Do you enjoy the buzz at your office or the atmosphere and vibe at your favorite coworking space? But now you feel isolated when working from the home office? In this post I will show you three easy ways to bring the coworking buzz to your home…
Tip #1: Ambient noise
Even if you work on a creative task by yourself (like writing a book or sketching some graphics), sometimes it is not so inspiring to actually be alone. Working alone while in company is preferred by many creatives. Let’s find out how you can bring the buzz to your home through ambient noise.
Ambient noise (sometimes also called “white noise” is a little trick to simulate a buzzy atmosphere. It provides with atmospheric noise, for example, steaming Barista coffee machines, rattling dishes, and maybe some decent chatting in the background.Turning on this background noise immediately places me (at least mentally) in a nice coworking space (like the one pictured below… Zoku in Amsterdam)
Coworking and Coffehouse sounds
Check out, for example, Coffitivity, a website that offers different styles of caféhouse sounds. They are categorized by daytime (“Morning Murmur”, “Lunchtime Lounge”), or by location (“Paris Paradise”, “Brazil Bistro”). This will instantly transport you mentally to another inspiring world.
Other types of white noise include natural sounds, such as rain and thunder, or crushing waves from a beach (if you prefer to work while being reminded of your last vacation).
One great source is Raining.fm a website and App that has hours of raining sounds and occasional thunder. Believe me, this gives me goosebumps and gets me instantly into a super inspired work mode. Rainy Café is a combination of both: The Caféhouse background noise and the rain. The website allows you to mix both sounds together and adjust volume for each audio track, so that you can compose the perfect balance between the two.
The science behind
Scientific studies have investigated the impact of noise on creativity and productivity. When comparing low, moderate, and high noise levels, the authors found out that the medium noise level yielded the best results regarding creative performance (better than low noise or high noise). Speculating about the possible reasons, the authors suggest that the medium noise level induces a moderate level of arousal (measured as raised heart rate), which in turn leads to increased alertness and brain activity. If the noise level is too high, though, this results in distraction and a lack of creative flow.
Tip #2: Hang out to work — alone but together
Sometimes, it is just nicer to work in company, even if you are not collaborating. The Internet provides us with several tools and channels to join in with a peer group of people working together – everyone on their own projects. Those tools simply offer an open channel where people can be socially present, but (mostly) without social interaction.
Ultraworking is a platform that offers structured coworking sessions via video conferencing. In these sessions, a group of highly motivated people is working side-by-side on their projects. There are intensive 2-day “workathons”, as well as ongoing meeting slots that you can join whenever you want for a monthly subscription rate of currently 49,- US Dollars.
Clubhouse silent work rooms
Clubhouse is the new hype on the social media horizon. The “drop-in audio app” is mainly a channel to listen to hosted audio sessions on varied topics. You can also join the discussions if you like or simply stay “in the room” as a discrete listener. In short, the app is something like a live (and potentially interactive) podcasting show.
But another interesting phenomenon of Clubhouse are the so-called “silent rooms”. Here, people meet for silent working sessions. Although there is no actual conversation going on, the feeling that other people are simultaneously working on their creative tasks is somewhat motivating and the home office is suddenly not as lonely anymore.
The science behind
The mechanism behind the concepts described above is called “social accountability”. The main idea is that the peer group acts as some sort of social control. You would feel bad if you were lazy while the others are working. If there are other productive people around, this will most likely prevent you from procrastinating and motivate you to perform as well. The chances are good that productive flow from the peer group will also spillover to you.
Tip #3: Video meetings beyond Zoom
Do you also suffer from a mild “Zoom fatigue”? Video conferencing has become a new standard in the home office, and many people feel drained out and tired from the constant tension in front of the camera. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the motivation for additional meetings with coworkers or friends in a video chat, is not very high. But then there’s a risk to become quite lonely, on the long run.
Luckily, there are several tools available that give the video call a more casual and playful touch. People can meet in a 2d or 3d virtual environment and hang out like in a real space.
Below, I listed a few examples that I found very helpful for casual meetings over a virtual channel. All mentioned tools make use of so-called “proximity chat”. That means, you move around in the virtual environment with an avatar, and once you get closer to someone else, the sound-level of the conversations increases. Just like in a real room, you can stroll around and join conversations as you like. When you move away from a group, their conversations will become silent.
As a result, the entire meeting is more casual and much less stressful than a normal video call. You can better talk in smaller groups, even if there are 20 people in the room.
Gathertown is one of the several options for such an online meeting space in a virtual world. It is based on a pixelated 2d environment. You simply create an avatar and you’re ready to go.
Gathertown has different spatial settings. You can choose between an office environment, a conference venue, or a university campus. In addition to the avatar you can also display your video, if you like.
The basic plan is free and includes some basic environments and customizable objects. If you want to host larger events, or need specific environments, Gathertown is charged on a per-user-per-hour basis.
High Fidelity is similar to Gathertown but uses only audio. But the audio quality is extremely good here.
High Fidelity offers different spatial environments as well: a social space that looks like a bar (pictured below), an office space, and a university campus. You can add a photo to your avatar, but there is no video integration. But this is exactly what makes the tool very sleek and comfortable to use. Adding some background music can improve the atmosphere even further.
Mozilla Hubs is offering similar functionalities but in a 3d environment. It is actually fun to walk around in the different spaces. It’s also possible to customize the environment, for example by uploading posters or 3d objects. That way, you could discuss your design work with coworkers if you like. Mozilla Hubs is free.
The home office can indeed be a lonely place to work. The three tips I showed you in this post will certainly not replace any real social interaction. But maybe the right background noise, the social accountability of a working peer group, or the casual virtual meeting tools will make it a little bit easier to work from home.
Of course, you need to find out for yourself if these tools are working for you or not. Let me know how you feel about the home office isolation and what you do to overcome it.