Remote work has numerous benefits. It saves money, boosts productivity and reclaims hours of previously un-recoupable commute time, for starters. But if done in isolation, remote work can also put people at risk of experiencing a troubling mental-health concern: loneliness.
Sure, to former cubicle dwellers, working from the comfort of an otherwise empty house or apartment may seem like a breath of fresh air in the beginning, but for many that feeling soon loses its luster. "For some people, working from home can put their mental health at risk, causing feelings of isolation and disconnection," notes a recent HuffPost article on the topic. "When you don’t have an office to show up to, you miss out on opportunities for regular social interaction and connection with co-workers."
If you want the benefits of remote work -- flexibility in scheduling and fewer distractions, to name just a few more -- without the loneliness, shared office space is for you. In honor of National Mental Health Month in May, we're spotlighting the top five ways that coworking in a shared office space can boost your mental health.
Provides human interaction
If you think turning on your family room TV for background noise while you work will put a stop to loneliness, think again. It's real, three-dimensional human interaction that will quell feelings of sadness. “Simply put, human connection, other people around to talk to, is something that drives people to coworking," New York University Stern School of Business adjunct assistant professor Perttu Salovaara said. "Home, cafés or an occasional few words with a fruit seller do not suffice.” In a shared office space, human interaction is a necessity: at the water cooler, in the bathroom, in the elevator. Even the shyest of people will have to do some level of socializing, and this can help boost a flagging mood. Often, it's not lengthy conversations we need when loneliness hits; it's simply being around others.
If you've recently started your own company or become a full-time independent contractor, you might still be relishing the stay-in-pajamas-until-dinner sartorial routine. But that's likely to get old pretty quickly. And when it does, you could end up realizing you have a closetful of chic office clothes you never wear anymore -- and darn it if you just don't feel as good about yourself as you once did.
That's no surprise, according to mental-health experts. "Clothes are a way that we express ourselves and communicate with each other, a manner in which we try to attract potential romantic partners, and get into costume for our professional lives," writes Philip Eil in a recent essay for Vice channel Tonic. "Clothes are a link with deep strands of human history. Getting dressed every morning is actually a complex psychological negotiation with ourselves and the world. And, at times, clothing might actually serve as a kind of barometer for our overall mental well-being. 'People who are [dealing with] poor mental health tend not to worry at all about what they’re wearing, couldn’t care less what they’re wearing, and really lose interest in most things, including their clothes,” cognitive psychologist Carolyn Mair says.'"
There is indeed something to be said for getting dressed to go to work, for making ourselves presentable for the people we will see and the tasks we will do each day. If you have a shared office space to go to, you'll get back that morning 'me time' you had before and may have come to think of as a bother. Turns out ironing your shirt or putting on that mascara was more of an investment than you may have realized.
When you're in a shared office space, you may not be on your desk neighbor's schedule, but seeing that he or she has a schedule -- particularly if you're a new solopreneur -- could be just the kind of peer pressure you need to get yourself on-task. "According to a recent study on efficient telecommuting work schedules, the key to crafting the perfect schedule is to plan out your workday," according to a wonolo.com blog on the subject. "You must strive to efficiently manage your time and work day to accomplish the tasks you set out to do." Having an inviting, comfortable coworking space to go to every morning starts your day off on the right, organized foot.
"Routine adds elements of habit and rhythm into your daily life," according to a blog post from the Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center. "Our bodies tend to function better when eating, sleeping, and exercise patterns are set to a regular schedule. Our minds also rely on patterns and routine. Because our brains have so much to process, they depend on habits to regulate daily processes." And that's something that will lay a solid mental-health foundation.
Your pre-solopreneur career may have had you accounting for your whereabouts every minute of your 40 hours each week, but those days are over. Now, a mid-morning workout to start those creative juices flowing or bust through that writer's block? Yes, please! At Metro Offices, we're all about fitting in fitness, which is why each of our nine DC and DC-area offices has a state-of-the-art fitness center onsite. So now you're the boss, take a break from those spreadsheets or pulling together that proposal for new business, and work up a sweat.
The links between physical exercise, good mental health, and mental acuity are strong and well-documented. When you go back to it, you'll do so with a renewed set of eyes and a refreshed mind -- and you'll probably get more out of yourself.
Makes networking fun
Just thinking about networking events gives the more introverted among us elevated heart rates. But what if the formality were removed, and making connections to benefit your business or career was just another way to have fun and go about your day? Enter shared office space, and working alongside people you may never have met before. Perhaps you strike up a conversation waiting your turn at the coffee machine. Or you reach for the same set of dumbbells at the fitness center and laugh about it. Being a customer of shared office space means you'll be mingling with and working alongside a professionally diverse group of individuals.
"Cafes and common areas in shared office spaces often become a breeding ground for networking, sharing information and knowledge with fellow co-workers," writes Priyanka Krishnan, founder of Indian shared-workspace company IShareSpace, for Entrepreneur India. "It is an opportunity to interact with people from varying professional backgrounds ... and this, in turn, can be converted into generating leads and partnership opportunities." All the while, of course, you'll simply be interacting with other people -- and that's something everyone needs for sound mental health.
Looking for chic, affordable, mental-health-boosting shared office space in and around the nation's capital? Look no further than the leader in shared, virtual and temporary office space in DC, Metro Offices. We have it all: onsite fitness centers, fully appointed conference rooms, collaboration areas, Wi-Fi-connected rooftop terraces and more. Browse our locations today.