Trying out something new — Virtual Co-working

1. It’s Kakenhi season.

For many researchers in Japan, this means writing out their best research plans, hoping to get some much desired funding from JSPS. For me, it means painful weeks when I fight every procrastinating fiber on my body to extract those 5-6 pages explaining why my project is worthy to a trio of faceless, voiceless grant reviewers. This year it was particularly painful because of COVID — my daily routine for a long time has been to work by myself in my office. This works great when I’m doing something that let’s me fall into the zone. But it is much difficult for me to avoid procrastinating when there is no one else working near me.

2. So, I tried something new.

The other day, Florian, another research in Japan, was lamenting on Twitter about having to write his own Kakenhi. So I asked him if he wouldn’t want to try “Virtual Co-Working” with me. My idea was for the two of us to get on a video call, and write our grant proposals at the same time. We would check out on each other quickly every 30 minutes or so, but other than that, we wouldn’t talk to each other, just keep working on our texts while while having each other on camera, working as well.

Two nerds co-working in a video call

It may sound like a silly idea for some, but for the two of us it really worked to get us focusing for a solid 3-hour block. So much that we did it again later that week. For us, seeing someone else work at the same time was a strong motivator to reduce distraction.

3. A virtual Laboratory?

Since our little experiment worked so well, I decided to try and expand it a little bit more. It would be a little complicated to arrange virtual co-working meetings with other people all the time, but what if we set up a semi-public space where people wanting to co-work could just come and sit down?

Screenshot of Gather.Town. My character is sitting on a virtual office.

Gather Town seemed perfect for this, so I set up a small “office” space there. Right now the space is just a default template, with a few pair working tables. But if this work, I might customize the area a little bit more next weekend.

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