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Julie Tucker
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Coworking: The mental health benefits

Research shows coworking is good for your health, preventing the loneliness and psychological distress that 64% of lone workers say they have experienced at some point.

Of 1,500 workers surveyed, 17.8% described working alone as a “major contributory factor” to poor mental health.

Freelancers are at the highest risk of having mental health issues, including anxiety and stress. In comparison, the research by the British Occupational Health Research Foundation has revealed only 30% of employees who work with other people have experienced stress and depression in the workplace.

How does working alone affect our health?
Working on your own can seem a good idea at first, as it gives you more freedom and flexibility than the traditional 9-5 employment. Being able to plan your own day, take a break when you want and not have anyone keeping tabs on you may seem preferable to sitting in an office, however, doing it day in, day out, can get lonely and this can lead to anxiety and depression.

The problem is that the benefits of freelancing are wiped out by the negative aspects, mainly loneliness. Freelancers also reported a lack of support for mental health issues, as they had no-one to turn to if they felt down.

The survey also found freelancers found it harder to switch off, even when on holiday, if they worked mainly from home, with 54% reading work emails when they were supposed to be taking a break. In comparison, only 13% of office-based workers took their laptop with them on holiday.

What are the health benefits of coworking?

The challenge is finding a work environment where you can enjoy freedom and flexibility, while still having a sense of camaraderie with colleagues and avoiding the feelings of isolation. This is where coworking comes in.

While research points to the loneliness of homeworkers, it also highlights the fact that flexible working is beneficial. A flexible worker is happier and more productive than one stuck in the rigid routine of a traditional office.

Flexible workers are off sick less, achieve more and willingly work longer hours than regular office-workers, who are normally keen to leave at 5pm. Flexible working is more than just a job – it’s a whole lifestyle choice.

For example, according to advice from Public Health England, spending all day sitting in a desk-based job isn’t good for you. Office workers need to take regular breaks. This is where coworking space comes in to its own, with plenty of communal areas, in addition to desks, work-pods and meeting rooms, so someone working there can leave their desk, go for a coffee, or socialise to get the required break time.

This means it fulfils a worker’s need to be around other people in a community environment, without losing their independence and ability to retain a flexible lifestyle, so they’re in a win-win situation. There’s also the opportunity to speak to other like-minded people, collaborating on projects if appropriate, while retaining job flexibility and freedom.

What about working from coffee shops?

You may think cafes and coffee shops offer the same benefits for freelancers and remote workers, such as the companionship of being around other people and flexibility – but they come with their own issues. First, you can be interrupted by general noise, such as other people having loud conversations nearby.

While you’re working and quietly tapping away at your laptop, other people are there to socialise – and “talking rubbish”, according to a poll of disgruntled remote workers, who have revealed the nature of the conversations around them.

The main distractions include retired people often chatting about health worries, parents with babies and toddlers who are out of control and groups of school children or older students talking loudly and laughing at video clips on their phones.

The other challenge can be the practical one of needing to plug your laptop in at some point. While some cafes permit you to charge it up, others don’t, so it’s a case of trying to find a friendly owner in a convenient location. All things considered, choosing a coworking environment, ahead of working from home or a local coffee shop, is the superior option.

Once you take the plunge and move your operations into a coworking space, the immediate benefits will include losing that feeling that you’re “out on a limb” and finding yourself naturally networking – a vital part of the business world.

You can also benefit from other facilities essential to your wellbeing such as yoga studios, fast WiFi, gyms and other perks most office workers can only dream about. You’re likely to find you become more productive, as you’re surrounded by people who want to get ahead, just as you do, in a buzzing environment.

In the longer term, you’re likely to build good working relationships with colleagues and maybe even find a business partner or investor, while growing your business.

Social mixing and relationship-building in the workplace is one of the keys to good mental health, so coworking ticks all the boxes. Contact Headspace Group and we’ll help get you started in the perfect coworking environment.

 

Image © sirtravelalot / Shutterstock.com

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