The last few weeks have been interesting at Othership as we transitioned to virtual coworking and our online workspace. We share the story of how we went from a free workspace provider to also be the UK’s first virtual coworking start-up.

How did it start?

Necessity can so often be the biggest driver of innovation, and COVID-19 was no different. With the UK going to lockdown and forcing the temporary closure of our workspaces and cancellation of our events. However, this left a dilemma! Do we just shut up shop for an indefinite time period, or find a way to stay relevant. As a business built off trying to do the very best for its community we decided on the latter.

What did we do?

The first step for us was to look at events. These naturally could be hosted online, with the most challenging feeling like it would be our networking events. So we started off reviewing the best video conferencing and screen share apps, and like many others came to the conclusion Zoom was for us.

Next, we launched a Zoom call and ran it for several hours working out the basic settings. The breakout room feature made us feel we might even be able to run an online workspace and do some virtual coworking. Being brave, and pretty naive, we got a newsletter ready announcing the new virtual workspace. We informed people we would be open in 3 days at 10:00 am. Almost instantly we had 25 people join trying to work out what was going.

We realised after that there was at least some level of inquisition within people that made them want to know more, if not cowork with others online. We also concluded that having an intermediary step of a waiting room before people just jump in could be a clever idea – and so the iterations began.

Where are we now?

After 6 weeks of running a virtual coworking space we are on page 1 of Google, have had several hundred people join, with many returning. The online workspace is being run with more structure, where you can join networking events in Zoom on Monday morning, evening events and workshops, and we run focused coworking sessions called pomodoros through the day that can be accessed via our active private Slack group (sorry members only!).

What is a pomodoro?

Francesco Cirillo developed the Pomodoro Technique, or Tomato Timer,  a time management method in the late 1980s. The method breaks down work into intervals, often 25 mins, which you time. You then take a short break between intervals, commonly 5 minutes. The tomato timer used by Cirillo as a university student lent its name pomodoro to the technique, which is the Italian for ‘tomato’.

There are six steps in the original technique according to Wikipedia (see extract below).

  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
  3. Work on the task.
  4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.

What other options are there?

Well, funny you should ask. Before we started the next round of improvements we had a keen look at what’s out there. You can read our summary on virtual coworking here.

Come and join us

To see what it’s all about join for free and head to our online workspace in Slack and either myself, Arnaud or Laura will be there to greet you with a smile. We can then introduce you to others or feed you into the next pomodoro depending on what you need at that time.

Join for free

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