Only human after all: Why you should be coworking

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By Doug Hartmann

 

As the tax season commences, most of us start to plan for a trip to the tax agents and the year ahead. Many focus on improving their bottom lines.

But what about your mental health?

It is easy to neglect when you are running your own business. It is also a dangerous move for freelancers as this way of working may affect to your mental health due to long hours and a lack of human interaction.

Coworking could be the tonic you need.

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Source: Blank Canvas FB page

 

It comes as no surprise to learn that the self-employed are more susceptible to burnout than the average employed worker.

Professor Richard Sennett identifies a ‘corrosion of character’ when workers need to be flexible, constantly alert and active, and react to any change without stability.

Perttu Salovaara, adjunct assistant professor at the Stern School of Business, New York explains:

“When this continues for decades, it is pretty taxing. While entrepreneurs and freelancers can be masters of their own time and enjoy more work-life balance, they, however, tend to work more per week than employees.”

 

A lack of human interaction is another dangerous consequence of freelancing, as MD Gibson MD, a psychiatrist in private practice in San Francisco, explains:

“Humans are social mammals. We’re highly affiliative and our biology evolved over time to reflect that. The relationships that we form at work, where most of us spend the majority of our time and energy each day, significantly affect our psychological and physical health.”

Getting the perfect office environment and work-life balance as a freelancer is far easier said than done. That’s where coworking comes in. Coworking gives freelancers a new space, sense of community, and a new perspective on their work. Here are four ways coworking can help you achieve better mental health this year:

 

1. You’ll be part of a team

A recent meta-analysis of 58 studies from fifteen countries showed that social identification at work, in other words feeling like a “we” or a part of a team, correlated strongly with a sense of psychological well-being and (to a lesser extent) with physical health benefits.

A sense of supportive leadership is also important for your mental wellbeing. The same study demonstrated how having a boss correlates with social identification and, therefore, psychological health. MD Gibson added:

“Often freelancers are outside the direct influence of the leaders/managers of organisations they contract for, which means they’re garnering fewer benefits of supportive leadership. The nature of freelance work keeps people from forming the stronger social connections within which our brains and biology are wired to function best…Positive communities lead to a stronger sense of human connection and that’s great for people’s mental health.”

Coworking gives freelancers a community. It depends on the leadership/management style of the space, but most come with community managers focused on growing and helping their community from a work and social perspective. Professor Salovaara agrees:

“Coworking brings freelancers a more or less stable community, depending on the coworking space. They find people to talk to. Lots of people say that after two to three years of working from home, they just have to get out.”

 

 2. Coworking helps you separate your home from your office.

Many freelancers use our space to avoid the distractions of the home office. When they get here, they don’t just see improved productivity; their mental state improves as they can focus on their work and their work alone, or can enjoy interacting with other members using our space. It’s a flexible environment that can match the needs of your wellbeing.

Creating habits and routines gives your day structure. Getting out of the house for work helps you keep moving throughout the day, too.

 

3. You’ll have the chance to collaborate

Freelancers also have a tendency to overwork because they work alone, as Professor Salovaara says, “Even if that [decision to freelance] was your ‘own choice,’ there is often no choice, because no one else will do your job, you don’t have a colleague to rely on.”

Networking is one of the biggest benefits coworking brings to its members. You have the opportunity to interact and work with like-minded souls – whether you need to find someone with similar abilities to help out with your workload, or you need someone with a complementary skill set to expand your business.

When you cowork, you are not alone. This collaboration does not just help relieve psychological pressure, it will improve your business with more than two-thirds of organisations winning more contracts thanks to the opportunities offered by such spaces, research from NYC-based The Farm Coworking reveals.

 

4. You can surround yourself with individuals who love what they do

The healthy vibe most coworking spaces promote and achieve is due to the people they bring together. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A study by Harvard Business Review interviewed several coworking space managers and surveyed hundred of coworkers from dozens of spaces around the US. It revealed three substantial reasons why people thrive in coworking spaces: they believe their work is meaningful, have more job control, and feel a part of a community.

In other words, freelancing and coworking enable flexibility in terms of the work we do and the people we choose to do it with. And this flexibility brings a sense of mental wellbeing.

 

Coworking equals connection. The coworking population is predicted to increase to 3.8 million members and 26,000 spaces by 2020. This surge in popularity means that both the number of venues total and the number of coworkers in a specific venue will increase.

But this will not dilute the sense of community. Further research reveals that the recent global increase in coworking has not led to a more isolated work environment. On the contrary, spaces with more members feel even more connected than they did two years ago.

Demand will be high but it’s reassuring to know that as the community grows in numbers, so will the sense of community that so many freelancers benefit from.

Coworking gives you the flexibility to try a space for a couple of weeks, without signing a restrictive rental agreement. It gives you the opportunity to meet useful contacts, form friendships and try a different environment. It makes sense from a business and–more importantly–a mental health perspective.

 

Doug Hartmann runs the Blank Canvas Coworking @ St Kilda Hub

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