This post was written for playlouder by Jacob Klein. Jacob is a freelance writer and blog contributor based out of New York. His work primarily concerns business, finance, and startup culture.
Please note that contributing post opinions and expertise are of the author. They are not always in strict alignment with my own opinions. – Joe
One significant challenge people face in modern businesses is how to establish a work-life balance suitable to overall wellness. Things seem to get more competitive with each passing year, leaving many people in a situation in which their work lives overtake their personal time.
And while this may sound like a vague complaint, it's one that's important to take seriously, because the negative effects are very real. In fact, a recent Harvard study indicated that workplace stress may account for 120,000 deaths or more annually, and costs up to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending.
Now, bettering your work-life balance doesn't entirely do away with the stress factors behind those numbers – but it can certainly make for a good start. With regard to this issue, some see private business ownership or entrepreneurism as antidotes to poor work-life balance and excessive workplace demands.
However, the truth is that independent business owners often wind up in the same place: working long hours to stay productive, and finding their personal time and priorities consumed by work. It’s for these reasons that it’s important for today’s entrepreneurs and small business leaders to find ways to separate work from their personal lives.
We’ve touched on the financial side of this effort before here at Play Louder by pointing to business credit cards that won’t affect personal credit, and it’s certainly true that finances are an important part of this conversation; one of the quickest and most damaging ways to allow work to overtake one’s personal life is to let the financials get intertwined.
Here, though, we’re focusing a little bit more on lifestyle, and specifically some of the ways in which a coworking space can help you to keep your business and personal life separate.
Fostering Live Interaction
People in businesses of all kinds today are getting used to the idea of communicating with one another exclusively through digital means. And this isn’t just a function of the “digital age” in general, but rather the result of fairly dramatic improvement in business-oriented online communications systems.
As an example, the popular software Slack presents ways to keep conversations organized and provides an alternative to email, all within a single service. A tool like this can keep a whole company’s worth of people tapped into the conversations they need to be aware of.
Unfortunately, programs like Slack (or Zoom, GoToMeeting, etc.) also break down communication boundaries. When the primary method of interaction between leaders and employees (or simply coworkers) is a digital software, one can check for messages at any time, and feel pressured to respond at all hours.
In theory, a coworking space can help to do away with issues like this by bringing the live, interpersonal focus back to workplace communications. If you organize your business to operate largely through a coworking space, in other words, there can be face-to-face interactions during work hours – with the expectation being that those interactions stop at a certain hour, until the next morning. This can allow you (and anyone working for you) a more distinct line between work and personal hours.
Beyond establishing that sort of distinction, there's also an added bonus regarding wellness, which is that working with other people is known to have various benefits. Studies have indicated specific benefits of positive social interaction at work including better wellbeing, increased productivity, and greater satisfaction.
One of the main benefits a coworking space can provide, not just over a work-from-home lifestyle but even over a conventional office, is that you and your employees will be aware that you’re renting time. Granted, over the course of a long-term arrangement, it will begin to feel more like you simply have your own office space.
But when you’re renting an area specifically to get work done and advance your business practices there, you’ll be more likely to use your hours on site to be productive. It follows naturally that if this is the case, and your hours in a coworking space are well spent, you’ll feel better able to leave work at work, so to speak, and use your personal time how you want or need to.
By contrast, when working at home, there is no real incentive to be particularly productive during specific hours, unless you’re on a deadline for one project or another. Thus, you can wind up stretching out your days and cutting into your personal time.
Establishing Physical Boundaries
Clearly, the most logical benefit of a coworking space specifically regarding the issue of separating your business from your personal life is that it creates a literal, physical separation. It’s thanks to these spaces that you don’t necessarily need to purchase an office or belong to a larger company to be able to “go to work” so to speak, such that business has its place and everything else is your own.
Furthermore, even within a coworking space the physical layout can be conducive to productivity. While such venues tend to present images of open, collaborative environments, the coworking space provider Industrious specifically points to the benefits of various solutions and office spaces to suit specific business needs.
For instance, one can choose to work in a private office, a canvas suite (complete with both private offices and common areas), or simply gain access to community space. Choices like these tend to add a customizable feel to coworking spaces, and enable you to not just “go to work” in the sense that you’re getting out of the house, but to do your business in an area you choose specifically for that purpose. You may be surprised how much this enables to you to keep work and personal time appropriately separated.
Providing Amenities On Site
One issue that often winds up costing people a lot of time while working from home – and thus forcing them to make up that time later, when they should be off the clock – is that the need for a given luxury or amenity can provide a justifiable distraction.
For instance, if you’re conducting business from home you can tell yourself you need to go out for a coffee or to pick up lunch, and before you know it you’ll have taken an hour off. Similarly, maybe you’ll need some supplies and you’ll see a trip to a nearby store turn into a more significant interruption of the workday.
Distractions and delays like these are normal and common, and they’re not always bad. Quick breaks, in fact, have been shown in study after study to increase overall productivity. Then again, that’s just what a coworking space provides.
With amenities, small luxuries, and supplies typically on site (anything from printer rooms to full coffee bars), it’s easy to take care of your needs by way of a helpful 10- or 15-minute break, rather than a lengthier delay. This, too, can help you and your employees to maximize work hours so that they don’t bleed into personal time.
This sort of wellness-oriented effort is important for leaders in business to keep in mind. Our modern working environment, by and large, makes it easy for people to fall into habits detrimental not only to their health and happiness, but ultimately to their work performance as well.
A coworking space may or may not be the specific solution for you as a business leader; it depends on the circumstances. But for the reasons above, it can be worth considering as a means of establishing a healthier business.