Why virtual coworking rocks

Virtual coworking is the same thing as working in a physical coworking space, except you meet online… in a virtual office. And the benefits for lonely remote workers (and beyond) are great. Just being able to see where everyone is in the virtual office makes colleagues feel more accessible and gives the team a surprising sense of togetherness. You can have serendipitous moments online with a diverse group of online workers from all over the world – all from the comforts of wherever you are.

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There are now many kinds of virtual offices. Here’s what the Sococo space looks like.

Virtually coworking

Why Virtual Coworking Rocks

1. IT FEELS LIKE PEOPLE ARE AROUND. With a virtual coworking space you are working from wherever you are – but with the push of a button, you can go to and talk to others. Just seeing where everyone is on the virtual floor plan creates a sense of presence. You no longer need to schedule a meeting to talk to someone. Instead, just virtually knock on someone’s door.

Sococo’s Carrie Kuempel loves the platform in part because, as she puts it, “You’re a virtual door knock away from giving others the answer they need to go full speed ahead with what they’re doing. You’re not sending an email. You’re not scheduling a meeting. The fact that I can pop in and get an answer and move ahead is great. Accessibility and visibility are important for us because we’re building something together and we need each other. Sococo is the lifeline to my teammates.” The platform lends itself to other uses as well: online workshops, conferences

2. EXPERIENCE E-SERENDIPITY. When you are at a physical coworking space, there’s an element of surprise and randomness in meeting new people. It works exactly the same way online. When you see someone popping into the kitchen, you can join them at the virtual water cooler and say hello.

3. YOU CAN SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE DOING. Virtual coworking spaces allow you to see what everyone is doing in real time. For example, in the Sococo graphic above, you can see that Heidi and Nenad are talking in the Phone Booth, Ralph is focused, and Lisette is “on the air”. Most spaces have rooms that are customizable.

4. YOU CAN WORK WITH PEOPLE FROM ANYWHERE. Physical coworking limits you to meeting those in the same location as you are. Virtual coworking gives you the opportunity to work with people from all over the world. And we all know that diversity and inclusion drive innovation.

5. 24/7 ACCESS. Physical coworking spaces usually have set hours when you can be there. A virtual coworking space is always open.


Examples of Virtual Coworking Etiquette

Here is the etiquette that was used for the Virtual Team Talk Sococo coworking space:

  • When you enter a room, you may or may not see and hear others, depending on whether their mics and cameras are on.
  • Feel free to just say “Hi” and then get on with the work. There is no expectation that you will have to have a conversation with the people in the room. (Though if you really don’t want to converse/hear/see others, place yourself in the Quiet Room.)
  • If you’re not sure whether you are interrupting a meeting or whether you are disturbing someone by entering into their room, you can virtually knock on their door.
  • If you really don’t want anyone to join you in a room (i.e., you are be having a meeting and the Private Meeting room is in use), place yourself in a room with walls and close the door.​
  • If you want to talk to others via Chat, you can use the Chat to send a message to everyone, or you can right-click on a person’s avatar, and send them a private message.
  • If you are busy and really don’t want to be disturbed, regardless of what room you’re in, you can right-click on your avatar and set yourself to busy.

Podcast production by Podcast Monster

Graphic design by Alfred Boland


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More resources

77 – How Do We Know What People Are Doing On Remote Teams?

137 – How To Stay Social While Working Remotely

152 – Diversity Is A Remote Team Superpower

66 – Get Ready For The Future Of Work With Stephan Dohrn

8 – Extreme Results Oriented Working With Yegor Bugayenko

4 – Humanize Remote Work With Pilar Orti



Original transcript

Hello everybody and welcome to episode number one hundred and sixty six. Today I want to talk about something very near and dear to my heart and that is, virtual co-working. Now, virtual coworking is almost the same thing as regular old co-working except that we do it online. Now, there are several tools out there already where people can go to virtually co-work. There’s Biznar, there’s Poker team and my very favorite is Sucoco and basically the way it works is you either use your browser or download an app and you log into a virtual office, and in this office you’ll see a whole bunch of different rooms. You can configure the rooms in a bunch of different ways, in the group that I am part of we have renamed the rooms to actually be the tasks that we are working on. So for example we have a focused room where you go if you are very focused. We also have a quiet zone and we have a phone booth, we have an open work space for people who are just doing random tasks but are open to talking to other people. Basically it’s the same configuration that you would have if you went to a physical co-working space. Now, one of the reasons why I personally like this so much is because I’m very particular about my home office. I have multiple external monitors, I have a seat-stand desk, I have a neighbor cat that comes over to visit me and I have fantastic stereo system where I can play my very favorite music or podcast throughout the day. For me a physical co-working space has always been really uncomfortable, I don’t particularly like being around a lot of different people. I cannot really focus when I am around other people and the chairs are not that comfortable, the coffee is not great, the temperature is usually too hot or too cold and I don’t know, it’s just not for me. I mean don’t get me wrong if I am travelling and if I really need a space and co-working spaces are great for that, but in general if get to choose I’d rather work from my home office. Now the downside of working in a home office is that it can get pretty lonely if it’s just you working alone all day right? And a lot of remote workers have told me that this is something that they really struggle with and indeed when you do a google search for it this is a huge thing that people struggle with. So, virtual co-working could be a solution for many people. The virtual team talk group has a virtual co-working space that we have been using for probably a year now. Sometimes we have a lot of people in the space and sometimes there is just a few. We’ve even used it to run internal online conferences, so we invite people who are working on experimental things or they have ideas or things they just want to flush out. We sort of host this DIY on conference online so that people can experiment and talk to each other about the things that they are struggling with, with regard to remote working usually. One of the things that I like most about virtual co-working is that it really feels like there are people around, I mean I know it sounds strange but I am here alone in my home office but with the push of a button I can go to the open work space and just talk to random people from all over the world and just seeing where everybody is on the screen really gives this sense of presence and you feel like you are in a co-working space but don’t just take my word for it, have a listen to Pillar Orti who was nice enough to actually record what she loved about virtual co-working for me. For those of you who don’t know Pillar Orti, she runs the company Virtual Not Distant in London, and she has a podcast also called The Twenty First Century Work Life Podcast and I’m honored to be on her podcast every other week for virtual coffee where we just go into all kinds of different aspects about remote working. So definitely tune into that, okay but before I get too off track, here is Pillar Orti telling us what she loves about virtual co-working. Pillar: Hi Lisette, this is Pillar Orti from Virtual Not Distant. I love going into Sucoco and seeing that you are there and even if we just exchange a couple of chat messages, ‘hello, how are you?’ and then sometimes we might feel like we want to talk a little bit more and we just switch on the camera and the microphone or only the microphone, and say hello and have a quick conversation and then go on with our work. So I really like that, I like the sense of presence even if I don’t actually end up interacting with anyone who I can see is there in Sucoco at that moment. The presence only makes me feel a sense of connection and so in like that, I like the presence sense of connection and I like the fact that sometimes I’ve bumped into people that I have not seen for a while and I have been able to catch up with them and actually I’ve also met some new people which to set up a time to have coffee would be a little bit difficult maybe or a little bit forced but just to turn up to see that there are quick chat message “hello, we have never met do you want to talk for fifteen minutes have a cup of coffee meanwhile?” “Yeah that would be great” It’s easy so those are the things I love about our virtual team talk space in Sucoco. Lisette: Thanks for recording that Pillar, you are the best. If you want to learn more about Pillar Orti go to virtualnotdistant.com, she can help you transition from co-located to remote and you can check out the Twenty First Century Work Life podcast. If you want to find her on twitter her username is @PillarOrti. Indeed the serendipity of a virtual co-working space is really awesome. In the last year I have met and worked with and formed relationships with a whole host of people who I have never met in person yet I have worked together with on a weekly basis. Very powerful indeed, I asked some of the other folks in the virtual co-working group to tell me what they loved so much about working and [inaudible – 06:22] responded that he thought serendipities moment was a good way to describe virtual co-working and that random is the foundation of innovation. Arnie had his first virtual in his life within Sucoco with Pillar Orti, he said it was a great experience and of course it was. It was Pillar Orti and then he also randomly ran into me and I told him about an online virtual conference and he signed up for that and then I introduced him to my friend Silica in Colon and it turns out that Arnie just happens to live outside of Colon and now Silica and Arnie know each other. So for Arnie he considers himself an occasional virtual co-worker. He says he loves the element of surprise and meeting new people and learning a little bit about them and even from them. We have finally found a way to have a serendipity moment online. Pillar also mentioned to me later that she likes the ability to just listen in. Her microphone wasn’t working for some reason and a bunch of us were talking in one of the rooms and Pillar could just listen in while she was doing something else like she was not able to talk but it was still fun to be able to be there, be part of the conversation. Just like you would in a normal co-working space, and in the virtual co-working space Pillar could add her comments via the chart in the room so she wasn’t just listening in, she could also participate and that’s not something that you can do in a physical space and then there are two more things that I really personally like about it and that is, it’s nice to see what other people are working on. So for instance, I can see that Hidey and Leonard are in the phone booth right now and they are talking. I can see that Ralf is focused and that Mel is in the quiet zone, so while I may not know specifically what they are working on I kind of know what is going on with them during the day. And another thing that I like about it is that, my team always knows where to find me so if I am online and I’m working I’m in this virtual co-working space. So if they need me I’m just a virtual door knock away. Okay so as you can see virtual co-working totally rocks and if you want to try it out I welcome you to try it. If you just go to virtualteamtalk.com and click on the join us button, you would be welcome to join our community which is currently free but probably won’t stay free for very much longer so sign up now and give it a shot we would love to see you online. Okay now as you can imagine we have developed some virtual co-working etiquette that I wanted to pass on and this is not everything that we do but this is just some of the etiquette that we have developed. One of the things is that, we indicate whether or not we want to be contacted or not for example I can see that Ralf is in the focused room and that means that he is focused and that he doesn’t want to be interrupted for work. He can see that I’m in the on the air room so that he knows that I’m probably recording something and also don’t want to be interrupted. So there are specific rooms that we go to and we treat them as sort of sacred. Like don’t interrupt unless you absolutely have to. The other etiquette we have is that people should not feel obligated to talk or participate. They are perfectly welcome to just hung out in the quiet zone of the virtual co-working space and not talk to anybody, so there is no obligation to be social just like in a co-working space. Sometimes you and just want to be around people but you don’t necessarily have the bandwidth or the time to interact with them. Other things we do is we usually text people before turning on the mick and the camera so as not to surprise people so we just send a quick note saying ” hey do you want to talk really quick?” And we usually ask each other what we are working on just for a sense of camaraderie and curiosity of course. There are definitely some things to watch out for example in the preference of Sucoco we have chosen to show the history of our chats so whether or not you have been in a room, you can just go in a room and see the chat history of everything that has happened in that room. That is something to watch out for because I know I found myself having a rant or just sort of just sharing personal information where I think that oops! If somebody goes back and reads that, that won’t be very nice. So it’s just something to be aware of I mean it’s definitely transparent and definitely online, so if you have personal sensitive information take it to a private channel where other people can’t see or better yet just talk on the phone. Sometimes I notice that people will leave there mic on so they don’t realize it, they will be alone in a room and talking so of course nobody said anything and then their mic gets left on and they don’t realize that you can hear everything that is going on in their room. So its definitely something to be conscience of and for instance I’ve got myself a webcam cover because my laptop faces directly to my bedroom and I don’t have a room divider up and I don’t know it’s just something I feel safer with the webcam cover on especially if maybe I’m in a room with Sucoco and I have forgotten to turn off my webcam or my sound then I think it’s just better if I have a plan B in place let’s say. Those things are pretty obvious, I mean you can usually see that your sound is on or that your video is on. So we have never really had any incidents of anything happening to somebody but it is something you have got to watch out for on these virtual co-working spaces. Okay in general I personally love the concept of virtual co-working and I think a lot of other people would like it too If you’re interested in joining again go to virtualteamtalk.com and just click the join us button. There is a short form that you have to fill out to get into the community and it’s free for now so I hope that we will see you online. There is so much to love about virtual co-working the sense of camaraderie, the sense of being around people, the sharing of ideas with random people from all over the world absolutely a fantastic place to play and experiment and get work done as a remote worker. I really hope you will join us. If you want to hear great tips and ideas and stories about remote workers doing great things then head on over to the Collaboration Superpowers website and sign up on our newsletter. Every other week we send out an information packed email directly to the inbox of wherever you are. That’s collaborationsuperpowers.com/newsletter. A big thanks to our awesome podcast producer Nick [inaudible – 12:32] he is the reason we sound so pro, you can hire him to make. You as star at podcastmonster.com and another big thanks to our dazzling designer Alfred Boland. He’s the one that makes us shine so bright you can hire him to make you look cool at bolandan.nl. Alright everybody until next week I’ll see you online right? And be powerful.


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