Is Virtual Co-Working Possible?

Since the Distributed agile teams conference in Berlin (Nov 2015), I’ve been experimenting with a number of techniques to work virtually. One of my latest experiments with Lisette Sutherland and Pilar Orti is on virtual co-working.

First, let’s discuss co-working. Co-working has exploded over the last decade as many free lancers wanted to have a place to work with others in more of a communal setting. With that, co-working spaces have popped up in many cities. One of my local co-working spaces in Orlando has become the hub of the Orlando tech community by hosting many events and even a unique startup incubator. You can feel the energy and excitement of the community when you are in this co-working space. You want to be a part of it! You can work with individuals that want to share and collaborate even if you work across different organizations and industries. You can learn much from such a community!

As exciting as that may sound, co-working spaces don’t work for everyone. For those more introverted, they can be distracting. There can be a buzz that energizes some but not others. Plus, if you are like me, you have specific tools you like to have with you (e.g., 2 external monitors, SIP phone, high quality headset, etc.).   You don’t want to haul all your gear to a co-working space and you certainly don’t want to leave it in a semi-open workspace if you don’t work there every day.

This is why a few of us who are experimenting more with remote work looked at trying to replicate the community of a co-working space. We wanted more control over the “personal workspace”. That is where the idea was born for virtual co-working. With virtual co-working, you still have a “space” that you share with others and you have ways to signal to others in the space when you need to focus, when you are free to collaborate, and also when you are free to just have a shared break. The “shared breaks” can be the greatest benefits of co-working as you share how you work, why you work this way, maybe get to know each other better, and end up building a community. With virtual co-working, we asked ourselves if we could still have these benefits while working in our own personal spaces?

Since early 2016, we have been experimenting with virtual co-working and had some interesting and promising results. There is so much to share that we recorded our impressions in a recent online conference. I invite you to listen to my conversation with Lisette, Pilar, Darlene and I. By the way, Darlene had no prior experience with physical or virtual co-working, but wanted to try it. She had some amazing insights and questions for us. So I invite you to listen to the virtual coffee chat.

If you are interested in virtual co-working, I would suggest the following:

  • To better understand co-working, I would recommend reading a little of the history and values of the co-working movement.
  • Listen to our podcast of the experience of co-working in Sococo (Would that make it so-co-co-working?  Thanks to Pilar for hosting)
  • Keep up with our virtual work experiments via my blog.
  • Join us in the Virtual Team Talk (VTT) community with myself, Lisette and Pilar to discuss virtual work tools, techniques, and concepts.
  • If you feel adventurous, even join us in some of our VTT co-working experiments. Join the community and you will see invitations come out at least a couple of times a month. There is more for us to explore here.

I hope you can join us in exploring this new way of working together.

Screenshot 2016-04-29 09.40.49

 

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