“It can be odd–getting into the room and working with people we don’t know. But then it’s always a pleasure even if it’s difficult at first.” – Rita Ponce, freelance science writer on working in a  virtual coworking session.

Zoom call with coffee

In September 2021, I virtually attended the annual 2021 National Association of Science Writers (NASW) conference. There, one of my favorite sessions was on virtual coworking presented by Stefanie Butland and Rita Ponce

I had never heard of coworking, and maybe you haven’t either. Coworking, and virtual coworking specifically, is when a group of people come together to work together in one online space while still residing at home or in another virtual location. 

Some benefits of coworking, as presented at the session include:

  • Countering loneliness, especially if you are a mostly work-from-home employee
  • Place for spontaneous edits
  • Socializing and building friendships
  • Platform for accountability 

When listening, I could immediately see the potential benefits I could reap from a virtual coworking session. I work remotely, and I work with many other people who work remotely, too. I began to wonder if a virtual coworking session could be implemented with the people I work with. My wheels were turning.

Stefanie Butland offered a potential flow for a virtual coworking session

  • General introductions and chit chat
  • What do you want to accomplish in the next X minutes? (she suggested 25 minutes)
  • Mute mic & set timer
  • Repeat as needed (she suggested 2 hour sessions)
  • Use the final 5 to 10 minutes to check in and set the next coworking date

My wheels continued to turn. So what did I do? Well, about a week later, I was in a meeting with some coworkers who I don’t work with on a daily basis. However, I like chatting with these people and many of them work remotely. They’re also pretty easygoing, so I thought they could be a great group to try virtual coworking with. If it were to be a disaster, I don’t think they would have given me too much judgement (spoiler: luckily, it wasn’t a disaster!)

So I proposed the idea of having a virtual coworking, and the group was willing! We set a date, and I began to prep. We opted for a one-hour session.

A screenshot of presentation from our first virtual coworking session.

Turns out, hosting a virtual coworking session doesn’t require much effort, especially after the first session. After the first session, everyone has a better idea of what to expect. The biggest responsibility is setting the dates and watching a timer during the session. What I am trying to say is that anyone can host one!

I followed the flow suggested by Stefanie Butland during the NASW session. We chit chatted for about 5 minutes before going around and defining the task we were going to work on for the next 45 minutes. And then we worked! We worked with our mics muted, but our cameras on. In the last 5 minutes or so, we regrouped to update the group on the progress we had made. And that’s what we’ve been doing once a month since the beginning of November!

I encourage you to start a virtual coworking session in your network! Hear what some of the participants in the virtual coworking session I host have to say below:

“I am always glad to see the Virtual Coworking on my calendar, because it’s not a meeting, it’s a dedicated time to be productive which is so valuable. It holds me accountable and makes me stay on task. Plus, I love the ability to see faces each month that I may not get to work with consistently (near or far) and just hear how things are going.” – Candace Luebbehusen

“I wasn’t sure what to expect from virtual coworking, but now it is my favorite hour every single month. I get to connect with great people and have a really focused and dedicated time to work on a bite-sized project. It has promoted cross-functional collaboration and awareness for other projects other teams are working on.” – Allison Barkel

“Virtual coworking has been great for me to meet people I might not otherwise have met, especially since I’m newer to the company. It is also a dedicated focus time that I look forward to and find extremely valuable. I also enjoy hearing about what others are working on during the coworking time.” – Emily Wood  

“Declaring our intentions at the beginning of each session has really helped me to focus. I’ve learned that I’ve been underestimating the time needed to complete certain work, and that I get pulled into other things easily. That added layer of group accountability helps reel me back in when I get away from the intention.” – Jenna Dahl

“I really appreciate the group accountability of choosing a focus area or task for the dedicated time. I often find myself switching between tasks and have found a lot of value in narrowing my focus and really prioritizing my work to dos. Virtual co-working sessions have helped me realize the increased efficiency and effectiveness of focused work time. I also so enjoy getting to see people I don’t otherwise regularly interact with and catching up before diving into work.” – Juliana DeLong