Why Coworking Spaces Are Here To Stay

Working from home is something most first-time home business owners/the self-employed view through a very large pair of rose-tinted glasses.

Being able to work from the comfort of your home or apartment is seen as the best possible outcome, but that’s not always the case.

In this article I’ll explain why every entrepreneur should consider co-working in addition to working from home.

There are far more benefits to working in a “communal office” than you might have realized.

coworking space waterford
Source: http://www.boxworks.ie

What Is Coworking?

Coworking is where several freelancers or small businesses work from a shared office space, with the option of “renting” a desk on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

The people sharing a coworking space all typically operate completely different businesses from each other.

If you’re still struggling to get a visual on what coworking looks like, then imagine an open-plan office.

Now imagine that everyone you see is working for a different company. Some of them choose to sit at a desk, and others want the privacy of an office.

People might choose to work in that space for a day, a week or a year.

You’re free to come and go as you wish, as long as it’s within regular opening hours.

It’s an informal community shared by people who who need a dedicated office or desk space, but either can’t afford or don’t want to take out a lease on an office for an entire year.

Coworking is popular with software developers, digital marketers, digital nomads etc because they can turn up, plug in and get to work without any of the usual office politics to distract them.

coworking space

What Do You Get With A Coworking Space?

You’ll have the option of choosing between a desk and an office to work from, and your electricity, furniture and Internet/Wi-Fi access is also covered in any basic coworking package.

Obviously an office costs more than a “hot” desk, but even then a coworking office is usually way cheaper than renting your own office, paying for broadband, electricity, furniture, etc.

Some coworking spaces also offer kitchen or food prep facilities, chill out areas, games, etc, but it all depends on the location.

If you spend a few extra dollars/euros per month you’ll find co-working spaces that also run networking and training events as an additional benefit for their members.

Are those events actually worthwhile?

Most of the presentations are usually from other co-working space members, so you’ll have to be the judge of whether or not it’s worth the extra cash. I’ve always been very “Meh” about them.

With a “hot desk” you get access to it from 9am to 5pm each day, but renting a coworking office usually means you get 24/7 access to it.

Either way you’ll get access to office facilities that very few businesses could afford in their first year.

This has encouraged a lot of tech startups to use coworking instead of leased office space.

coworking spaces new york
Source: https://thespaces.com/

What Are The Benefits of Coworking?

The main benefits of coworking include that you get access to an affordable desk or office whenever you need it, Internet access and seating is provided, and you surround yourself with like-minded entrepreneurs and freelancers.

What I love about the idea of coworking is that it gives self-employed people, entrepreneurs, and startups a kind of middle ground to work from.

The first few years of running your own business can cause enough headaches, but coworking removes one of the biggest ones – finding somewhere to work where you’re not being distracted every 5 minutes by dogs barking, neighbours arguing or whatever.

Here are some of the reasons why coworking might just be the best thing, ever:

13 Reasons Why Coworking Spaces Rock

  • You get access to the facilities you need, whenever you need them
  • You don’t have to lease an office for several months, even if you only need it for a few weeks
  • Most of these spaces come with kitchen and recreation facilities of some kind
  • You can use your paid-for space for just a few hours each day, or the entire day
  • You can get 24/7 access, so you can escape from a noisy home to hit that deadline
  • You are separating your working life from your home – this is essential!
  • The photographer, social media expert or web developer you need is probably sitting a few desks away
  • You can be way more productive because all your home-based distractions are gone
  • You develop an actual working routine again, leaving work behind and having your evenings to yourself
  • You’re no longer available to run errands, walk the dog or other activities that eat into your work time
  • You get to meet and talk to other living, breathing human beings during the day – social interaction is more important than most people realize
  • But you don’t have to socialize with others if you don’t want to, which is cool
  • You get to absorb ideas, concepts and best practices from people you’d never have met otherwise

What Are Some Disadvantages of Coworking?

The pros of coworking far outweigh the cons, but here are some of the few cons I could come up with.

  • They’re expensive – rates can run anywhere from $5 to $30 per day, or up to $400 per month
  • You can settle into a rut where your productivity drops, although this is rare
  • You can only really work from 9am to 5pm each day, unless you have $400 per month to drop on an office
  • There is the potential for “noise pollution” from people who don’t understand how coworking etiquette operates

why coworking is popularWhy Is Coworking So Popular?

There are many reasons why this type of working arrangement is gaining in popularity with both businesses and freelancers, but the main one is flexibility – both financial and geographic.

The fact you’re no longer working solely from home means you also get a “mental break” from your family/housemates, and get some deep work done instead.

Working from home non-stop can lead to a lot of mental health issues that don’t become obvious for months, usually not until you’re too burned out to care much anymore.

Now, that’s not to say that working from home is a bad idea.

But the reason you started your own business is to have a better work/life balance, and that can be very difficult to achieve when your job is also where you sleep at night. The lines blur very quickly, and all of a sudden you’re watching a movie when you should be working, or enjoying some other form of goofing off.

Using a coworking office space means you’re removing yourself from the home environment and surrounding yourself with other professionals who have one, single focus – getting stuff done.

It’s like taking the idea of working from a coffee shop and expanding it so that you get the same increased productivity but without the clanking of cups, and customers coming and going around you.

The reality is that you don’t need to be tied to a desk or fixed location to have a productive day.

In fact, most coworkers/remote workers will tell you that they can achieve more in 4 hours when not distracted than they can in an entire day in the office. There are just far too many distractions and negative inputs in most modern offices.

Cloud-based apps and services also mean that you generally don’t need access to any kind of network storage while working, so you can fully cut the cable and work from wherever you want.

After all what more do you need than a decent laptop, Skype, Meebo, Dropbox and Google Drive, to get a full day’s work done?

coworking space in Dublin, Ireland
Source: https://glandore.co/

Avoiding Office Politics

Coworking spaces can increase your productivity for a number of reasons, but one of the biggest factors is being able to avoid office politics.

I’ve lost count of how many 9-5 jobs I’ve started out loving and slowly grown to hate because of internal BS, politicking and bickering.

It got so bad in some cases that I wound up leaving the job at short notice simply because the entire experience left me feeling like crap.

Two jobs in particular actually landed me in therapy – but that’s what a few months of low-level corporate bullying can do to you.

Can office politics get that bad?

For me it meant waking up with chest pains, but only after I’d spent a pleasant night grinding my teeth together.

The lack of office politics is one of the real beauties of coworking spaces. This is probably because everyone there has a shared experience of just how quickly gossip, rumours, and “ladder climbing” can ruin the vibe in any workplace.

Independent workers, digital nomads, start-up founders and entrepreneurs simply don’t have time to sit around gossiping about other people in the way you find in any typical corporate environment.

They understand that when they’re not working, they’re not getting paid.

Woe betide anything or anyone that tries to waste the time of a serious remote worker or entrepreneur – it’s our pet hate.

coworking productivity

Coworking Can Boost Productivity AND Creativity

When you’re working from an office in your spare bedroom/basement/attic it’s all too easy to simply not take your work seriously.

You “ghost” onto Facebook or YouTube several times per day, without even realizing you’ve done it.

It’s all too easy to goof off and blow through several hours of the day without achieving anything of real value.

You do this because “…I can always catch up tomorrow”, but once you’re in that rut it can be pretty much impossible to break out of.

You procrastinate because you’re fed up.

So you get distracted.

Then you fall further behind…so you procrastinate some more.

So, that’s why coworking spaces can be a great idea when it comes to not only giving your productivity a kick in the pants, but your creativity too.

It’s amazing what can happen when you take yourself away from all the distractions you have at home.

That’s when you get those moments of absolute clarity because your mind is “empty”.

This is when you have “Eureka” moments that can transform how you run your business, or even give you ideas for your next business.

My writing is always at its best when my mind is empty of other emotional or psychological muck, or “toxic goop” as a friend of mine calls it. Achieving that state can be difficult when working from home, but I *never* have that problem when working outside my home e.g. in a coffee shop.

Your productivity can and will increase when working outside your home because you don’t have all day to waste on Facebook arguments and whatever viral video is doing the rounds on YouTube.

That means you’re effectively putting yourself “on the clock” again, but you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve in just 2 or 3 hours of intense, focused concentration and work.

What Does Coworking Bring To Communities?

People choosing to work remotely and/or work from home are becoming increasingly common. Part of this is because some companies want to decentralize their workforce, but not all of them – as IBM proved.

Coworking spaces brings scattered workers back into the heart of a town or city, directly contributing to local businesses.

It’s the coffee on the way to work in the morning, buying a quick lunch at a local deli, and maybe picking up some groceries on the way home.

This is one of the most overlooked aspects of why every village, town and city needs at least one coworking space – it contributes directly to the local economy in a meaningful way.

who shouldn't use coworking

Why You Shouldn’t Join A Coworking Space!

It’s important to understand that renting a desk or office in a coworking space isn’t a magic solution for productivity problems.

If, for example, you’re already stuck in a rut you might find that you’re simply paying money to be stuck in that same rut somewhere else.

And on the subject of expense there’s no point in spending money on a coworking space if you’re already struggling financially. That just puts more pressure on you to earn more and work harder.

So you’ll wind up burnt out again in a matter of weeks, walking away from your desk with your tail between your legs.

These shared working spaces are, generally speaking, a great idea for anyone who finds themselves stuck at home and hating every single minute of it, but only because of the distractions.

The implications of coworking for creativity and entrepreneurship are more profound than people realize. What started out as a neat idea for people who were sick of being at home the whole time, has quickly become an industry all of its own.

Summing it up

The reality is that coworking spaces are here to say, but what the future holds for them is anyone’s guess. There’s a risk that they become so large that the informal and fun atmosphere they create is replaced by the starchy, stiff-collared bullshit you quit your last job because of.

But for right now, investing a few bucks every month on a coworking desk or office is an investment not just in your business, but in your well-being.

8 Ways To Stop Being Distracted From Getting Stuff Done

– or how to get more done in the same number of hours.

Before I write anything else I should mention that I’m not some time management and productivity expert. Far from it. I’m the guy who once created a really complex looking Excel sheet, took a screen grab of it and set it as my Windows wallpaper.

Every time somebody would walk past my desk I’d sit staring at the screen, frowning in concentration, having done absolutely nothing that day.

I waited for somebody to catch me out. After a week nobody did, so I deleted it and got back to actually working.

I still get things wrong, like wasting an hour on YouTube watching Russian dash-cam videos.

I’m human, and so are you. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll trip up and go backwards.

That’s cool because it’s the only way to learn what works for you.

Filtering out the “noise”

If you’ve ever worked in any corporate office environment you know just how many distractions there are in a given day. From your buddies and bosses dropping by your desk for a chat, to the endless rounds of pointless meetings that achieved nothing more than to organize more meetings. And that’s without people stopping you mid whatever-you-were-working-on to send you off to complete a different project for them.

The way people manipulated your time drove you nuts. In fact, it drove you so nuts that you opted to work for yourself instead, knowing with absolute certainty that you could achieve more in a single hour than you did in an entire day of blue-collar drudgery.

But, for some weird reason, you now find you’re actually less productive than you were in your 9 – 5.

What the hell?

How did it all go so wrong?

Chill.

You are not alone. Very few people have the natural ability to simply switch off external distractions, get tunnel vision, and do 6 – 8 hours of incredibly productive work each day. That’s pretty much an X-Men power right there, so if you don’t have it then don’t sweat it.

The main reason you’re not as productive as you were in your 9 – 5 is that you are now your own boss. Your 9-5 boss would breathe down your neck if you weren’t working, but the “You” boss doesn’t give you crap when you slack off, does he?

Nope, he’ll tell you it’s okay to binge on Netflix or YouTube for a few hours each day, because you can “…make up for it tomorrow.”

But that means you’re starting off “tomorrow” in a reactive state, panicking to make up for lost time. And that my friends, can quickly become a spiral you can’t easily escape from, eventually driving you back into the embrace of a reliable, safe and utterly boring 9 – 5.

So, how do you fix your distraction, time management and productivity problems?

It’s way easier than you think…

#1 Get on a social media diet

In an ideal world I’d tell you to just shut your social media accounts down because they’re eating up hours of your day. The average person farts around on their social media accounts for at least 2 hours each day, and that’s just the average person – not the Twitter and Instagram addicts!
Those figures are great news for Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram, but really, really bad news for you as a self-employed person.

Why?

Because every single second you spend on social media is time you’re not being paid for. The only exception to that statement is if you’re a social media manager for clients, and even then it’s too easy for a 5-minute post scheduling task to turn into a 30-minute Facebook session.

So, because we live in a world that’s polluted by social media, you have to find a way to switch it off. Well, you do if you want to get anything done.

I’ve tested a few different tools over the years, and the one that works for me is one called Freedom. It sits in the background on my PC and blocks my biggest Internet-based distractions, with YouTube and Facebook coming in top of that list. I can set it to automatically block these sites for several hours at a time, which is ideal because that allows me to “block out” my time – I’ll cover that idea in a bit more detail later in this article.

It can also be added to other devices or computers, so that’s another plus. I suppose the main reason I like it is because it’s just so easy to use.

Yes, there are dozens of different apps and services that do the same thing, but Freedom works for me. Some of the other popular social media blockers are:

What really surprised me was how often I’d ghost my way over to my second screen and try to open up Facebook or YouTube without even realizing what I was doing.

This was happening several times in a given hour. What horrified me was to hear that the “average” office worker checks out social media 30+ times PER HOUR! That’s literally a quick check every 2 minutes.

Freedom has woken me to to the very important realization that social media is the quickest way to ruin your productivity.

You can check out my review of the Freedom app here.

#2 Your “To Do” list is the enemy!

When you’re working for somebody else they help you manage your time by telling you that you need to be in work for whatever time each morning, and not to leave before whatever time suits them.

Your employer sets your work schedule for you, hoping you won’t spend half your day goofing off on social media.

When you’re left to your own devices in your home office it’s WAY too easy to find reasons to not do stuff you should be doing.

Your 30-minute lunch becomes an hour. You decide to walk the dog instead of starting on a client project. Watching that spider weaving a web in the corner is way more fun than finding new ways to market your business.

For some bizarre reason your plan of working from 7am – 3pm each day fell apart within a week. And no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get back on track.

You, me and tens of thousands of others working from home have the exact same problem. You wind up feeling lazy, a big bit lost, and with no idea how to fix things.

You then go installing time management apps, hoping that they’ll somehow magically make things better.

But….none of them fix your problem.

Maybe you are just a lazy ass, one who has no right working for themselves?

Not true.

What you’re suffering from is overload, and a desire to get more done in a given day than is physically possible.

What you need to do is “go small”, and focus on fewer things – this is something I learned from a book called “The One Thing“, which I’d absolutely recommend you read.

In fact, your ‘To Do’ list should have no more than three items on it, and those items should be written down on a notepad the previous night.

The night before?

Yup, because:

1. You’re giving your brain work tasks to process while you’re asleep – you’ll wake up focused on these tasks as a result of writing them down the night before.

2. Coming up with those three tasks first thing in the morning takes 5x longer, and you still won’t be able to take them seriously until after your lunch.

My ‘To Do’ list is a small, cheap notepad that has 3 items written on each page. I cross them off as they’re completed, and then if there’s still time left in my day, I’ll work on another three items.

Still struggling with 3 items on a list?

Fine, cut it down to 2. If you can’t manage 2 items, then reduce it to one item.

And if that doesn’t work then you have two choices:

1. Get yourself a copy of “The One Thing” and read it several times in a given week.

2. Be prepared to go back to your 9 – 5.

I also use the “Eat The Frog” time management technique on certain projects, especially the ones I’m most likely to “forget about” until the deadline is staring me in the face. Then it’s time for an “all-nighter” and enough caffeine to kill a large horse.

Using the “Eat the Frog” approach is a simple one: Start your working day by completing the task(s) you least enjoy. For me that’s a certain type of copywriting project I get hired to work on. The longer I avoid working on it the closer the deadline looms, and the more reluctant I am to start.

So, my way around that is to outline the content when the order arrives, then do all the research, and then sit down and write the blog posts in one sitting.

This is exhausting, but it’s worth getting those few thousand words out of my way before I do anything else. At least then I can spend the rest of my working day on client work I actually enjoy!

#3 Get a dumb laptop

This is a genius idea, and one that’s really easy to put into action. What I refer to as a “dumb laptop” is one without a connection to the Internet…no matter how hard you try to do that. You’ll also hear people call these “air-gapped laptop”, but it means the same thing.

Basically, you get yourself an old, cheap laptop and then simply uninstall the wi-fi and Bluetooth drivers from it and make sure you don’t have any way of reinstalling them.

What you’re left with is the ultimate Internet block – the hardware on your laptop that allows connectivity is disabled. So, no matter how much you want to go online, you simply can’t.

This is what laptops used to look like….back in the day.

Then take any research you might need for a given project, go find a quiet corner in your home/office/coffee shop and get to work on it. No, you don’t need to go online to “research” – save everything you need on a USB flash drive so you can work offline.

Most of the people you see “working” on their laptops aren’t actually doing anything. Well, not unless you count Tinder, Facebook and Instagram as “work”.

You’ll achieve more in an hour working on your “dumb laptop” than they’ll achieve in an entire day. Actually, probably more than they’ll achieve in an entire week.

I’m a copywriter and SEO consultant by trade, and my own experience is that eliminating Internet-based distractions (including my phone) results in my productivity and output doubling or tripling.

Yes, it really can make that much of a difference.

#4 Block out your time

You know when you sit down to start your working day, and can’t decide where you should start? So, you go grab a coffee, think some more, and then sit down…staring at the screen, praying for some kind of work ethic miracle to take place.

Yeah, we’ve all been there. In fact, it’s the thing I struggle with the most.

The solution is simple: Block out your time

This simply means that you create a short schedule for yourself, something that says from 9am – 10am you’ll work on Project X. Then take a short break and from 10:15am – 12pm you’ll work on Project Y. From 12:15pm – 1pm you’ll walk the dog, and then from 1pm – 1:30pm you’ll have lunch.

Does that feel too much like structure?

Well, the thing is, if you’re reading this then you’re working without structure…and you’re struggling.

Create a time blocked schedule that works for you. Your schedule could start at 6am, and finish at 2am. Or start at 6pm and finish at 2am.

Find your optimal working hours, and then mercilessly block out your time within those hours.

#5 Experiment with work sprints

This concept ties in with the idea blocking out your hours – it’s the perfect complement to that idea.

What it comes down to is this: You break your working day into 25-minute segments.

This process is known as the “Pomodoro Technique”. And that’s not some fancy scientific term – it literally means “tomato” in Italian. No, I have no idea why either.

So, you block your access to social media, set a timer and then work for 20 minutes with absolutely nothing to distract you.

Then you take a break for five minutes. And then the process starts all over again.

pomodairo

I use a desktop app called Pomodairo for this, and it works like a charm. The reason why is that when you’re working against the clock it keeps you completely focused on what you’re doing. Kinda like being back in your 9 – 5 where there never seeemed to be enough hours in the day to get everything done.

Once you complete three Pomodoros in a row, you then get to take a 25-minute break, but to be honest I’m usually so zoned in at this point that I work through my “break” too.

From a copywriting point of view using the Pomodoro Technique is the difference between me writing 500 words per hour and being able to produce 1,300 words per hour. That’s just the average. Sometimes it can be 2,000 words per hour, depending on the topic.

Pomodario is free, and you can download it here.

Or another option is the Marinara: Pomodoro Assistant for Google Chrome.

I thought about including smartphone apps here, but they’re not something I use. I also couldn’t find any good ones without some form of advertising or “In-app purchases” attached, so I passed on that idea.

#6 Get into your “flow” state

You know those really great moments when you’re working away on something, time is flying by, and you’re producing really great stuff? You actually enjoy what you’re doing because everything just “works”. You can’t explain exactly why, except to say that you’re “in the zone”.

And the weird thing is that’s exactly what’s happening – you’ve entered something called “flow state”.

Where people struggle with this is that flow state isn’t something they can consciously switch on or off at will.

But the really cool thing is that you can, but you’ll need some help.

You can induce a Zen-like flow state by listening to certain types of music or audio tracks. For years I used movie soundtracks to help me tune in and zone out to the world around me. Apparently the best music for concentration and focus is anything without lyrics, and I’d agree. Movie soundtracks did it for me.

But it just wasn’t consistent.

So I tried white noise generators, rainfall soundtracks, etc. They all worked, but I couldn’t rely on them 100%, which sucked because I’d try to sit down and write but my mind would be like oatmeal inside a washing machine.

Then I literally tripped over something called BrainFM and found something that works every time, no matter how much mental noise is going on inside my head.

There’s all kinds of fancy neuroscience behind what they do, none of which I can claim to know anything about.

What I can say is that within 10 minutes of starting a BrainFM session that my thought patterns regulate, and I get focused. And that’s saying a lot because I struggle with depression and anxiety on a pretty regular basis. Yes, the guy sitting here writing this is entirely human. Very much so.

I’m actually listening to a Focus track while writing this – in the upstairs bedroom of a very busy house on New Year’s Day, with several children running around screaming their heads off.

Yes, I’m still able to concentrate, which is nothing short of a miracle.

Bonus Tips

After writing this article it struck me that I’d left out some important tips, and ones that would be particularly beneficial for people working from home.

So, here they are:

#7 The People Factor

One of the toughest parts of working from home is dealing with family interruptions. If you have kids, then you can expect them to wander into your home office looking for attention. Like this:

Even if you don’t have kids you still have friends, family members and maybe a partner who won’t understand that you can’t just drop what you’re doing to spend time with them. To be honest, one of the toughest parts of running a business from the comfort of your own home is separating your personal life from your “working” life. Coping with a “needy” husband or wife when you’re working from home can lead to arguments.

At least when you’re working in an office your partner/kids/family can’t just turn up during the day. And that’s exactly why some small business owners are forced to lease office space they can go to work from for at least part of their day.

So, what can you do to get around the problem?

You have a couple of choices:

1. Work to a fixed timetable (example: 8am – 4:30pm) each day – you agree to only work and take breaks within those hours. That way you can meet up with people for coffee, but only during your set breaks. Let your significant other know about the schedule, and why it’s important.

2. Gently ask family members (or anyone else) to not just show up without calling or texting first, that you are actually working, and when you get interrupted it means you have to either work late or work longer hours the next day. Be honest with them, but sugarcoat it just a little bit.

3. Put on some headphones, turn off your mobile phone, and lock the door of the office. If people don’t get the message, then let them know that you’ve tried to be reasonable, you’ve asked for co-operation, so you are now ignoring their interruptions.

4. Lease a desk in a business development co-op, or similar, in your home town. Just shop around before you do this because rates can vary from $30 per day to $45 per week. You don’t need anything fancy, and you probably won’t need it every day of the week, so don’t be afraid to haggle, or see if you can share an office/desk with another person.

The irony of all of the above is I just lost three hours of my day because my girlfriend, sister-in-law and my nephew turned up after being out for lunch.

#8 Ban Your Smartphone

Ahhh, the cell phone. What an amazing invention. It allows you to stay connected to your family, and friends all day long via social networks. And this absolutely ruins your ability to be productive for more than a few minutes at a time.

I touched on the idea of smartphones being a distraction a little earlier in this article. But I never explained why.

So, why are cell phones distracting?

Well, apparently it’s because you’re addicted to something called dopamine. This is a “feel good” chemical released into your body when something nice happens to you. Like when you get a text message from a loved one, an email from a friend, or a notification from one of the many social media platforms that eat up more hours than you can imagine.

You stop what you’re doing, check the message/mail/Like/Retweet. And you get a tiny hit of dopamine. The first one is free…and it’s all downhill from there.

Most of you probably kick yourself when you realize how much time you waste on your phone each day, and how that took away from really important stuff, like earning a living.

But, the truth is that you’ve gotten yourself addicted to an electronic device that will quite happily consume 10 hours of your day.

It’s not a question of “Are you distracted by your phone?” If you own a smartphone and panic when you can’t find it, well then you’re addicted.

If you want to get lots more work done in the same amount of hours each day either leave your phone in another room, or just switch it off if you have to keep it near you.

I dare you to try this for one day, and make a note of every single time you pick up/search for your smartphone to check to see if “anyone loves you”. You’ll be horrified when you see just how many times per day you do this.

So there you have it – my guide on how to avoid distractions while working from home.

Just remember, the key to being productive isn’t to work more hours, but simply to get more done in the hours you have available to you.

Oh, and here’s that book I mentioned earlier. Seriously – it’s worth every single cent.