the next level, you could well find it when you take up a hotdesk in a flexible coworking space.
Many coworking spaces host regular events, like workshops, networking meetings and talks, so coworking could help you to broaden your horizons and enhance your social life to boot.
Where can I find coworking spaces near me?
There are various websites dedicated to helping you find a coworking space to work from, like www.coworker.com
Search and browse different options to find a coworking space with the right location and facilities for you.
Business First offers North West coworking spaces at Burnley and Liverpool business centres.
Our Burnley coworking space is just off the M65 with great access and connections to the rest of the North West. It’s right next to a train station (Rose Grove), with bus links operating nearby.
Our Liverpool coworking space is situation within our Speke business centre, close to Liverpool Airport with links to the M57, M62 and M56 motorways.
To book a viewing or take a free day pass at Business First Burnley coworking space, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01282 686699.
To view or book a free day pass at Business First Liverpool coworking space, email email@example.com or call 0151 728 3388.