Loneliness is a huge problem.
Despite our tech-connected world, people are alone and hungry for authentic connection. The problem is so serious and widespread that the U.K. recently created a new position, a Minister of Loneliness, to address it. As CityLab reports:
On Wednesday, the U.K. made political history by creating an entirely new, untried political role: the world’s first “minister for loneliness.” The post is designed to combat what Prime Minister Theresa May called “the sad reality of modern life” for many people.
With the news still fresh, it’s too soon to detail exactly what policy proposals will be made by new Loneliness Minister Tracey Crouch, who will also continue in her current role as sports minister. But the idea has clearly sparked the public imagination, leading many to speculate as to why the post is necessary and what the new minister could actually do to improve the situation of lonely British people.
While I’m happy to see a government acknowledging the loneliness problem and working to do something about it, it’s upsetting that even though we’re surrounded by humans and we’re more connected than ever, a growing number of us feel alone.
Coworking as a Solution to the Loneliness Epidemic
Coworking is proving to be a solution to what’s been dubbed a “loneliness epidemic.” An impressive 83% of respondents to a coworking member survey report that they are less lonely since joining a coworking community.
Savvy coworking space operators understand that the benefits of coworking go far beyond a desk, wifi and fabulous interior design. As Steve King from Emergent Research told me a few weeks ago, the value proposition for coworking is changing to focus on reducing loneliness. Here’s a snippet of our conversation:
Steve King: Most independent workers know they’re lonely but they don’t know what the solution is. It’s part of wellness, which has become more popular in general, but people have a hard time linking wellness to coworking. I think people will be able to better link being less lonely in a social environment like coworking space. That’s going to become a big part of the value proposition. It always has been, but it will become a more overt part of the value proposition and drive some of the growth.
Cat Johnson: There’s a lot of focus right now on coworking and shared workspaces as increasing wellness in our lives.
SK: I find overall wellness a tougher value proposition for a coworking space than reducing loneliness. Reducing loneliness is an easier value proposition because it’s so obvious. Walk in the door and you’ll know that you’re not working alone anymore. It’s hard to walk in the door and think you’re going to be necessarily healthier for it—even though you probably will be.
Coworking, when done well, brings people together, it promotes and builds community, and it gives people a sense of belonging. I experience a powerful sense of belonging, mutual support, collective encouragement, purpose and community in my home coworking space. There is something about this model/movement/industry — and it’s something that goes far beyond giving people a place to sit and access the internet.
Leveraging Coworking to Solve the Loneliness Epidemic
How can we further leverage coworking to address this loneliness epidemic? How can we continue to reach out to people, make our spaces accessible to our extended local communities, educate people about coworking and grow this movement in ways that support and nurture healthy humans and communities—not just healthy businesses?
Maybe the U.K.’s new Minister of Loneliness has some ideas of how local coworking spaces can partner with governments to help.
As unfortunate as it is that loneliness has hit such a pitch in our world that it has to be formally addressed by government, props to the U.K. for acknowledging the issue and working to resolve it. We’ll be watching to see how it goes and how the global coworking community can get involved.
Coworking space operators: Get industry insights, resources and content tips sent to you every Thursday. Subscribe to the Coworking Out Loud Newsletter.
Unlock the Power of Community: 8 Tips for Coworking Space Operators from the World Economic Forum
The Evolution of the Shared Workspace Industry (and Where We’re Going Next)
The Coworking Video that’s Making Everyone Cry