Many remote workers find themselves struggling to stay productive while being on their own.
Many have turned to apps that facilitate such calls, with strangers nonetheless and often on a one-off basis, the BBC reports, with several seeing rapid user growth during the pandemic.
Think of it as a co-working place, only virtually. Rent is replaced by subscription fees, and you pay the electricity and internet connection. What you get in return are people and activities that keep you focused and motivated.
One of these is Focusmate which connects individuals (you pick the gender) who work ‘alongside each other’, with the idea being that you keep each other on track and get to chat with someone new.
Focusmate links home workers to others around the globe. You have just one minute to say hello to the other person before you then both sit in silence and do your work for 50 minutes or so. When that time is up, you can have another quick chat before the call ends.
For a subscription fee, Focusmate will pick someone at random for you, or you can choose a person you already know by sending him or her a link.
Focusmate is actually free for 3 sessions (50 minutes each) every week. For unlimited sessions, one can upgrade at a $5 per month fee.
Focusmate saw user numbers soar more than 5-fold in 2020, with the monthly number of sessions hitting a peak of 108,000.
Focusmate is looking at giving users other choices in the future, such as age parameters, or specific countries.
Users faced with annoying or rude co-workers can leave instantly in one click if needed, and can also block them.
Caveday is different in that instead of connecting workers on a one-to-one basis, it joins them in groups of 20 or so people.
In its video sessions or “caves”, fee-paying users balance periods of individual work with communal break activities, such as games, pottery, roasting a chicken or breathing and stretching exercises that are led by a trained Caveday guide.
For $40 a month, Caveday offers “work sprints” of up to 52 minutes, with guided breaks in between involving stretching, breathing exercises, and inspirational chats.
It gives users a community, helping improve focus and discipline.
Caveday started in 2017 and says it now has nine times as many users as it had at the start of the pandemic, and they are spread across 25 countries and are generally aged between their late 20s and early 40s.
Work Buddies Online
Work Buddies Online asks people if they are working or studying at home or at a co-working space or if they are running their own business or work as a remote freelancer, contractor or employee.
“Do you often feel…that you miss the feeling of having other people around you? Do you feel frequently distracted, unproductive, and that you are wasting time? That you miss the collaboration with others to share ideas and give feedback?” it asks before asking to join a tribe with whom to collaborate and create synergy, for free.
Work Buddies Online claims to be an online community of entrepreneurs and professionals who work in their own spaces, co-work regularly via video to connect and focus, and at the right times, also enjoy helping each other on projects, and have some fun.
Ultraworking is another company offering virtual co-working spaces.
Having others able to see you through the camera is meant to recreate the discipline of a traditional workplace.
Being aware that people could be watching you, you’re less likely to turn on the television, have a nap, or play with your dogs.
“People seem more willing to let themselves down than to let other people down,” Sebastian Marshall, CEO of Ultraworking, tells CNN.
He compares it to going to the gym: “You say you’ll go to the gym, and then you don’t. But if you’ve got a gym buddy or a personal trainer, you’re not going to blow them off.”
Ultraworking consists of two-hour sessions, made up of three 30-minute cycles and 10-minute breaks. It’s inspired by the popular Pomodoro Technique, a time-management method where work is broken down into 25-minute sessions separated by short breaks.
“You can get Work Cycles anytime you need for just $49/month billed quarterly,” the company said.
Ultraworking users are able to track their productivity day to day, by recording their goals and accomplishments on a dashboard.