As a freelance journalist, copywriter and consultant, I work primarily from home. Contrary to popular belief, this rarely means working in my pyjamas in bed. Instead, I tend to work from the little desk in my room, the kitchen table or at various coffee shops both in my local area or in central London, where I often have meetings.
While this set-up tends to work for me, spending too much time alone at home can send me crazy (yes, I have been known to talk to houseplants), and the unreliability of Wi-Fi, coupled with the expense of using coffee shops, can be problematic.
This is how I ended up signing up for a week of co-working at Work.Life in Bermondsey. Would the new scenery inspire me? Could the working culture make me more productive? Does surrounding yourself with other freelancers improve your day? Here’s how I got on.
Rather inconveniently, I have a training session for a new project I’m working on this afternoon in West London. This would normally mean spending the morning at home faffing but my guilt kicks in and tells me to make the most of the co-working space. Damp January quickly turned into wet January this weekend (aka I am very hungover) and when my alarm goes off at 7.30am I have flashbacks to those dreaded Monday mornings working in an office when getting out of bed felt like my own mini Everest.
I live roughly two miles away from the co-working space and had grand plans to walk in to save money, get my steps up and crack on with my audiobook. I choose an extra half an hour in bed and end up taking the bus. Battling with the hoards of commuters is not the zen start to the day I envisaged. I’m also £1.50 poorer.
After my quick induction tour, I’m impressed by the space. There’s plenty of seating areas (both communal and private), an abundance of plugs, hi-speed wi-fi as well as the inevitable velvet sofas and foliage. On Monday mornings they offer a complimentary breakfast buffet and I naturally dive straight in with the bagels.
As I only have about four hours, I crack on, feeling motivated by the freebies and buzzy working atmosphere. I manage to complete one round of edits, a whole load of invoice related admin and a couple of pitches. Much more than I would have achieved at home.
I arrive around 10 am this morning after a detour to the post office. I am baffled how anyone with a ‘normal’ job ever fits in life admin (my unwashed laundry pile isn’t getting any smaller). Today’s a writing day, so I make my coffee and fill up my Swell bottle with the free mint infused water (did I mention I’m a millennial), and find a space to work.
Writing in this sort of working environment is definitely motivating and there are fewer distractions than a coffee shop (i.e. screaming babies/gossip to listen in on). I use the much-loved Pomodoro Method to get through the two features I need to file by tomorrow and take a proper lunch break to peruse the shops on Bermondsey high street and buy my lunch (something I never do working from home). Subsequently, the afternoon is productive and I finish both features.
I have a launch event in town first thing this morning, so don’t make it to the co-working space until about 11 am. It’s quickly become apparent that grabbing the good seats is akin to nabbing a sun lounger at the pool – the early bird really does catch the worm. The snug booths are all taken and I notice people sneakily reserve their spots by leaving their coat on the back of their chair. I find a bar stool where I can perch and get to work, albeit feeling a little miffed.
On the upside, there’s ‘Wellness Wednesday’ today which essentially equals free ‘healthy’ food. Not enough for lunch but a great accompaniment to the soup I’ve brought with me. Feeling the guilt of being so late in (even though I was at a work event), I plough on with work and have a pretty productive afternoon.
I need to take a bunch of photos at home for an upcoming feature, which I’ve blocked the morning off for. However, as often is the case, this takes much longer than anticipated. I don’t finish ‘til 3 pm and don’t actually make it to the co-working space at all. This results in me getting annoyed at myself, feeling like I’ve failed.
I can’t help but think of the money I’ve theoretically wasted. It works out to be about £13 a day for hot-desking at the co-working space and I immediately tot up a better use of that money.
This morning I have three meetings in town and make it to the co-working space by lunchtime. It’s much quieter today (people clearly bunking off on a Friday) and I bag a good spot.
Friday afternoons are often when my motivation is at an all-time low. But, being in an office environment helps me get ahead with my work for next week, which could easily be procrastinated until Monday. When I clock off at 5.30pm for the weekend I feel pleased with my Friday output.
Working in a co-working space definitely improved my productivity, in comparison to working at my desk at home or in a coffee shop.
The guilt of not working while you’re in a dedicated workspace is definitely a real thing. Also, the feeling of wasting time while I was there motivated me to get tasks done quicker.
In terms of socialising, it felt a little cliquey. Although the space offered networking opportunities, it’s definitely a long game and I would have to spend much more time there and invest in making connections and building a community to reap the benefits.
Furthermore, this week highlighted just how much time I spend out and about, and in order to really make the most of a co-working space (both financially and in terms of your work wellbeing), you need to commit to spending the majority of your time there.