Coworking spaces began to gain popularity in 2005. As the workforce became global, it also became more flexible. More workers were granted the opportunity to telecommute, which made it possible to work from anywhere. But working from home is challenging, and coffee shops aren’t always conducive to holding meetings or attending virtual conferences.
Innovative companies began to establish coworking spaces. These ranged from internet cafes to full-fledged office rentals. But the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of coworking too. Suddenly, employers were pushed to make remote work opportunities even more available, and gathering at a coworking space wasn’t always an option.
That’s when virtual coworking rose to the occasion. Virtual coworking offers remote employees similar benefits as in-person coworking spaces without commute times or distractions.
What is Virtual Coworking?
Virtual coworking is like attending a physical coworking space from the comfort of your home. You don’t actually have to travel to a physical location, but you can maintain the feel of working in an office environment.
In other words, you access the coworking space from an electronic device, such as a tablet or computer, while you work from your location of choice. Think of it as a digital office space.
The other members of a virtual coworking space don’t necessarily work for the same company as you. However, you can all access the same digital office resources, collaborate, share ideas, and hold each other accountable as you work within the virtual community.
What Do Virtual Coworking Spaces Offer?
Every virtual coworking company is different. However, most have the following basic offerings:
A professional mailing address
If you work from home, broadcasting your personal address puts your privacy at risk. Virtual coworking spaces may offer a mailing address that offers the credibility of a business address without revealing your home address.
Paying for a suite of online services can become expensive. Virtual coworking spaces make these resources available to members at a discounted or inclusive rate. Usually, these are communication, collaboration, and even project management tools.
Motivation and accountability partners
Virtual coworking spaces are often set up so that you can work with others. Get on a video call to share your goals and hold each other accountable for focusing on work for a set period of time. Share tasks and projects, and follow up to make sure that they’re completed by the deadline.
Stay organized by creating a calendar that’s easy to share with colleagues or accountability partners.
What Are the Benefits of Virtual Coworking Spaces?
Renting office space can feel unnecessary if you don’t access it 24/7. But you may need a physical address or a way to hold conferences with clients or colleagues. Virtual coworking spaces cost far less than physical ones or full-fledged office buildings. You can pay for what you need to keep your costs down instead of wasting your expenses on a physical location that doesn’t get much use.
Working for yourself can feel chaotic if you don’t have anyone overseeing your progress and productivity. Increasing socialization among others who are in the same boat as you can keep you focused.
Just like with an in-person coworking space, you’ll have access to a community of remote workers. This can increase opportunities for collaboration and even improve brand recognition for your company.
What Companies Offer Virtual Coworking?
There are plenty of virtual coworking communities for you to choose from. Each one typically has unique features. Understanding what you want to accomplish from a virtual coworking space will help you select the one that’s right for you.
Focusmate is a virtual coworking space with a streamlined user experience. It does one thing, and it does it well–that’s video chatting.
The idea is that Focusmate members can work together via video calls. Choose a 25, 50 or 75-minute session, and select another member who is available at the same time as you. When you begin the call, you can share your goals and tasks with each other. You can use the chat feature to list to-dos for further accountability. Then, keep the camera on yourselves as you work through your projects. Knowing that your Focusmate session partner can see you should prevent you from getting distracted. At the end of the session, you can touch base on how much you accomplished and reflect on the session.
- Remote workers who have trouble finishing tasks without supervision
- People who want to avoid the feeling of isolation when working from home
- Personal as well as professional task accountability
- People looking for a budget-friendly, no-frills virtual coworking option
Not ideal for:
- People who are looking for a comprehensive, robust virtual coworking space
- Employees who want more continuity from an online community
- Individuals or groups that require complex digital resources
Remo takes the idea of virtual meetings and explodes it into a full-fledged platform for virtual conferences. Instead of simply sharing a screen, you can create digital settings for any sized event, from large tradeshows to small team-building seminars.
Choose a digital environment that fits the bill–you’ll be able to see it on the screen, complete with the furniture and flow that you need for the event. As people enter, you can see where they “sit,” helping you all feel like you’re really there.
- Live events that involve instruction, networking, and audience interaction
- Remote teams that must touch base frequently
- Collaboration and meetings with clients
Not ideal for:
- Recorded events
- Day-to-day individual goals and tasks
NextGen is a virtual office environment that offers a few more features than the companies that we have listed so far. In addition to a digital office, screen sharing, incorporated video conferencing, and custom floor plans, members have access to a virtual assistant, file sharing, document storage, and virtual classrooms.
- Remote workers that have high collaboration, networking, communication, and team-building needs
- People who want to monitor the location and productivity of their colleagues or clients
Not ideal for:
- Individuals who need fewer resources or just want one-on-one accountability
Workiro is a collaborative workspace for document-heavy projects. It’s a virtual coworking space that helps you stay on task, work with others on documents, record e-signatures, and manage projects. Using it reduces the time that you spend managing people and makes it easier for everyone to work together to accomplish a task or project. You can communicate through the app and get alerts and notifications that keep everyone on the same page.
- Remote workers looking for comprehensive project management capabilities
- Organizing related documents and accessing them from anywhere
- Creating and monitoring collaborative workflows
Not ideal for:
- Individual workers who don’t have document-sharing needs
The Root Coworking
If you’re looking for a virtual mailbox and other office services with your virtual coworking space, The Root Coworking has options. In addition to on-site amenities, it offers plans with a dedicated business address, mail scanning, and mail forwarding.
- Remote workers who need a business address and virtual mail services
- Telecommuters who want to work from a physical coworking location
Not ideal for:
- Workers who don’t need mail services
- Collaboration, project management, document sharing or virtual meetings
Are Virtual Coworking Spaces Worth the Price?
The prices for virtual coworking spaces have a broad range. Some of the simpler plans offer free services for individuals. If you work for yourself, that may be all you need. For employees with more complex needs, you can usually choose from a range of plans that suit your requirements.
For many, virtual coworking spaces are a more affordable way to keep up with colleagues and clients than in-person office rentals. The increase in productivity will usually offset the costs. Regardless of all that, you should make sure to research whether a virtual coworking membership with be worth it for you and/or the needs of your team.
Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.