Would you pay $40 a month to have strangers watch you work?


Research, she said, shows that remote workers, in general, value autonomy and independence, and their productivity is affected when they feel watched by managers. But, she says, when other people are working around you, like in a coffee shop, “it signals work and is a marker of work.” Physical coworking spaces have also attracted more people in recent months.

At the start of a Caveday session, a facilitator places people in smaller breakout rooms to set their intentions. In a recent cave, the Zoom chat host also shared a link to a list of three-word quotes – including “trust the process” and “branding is key” – and invited everyone to share the one that resonated the most. People also updated their Zoom screens with their name, location, and the task they were there to complete.

Although virtual coworking fans often cite productivity as a benefit, the term isn’t universally embraced. (Mr Redleaf, of Caveday, said “we’re not productivity brothers, we want to have a better relationship at work.”)

Cal Newport, who helped popularize practices such as deep work and focused work blocks, wrote last year: “A growing part of my audience was clearly fed up with ‘productivity,’ and they don’t are not the only ones.” Mr. Redleaf called productivity “the P-word” and compared Caveday to SoulCycle, which combines elements of wellness with physical fitness. Ricky Yean, the managing director of Flow Club, called his company “essentially Peloton for co-working”. A recent Flow Club email noted that Benjamin Franklin was a time blocking pioneer, before Cal Newport made it popular and Flow Club made it easier.

As in a real office environment, users of these platforms may begin to recognize regulars, and some may begin to develop relationships, both personal and professional.

Anthony Ronda, 30, a software engineer in Hillsdale, NJ, who is starting a virtual tabletop gaming business, joins several Focusmate sessions a day and has found value in reporting to another person while he works. He also experienced a more personal benefit: he met his boyfriend on Focusmate earlier this year. The two plan to meet in person for the first time later this month.

Mr. Ronda said they kept being on the other side of the camera as they logged into sessions at the same time; soon they began to schedule hours to work together and exchanged Signal phone numbers. “Obviously it’s not a dating platform,” he said of Focusmate. “That’s how it happened.” He doesn’t plan to return to an office anytime soon.


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