Ask members of any coworking space why they joined and they’ll likely say they didn’t want to work alone.
Fast wifi is great, comfortable chairs and on-demand coffee and tea are nice, but these things are not what makes a coworking space great. Human interaction—being surrounded by a supportive community of people who may be a lot like you, or wildly different from you—makes a coworking space thrive.
We need each other to feel happy and engaged, and coworking gives us that. A coworking member survey found that 89% of respondents are happier since they started coworking. The survey also found that 83% of people reported being less lonely since joining a space.
Here’s where things get medically interesting. In addition to being happier and less lonely, coworking may also be making us healthier. An increasing number of studies are finding that loneliness has a profoundly negative effect on our well-being. University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo told Vox, “The level of toxicity from loneliness is stunning.”
A 2007 study found that the white blood cells of people suffering with loneliness appeared to be “stuck in a state of fear,” with chronic, systemic inflammation and suppressed activity in genes involved in fighting viruses.
This response to loneliness is similar to the physiological response to other chronic stress situations, including post-traumatic stress. Loneliness is also a huge stressor on the heart. As Vox reports:
“Loneliness is associated with higher blood pressure and heart disease — it literally breaks our hearts. A 2015 meta-review of 70 studies showed that loneliness increases the risk of your chance of dying by 26 percent. (Compare that to depression and anxiety, which is associated with a comparable 21 percent increase in mortality.)”
So coworking may, in fact, be making us healthier—or at least preventing us from getting sick from loneliness. Coworking doesn’t eliminate stress from our work or our lives, but it acts as a grounding device that keeps us connected to the world around us, our community, and our place in it.
If you’re already coworking, take a look around and be grateful for the community of people working around you. If you’re not coworking, swing by your neighborhood space for a tour. It might be the healthiest thing you do for yourself this year.