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How Coworking Spaces Help With Mental Health

Mental health has emerged as a major crisis caused by the pandemic. Even as the situation stabilises, many are still struggling to cope with the constant stress and uncertainty of life under lockdown. 

Working from home, in particular, has taken a huge mental toll on workers across industries. Initially braced for a temporary phase of remote work to tide over the crisis, employees soon found themselves stuck in prolonged work-from-home arrangements, with no end in sight.

While this certainly doesn’t mean that workers wish for a complete return to the traditional 9-to-5 office setting, many also find themselves missing the routine of a typical office day. The isolating and digitally exhausting effects of remote work has adversely affected employees well-being, which in turn has had wider implications on productivity and efficiency. 

Many businesses have come to recognise hybrid work as a viable solution to offset the disadvantages of remote work by providing employees with periodic in-person times. However, in order for businesses to execute a successful hybrid work model, they need to understand how and which elements of shared spaces help preserve mental health. 

Exploring the mental toll of remote work

Poor work-life balance and digital burnout 

The pandemic has blurred the lines between home and work. Before the pandemic, there was a clear (physical and psychological) distance between home and the office. This meant that work schedules and break times were outlined and somewhat respected. 

The pandemic has essentially changed this. Ever since workloads were moved online, employees have voiced frustration at being expected to be reachable throughout the day, even after official work hours. 

Telecommunication has also led to the assumption that employees would be available for unscheduled calls and last-minute tasks at any given time. This is in spite of the fact that work-from-home arrangements require workers to juggle work on top of domestic duties (childcare, eldercare, housework etc.). 

Work-from-home arrangements can be isolating and overwhelming at time
Image source: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

In Singapore, rising digital workloads have been reported to disproportionately contribute to worker burnouts. A January poll revealed that, ‘49 per cent (of workers) feel exhausted, while 58 per cent feel overworked’. A CNA interviewee described how she would ‘work 12 to 15 hours a day… (and) was also unable to take breaks… and was forced to skip many meals’. 

The lack of a considered and empathetic approach towards remote work has left workers feeling helpless and trapped under an unending pile of digital assignments. 

Isolation 

Remote work can be isolating. Small talk with coworkers, the quiet chatter of the office – these are just some of the social interactions that many of us took for granted in the pre-pandemic workplace. 

Microsoft’s 2021 global report on hybrid work listed isolation as a threat to network building and innovation. Younger professionals, particularly Gen Z-ers, were more likely to struggle with feelings of disconnect and fatigue when it came to remote working. 

Many younger employees in particular struggle with the isolating effects of remote working
Image source: Vazhnik/Pexels

As social beings, the friendships we form at work play a crucial role in our mental well-being. A LinkedIn survey found that, ‘Forty-six percent (of respondents) said that work friendships make them happier’. Similarly, Gallup found a ‘concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job’. 

The truth is, the pandemic has revealed how closely intertwined our personal lives are with work. Employers can’t ignore the social-psychological needs of their employees if they want to build a productive workforce. 

‘Loneliness is emotional. Isolation is structural’. In other words, employee disconnect is a product of faulty work policies and insufficient engagement opportunities. 

How do coworking spaces help with mental health?

Interacting with a community 

Sometimes, it’s our coworkers and friends at work that make the day less draining. Coworking spaces provide just that.

Apart from providing fully-serviced work areas, coworking spaces also often pride themselves on building communities of like-minded individuals. They allow professionals to gather in shared spaces optimised for networking and collaboration. Some coworking spaces even provide games areas and free-flow coffee bars for co-workers to form connections and have meaningful conversations over. 

Coworking spaces are a great way to interact with other like-minded professionals
Image source: Helena Lopes/Pexels

Having a space to de-stress and build friendships is ultimately crucial in preserving mental health and well-being. Such periodic mental breaks away from work help employees to come back refreshed and ready to tackle their tasklist. 

Well in that case, doesn’t the traditional office offer the same perks of a communal work environment? Well not quite. Coworking spaces provide the perks of a communal environment without the pressure of office politics and stressful competition. Guests at coworking spaces can feel free to connect, interact and have informal chats with friends and acquaintances outside of the company.

Conducive work environments 

Whether it’s the incessant drilling from nearby renovation works or noisy neighbours, we all have had our fair share of distracting home office environments. Employees might not miss the 9-to-5 grind of a conventional office, but they might miss the perks of a professional environment. 

Coworking spaces have stepped in as the intermediary between home and stiff professional office environments. They provide fully-furnished work stations while maintaining a comfortable and productive atmosphere. 

Coworking spaces often have a plethora of workstations from shared desks, lounge areas to meeting booths
Image source: The Executive Centre, Ocean Financial Centre

For example, instead of being confined to a fixed cubicle in a traditional office setting, co-workers are provided with a plethora of work areas at coworking spaces. From private meeting booths to shared desks, co-workers can choose a space that best fits their practical and mental headspace needs for the day. 

Creating distance between home and the office

As explored, remote work has faded the boundaries between home and the office. Many employees reported being caught in the trap of overworking. As articulated by a WSJ interviewee, ‘You never feel like what you’re doing is good enough, so you get stuck in a trap of overworking’. 

Coworking spaces help to create a professional space away from home. The physical distance, no matter how far, helps us to recreate some form of routine and regiment. Mentally, ending the workday at a coworking space and making the short commute home, helps us to shut off work after a certain time. 

Having undistracted time with your loved ones at home (or even just spending some downtime alone) is an important part of our daily lives – it helps to safeguard us against burnout and poor decision-making. Instead of glamorising overworking, it’s time for both employees and employers to acknowledge that mentally recharging after a full day’s work is an imperative.

Key Summary

Employees have made it clear that they want remote work to stay. Instead of being confined to an ‘either-or’ choice between work-from-home arrangements and a full return to the office, businesses should seek to facilitate and better employees’ remote work experience. 

Isolation and mental burnout is a technical consequence of poor remote work policies that struggle to keep up with the accelerated shift towards flexible work. Employers should seek to  mitigate this by employing solutions geared towards the future of work. And what better way to start by checking in at a coworking space? 

About Deskimo

Deskimo is the flexible work platform of choice that helps businesses navigate the new future of work. With us, you and your business can adapt to flexible work, and pay-as-you-go across dozens of spaces in Singapore and Hong Kong. 

*Our workspaces are currently safe, open and ready for your return. Do adhere to local Covid-19 safety measures to keep yourself, and other workspace patrons safe.

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