Four reasons why coworking can be beneficial for your mental health
Sherrie Hatfield has 30 years’ experience working in the emotional health space and is the Founder and Director of Causism Institute. She is based at COHORT Innovation Space at Lumina and sat down with us for Queensland Mental Health Week to share her personal experience with mental health and how she balances her mental wellbeing while managing her own businesses.
This year, Queensland Mental Health Week is arguably more important than ever. While it’s too soon to know the true mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australians, a survey of 5,070 Australians has found that 78 per cent of respondents reported that their mental health had worsened since the pandemic began (1).
Like many, I have a personal experience with mental health. An experience that had me on anti-depressants and made me feel like I had failed my children, family, friends and colleagues. However, as my Doctor told me all those years ago, “you’re not a failure, you’ve just tried to do too much”.
There are so many external factors that weigh on our internal emotions and cause a negative emotional response – forming the way in which we perceive ourselves. We can all relate to feeling stressed within our workplace, which can have a huge impact on our mental wellbeing. Our work provides a sense of purpose, fulfilment, financial support and gives us a sense of contribution to our community. However, toxic environments and unrealistic demands result in internal and external barriers that can be a hindrance to our mental wellbeing.
It’s therefore crucial that we build an environment around us that is socially and emotionally supportive. This is particularly important for small business owners and entrepreneurs, who are often under immense pressure and working around the clock to get their idea off the ground.
For those with a smaller team, coworking spaces are a great way to boost productivity, build your business, network with supportive and like-minded people, and separate work life from home life; all really important factors in ensuring we are practicing good mental health habits.
As someone who has experienced working in the traditional office, from home and in a coworking space at different periods in my life, I am a complete advocate for the coworking space. In fact, I currently run my business, Causism Institute, out of COHORT Innovation Space within Lumina on the Gold Coast.
I’ve pulled together the top four reasons why a coworking space is better for your emotional and mental wellbeing than working from home.
1. A common goal
Coworking spaces attract entrepreneurs and small business owners that are creating something from the ground up. This creates a destination of like-minded people who have a common goal: business growth. Surrounding yourself with people with this similar mindset is a driver for optimism and excitement, making it feel like you’re part of something bigger.
You get this realisation that with any hardships you face, there is someone else in your circle who has been through that, which can give you as little as reassurance, or as much as a helping hand to guide you through that situation.
My favourite thing about coworking spaces, particularly at COHORT, is that others are always celebrating your wins with you, and you’re always celebrating theirs. It may be just you in your business, but you have this extended network of ‘colleagues’ to keep the mood high and support you.
2. Separating roles
With so many of us having experienced the working-from-home routine in recent months, you would know how hard it is to properly switch off when your workplace is your home and your home is your workplace. Having somewhere to go and a routine to follow daily is so important for our mental wellbeing. Being able to separate work from your home life is so crucial in ensuring you are fully present when at work, and fully present when at home. This allows you to value your personal time, and not feel distracted or drawn to the home office while you’re home with you’re loved ones.
Being able to recognise your different roles – as a spouse, parent, business owner, colleague, staff-member, son, daughter or friend – is a hugely important step in knowing that you are not your work. The outcome of your work is not a reflection of you or a reflection of your other roles as a friend or family member. So, amidst the good days, when problems arise and you have a bad day at work, there is a clear mental divide between your role at work and your role at home.
3. Social interaction
It’s no surprise that social interaction supports good mental health, while social isolation and poor relationships can be risk factors for mental health conditions. Our social needs change over the course of our lives, however they consistently foster a sense of meaning and person in both our personal and professional lives.
Coworking spaces build a tribe around you – and a helpful tribe at that. For example, I’ve made connections at COHORT with accountants, lawyers and web designers; all very handy people to know! If something goes wrong, you will usually have a support network around you who can help fix it.
As with all social circles, you can involve yourself as much or as little as you like, but you always have the comfort of know there are people around to discuss anything and everything.
4. Designed for productivity
A lot of thought goes into the early phase planning and creation of a coworking space, right down to the details of the colour palette, where the amenities are located within the space and the volume of the background music.
COHORT, for example, has been thoughtfully designed around a central hub – the kitchen, which really is the heart of the place. Welcoming and modern colour palettes put you in a good mood but encourages focus, and natural light and greenery keeps you stimulated yet at ease. End of trip facilities also promote active transport, which is proven to support good mental wellbeing.
I strongly believe that an environment affects a person and the person affects the environment. If we are comfortable in our environment this has a hugely positive impact on our emotional wellbeing and our performance across our different life roles.
While the coworking model supports productivity and positive culture, it is people that create this model and feeling at the end of the day. It’s all about having a support network, and someone who is cheering you on and can support you when you fall down. Without this network, we’re more likely to being overcome with negative emotions.
 Acute mental health responses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0236562