Loneliness has become a phenomenon of the Covid 19 pandemic. This time of social distancing is especially difficult to bear for singles.But also those who are separated from their work colleagues and work from home (no matter if they have family or not) are more and more often experiencing this feeling of isolation. A working day all alone is just a working day without joy. How this can be changed.

The second lockdown in a year. Back in his home office. Michael is happy to finally be able to work in peace again. Without the long commute to the office, without the team members who continually pull him out of the work flow. But after a few days, the silence in the apartment is heavy. No sports, because the gym is closed. The missing communication, the monotony in the apartment depresses the mood.

Like Michael, many people feel the same way. At my place of work at home I also miss the interaction with work colleagues, the fooling around in between and the occasional chance to ask questions or get inspiration. A friend of my family, a psychotherapist, says: “The lockdown has made us more aware again that we are social beings and need to exchange ideas with each other.” And she says to me: “Just make sure that you don’t get depressed in your home office and all your work at the PC!”

Office times are reduced to a minimum

Well, thanks for caring, really. But I am fine! Really well, as well as it can possibly be if you haven’t been to a party for months, with friends only drinking coffee outside in the garden and the connection in the office always accompanied by disinfectant spray, face mask and plenty of distance. Now that November is bringing the virus closer again, I’m only in the office one day a week with a single work colleague. We share the office, separated by a huge plexiglass window and lots of cold air.

11 am in the morning is our virtual coffee break

With this team I now meet once a week on a morning at 11 a.m. for a virtual meeting and coffee. On the monitor, the video conference via zoom makes it possible. We all work in different cities and don’t usually see each other as a complete team that often, so meeting once a week is fine with me. The team manager has given us green light, and didn’t even set a time limit. That’ s great, really.

In a different network of mine, friends have already given themselves the motto “Together is better” and “Togetheralone” months ago. Many of these usually work scattered around at client companies, or travel, or meet for days or weeks to work together in one place. Since March of this year, however, this has become almost impossible, so without further ado, work together was transferred to the Internet. And since November, I am also participating, as an antidote for being all alone at the PC at home.

The catchword is co-working.Well, for Antje it’s co-studying, because she’s still studying at the same time.

I, for one, am completely delighted.

Co-working is my new normal

Do you know co-working or co-studying?

Togetheralone?

Well, in the group, where I’ m taking part now, it goes like this:

We have a common channel on slack and arrange to meet in a group to work together. Someone with a license for zoom sends an invitation to the channel. There we take turns with work and a small break together. A common recommendation in time tracking is that if we work for 50 minutes and take a 10 minute break, we can be extremely productive over a longer period of time. We adhere strictly to this rule in our joint co-working. After 50 min is break, mostly it lasts only a little bit longer than 10 min.

Co-working felt so weird the first time

The first time in this co-working group it felt really weird. Because in the 50 min of a work session everyone leaves the camera on (!) and only switches the microphone to mute. Really very funny. Then the magic happens: during the 50 minutes everyone concentrates on his or her tasks, doesn’t get up, doesn’t go shopping, doesn’t look at facebook, doesn’t read emails, doesn’t see posts or gives in to an urgent need to clean the windows.

After the 50-minute work session, there are 10 or even 15-minute breaks together. Just like in the office or in front of the university library, we then have a short talk. Or ask for feedback on a task where we are currently stuck. With a session like this, an afternoon is over in no time. It’s so productive, and in the evening I really got a lot done and feel relaxed and satisfied.

The alternative for closed university libraries

That’s working together, just like in the office or in the library. My cousin told me about her fellow students who can’t go to the library anymore to study anymore because Hamburg university is almost closed, and just how difficult it is to concentrate at home and keep the focus. For me it’s no problem at all, because I have found my co-working antidote.

If I don’t like taking a break, then nobody will resent me if I continue to work and don’t let myself be distracted this time. The following break will come again, and in the chat the next meeting point will be at the break. I just need to set up my cell phone and I’ ll be there again at the next break. Since Zoom enables you to share your own screen with others, you can get direct feedback on a certain task, design or math problem.

Co-working is truly soothing for your soul

Standing next to each other in a small office kitchen or meeting virtually doesn’t make such a big difference as I noticed. Just like in personal gatherings, we tell each other what is going on privately and what tasks we want to accomplish. My satisfaction factor is quite high, not a trace of emotional imbalance.

My own productivity is higher in such group work than when I work alone. At the beginning of the meeting, everyone talks about what they are currently working on and what their next goal is. If you always talk about the same goal three days in a row, the others will notice it by then at the latest. But, a little bit of social pressure is also good, but I can live with it, because I feel that I more than profit from it. The meetings for working and learning together are voluntary, those who have the time and want to participate, just dial in.

Personal productivity booster while co-working

For myself this is a really smart solution to enjoy the benefits of sharing in a group with friends and acquaintances and to get on with my own tasks. And with it also my own weakness of not wanting to do this or that quickly. And to have joy of working at the same time!

My friend, the therapist in her practice and with her patients, is still a little afraid for me in my home office. She cares about me, I know. But, as I just googled, according to a doctors’ magazine, there is no sign yet that Covid-19 has led to an increase in mental illness in Germany so far. Rather, according to the physicians, a differentiated analysis of their study results shows that older people and those with higher educational qualifications, as well as people who felt well informed about the COVID-19 pandemic, showed better mental well-being (than others).

So I will tell her that next time, so she doesn’t have to worry about me anymore.

Now I have to hurry because my 50 min are already over and I see that the others in my co-working group are looking up again. It’s time for a coffee break. I wanna be there …

Your Next Step

Would you like to practice co-working or co-learning with some friends or colleagues? To learn, to work or to write your master thesis?

Appropriate video systems are for example zoom (with more than 3 persons for a fee after 40 min), microsoft teams (if you have that about the company), google meet (brand new and free, instead of google hangouts) or jitsi (free and open source).