Virtual coworking 101: Focusmate vs FLOWN vs Flow Club vs Caveday
By Eleanor Hope-Jones
Jun 08, 2023
In our world of remote, hybrid and flexible work the rise of virtual coworking and online deep work sessions has taken the internet by storm. Online coworking sessions run by companies like Caveday, Flow Club, Focusemate and (of course) FLOWN are becoming the norm for huge swathes of the population who want to avoid procrastination by prioritizing dedicated focus sessions.
As there are such a plethora of ways to try virtual coworking, we’ve taken a look at four of the internet's most popular offerings to compare and contrast their unique features.
Keep reading to find the virtual coworking space of your dreams.
What is virtual coworking?
Virtual coworking relies on individuals in separate physical spaces sharing the same digital space so they can focus on their deep work session in the presence of others. In particular, it can be used to improve motivation, focus and productivity through techniques like body doubling and shared accountability.
The concept of virtual coworking gained prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic when remote work became the norm for many. As remote workers sought ways to connect with others in a professional setting and combat feelings of isolation, virtual coworking emerged as a solution. This phenomenon has enabled remote workers to enjoy the benefits of a traditional office environment while maintaining the flexibility and freedom that comes with remote work.
What is the difference between coworking and virtual coworking?
Physical coworking spaces are often more conducive to networking and building professional relationships, while virtual coworking spaces are more focused on providing support to help workers get certain tasks done and be productive with their time.
In fact, that’s one of the benefits of virtual coworking: it enhances your productivity rather than detracts from it as a traditional, open-plan office environment can. With virtual coworking individuals can work from any location with an internet connection, allowing for greater work-life balance and reduced commuting time.
But virtual coworking also has its drawbacks. It’s no replacement for the socializing and team building that happens when working in person. Additionally, a virtual coworking solution needs to help you overcome the myriad of at-home distractions you’ll be up against, and be as easy as possible to use so you don’t find yourself feeling blocked by tech issues.
How to choose the best virtual coworking platform
Every person will have different wants, needs and priorities, so we’re ranking each company based on five categories:
The quality of the flow experience
The cost of each platform
How easy they are to use
The community element they provide
How they can aid in personal development
Let's dive into the depths of four of the internet's most loved online coworking platforms, and uncover their secret techniques for facilitating deep work and flow.
FLOWN: The ultimate virtual coworking space for deep work and personal growth
I’ve used FLOWN for a long time, so maybe I’m a tiny bit biased. But I can’t understate the boost in productivity their mischievous yet scientific approach to deep work has on me. The flow experience has changed my entire relationship with work and chronic procrastination, utilizing in-house coaches to facilitate virtual coworking sessions (called Flocks) optimized for maximum focus.
Quality of flow
My personal favorite is the deep dive format, two facilitated 50-minute deep work sessions with intention setting at the beginning, a recharge break and contemplative reflection at the end. As a freelance writer I have a lot of deep work to do, and deep dives help me structure my day, and understand how much time I’m putting into a piece of work.
If you can't make a specific deep dive start time, the join anytime drop-in sessions where you can write your intentions in the chat and cheer on your fellow Flockers creates a calming, library-like environment that you can access anytime.
Don't know what a Flock is?
Flocks are online focus sessions designed to free you from distraction and take the willpower out of productivity.
Try a Flock for free today, and see how much you can tick off your to-do list!
Cost of platform
In terms of cost, Flown comes in on average at £20 a month, or a bit cheaper if you pay for it annually, or even cheaper if you go for the lifetime option. Additionally, Flown offers a 30-day free trial without requiring you to enter your credit card details – something I appreciate as a person who always forgets to cancel free trials. Fridays are also always free to use FLOWN’s deep work sessions, referred to as Flocks, so even after your trial you’ll always be able to jump on a Friday Flock for free!
Ease of use
The Flown platform is incredibly easy to use and merge with your current WFH set-up. Their personalized calendar exists within the platform and integrates with your own iCal or Google calendar. You can set it up so recurring sessions appear in advance on your calendar, making it easy to log into your Monday morning take-off or Wednesday afternoon deep dive.
The community element is impressive, with fellow virtual coworkers you steadily begin to recognise that creates a warm, neighbourly and supportive atmosphere across the platform. I love how badges let you know how many Flocks someone has done and whether they’re a newbie or an oldtimer, and the facilitated online community group allows you to further connect with members and coaches outside of sessions. I love the seasonal challenges and reminders to take part in activities like live breathwork sessions, creativity sessions, or planning your big dreams together.
Personal development is a focus at Flown, there are a tonne of supplementary activities like live breathwork sessions, live awe walks, and specialist workshops. On-demand content is also available, allowing for further learning on topics like procrastination, breathwork and deep work.
Along with all this, members gain access to an assortment of downloadable productivity planners, tools, resources and how-to videos. Each chocked with useful tips and insights to help you level up your work, progress toward weekly, monthly or yearly aims, and your achieve goals.
One-to-one productivity coaching is also available to help you build toward special projects, develop new habits, or manage any barriers that may be holding you back in your work. And FLOWN also offers expertly led accountability groups where you can work toward specific goals alongside others in a similar boat e.g. groups for writers, academics, entrepreneurs etc.
On the whole, FLOWN is a pretty darn impressive platform that excelled in all five ranking factors.
Focus mate: Your no-frills one-to-one productivity partner
Focusmate connects two people who have both booked in to focus at the same time, so they can have a one-on-one productivity power session.
When it comes to the flow experience on Focusmate, the process is straightforward and user-friendly. You can easily book a session for 25, 50, or 75 minutes, and specify what you want to focus on during that time. The platform then pairs you with a partner who is also looking to focus during the same time slot, and you both share your intentions for the session.
I will say the 1-1 element is a bit intense, and can make the initial moments of the session feel a little awkward. But the biggest challenge is that without the back up of working alongside a large group the ever-present risk of a no-show can easily disrupt your workday and scupper attempts to get into flow.
Ease of use
In terms of ease of use, the Focusmate platform is pleasingly simple and straightforward. While the initial calendar view can feel a bit overwhelming, it isn't too difficult to navigate and find what you're looking for. You can also browse and join sessions that have already been scheduled by other users, schedule a new session and wait for a partner to sign up for it as well, and toggle the dashboard to see your upcoming and past sessions.
Cost of platform
One of the standout features of Focusmate is the cost: although there isn't the assortment of sessions and resources that you get with FLOWN, access is free for up to three sessions per week, and, like FLOWN, you don't need to provide any credit card information to sign up. If you need more sessions, you can upgrade to Focusmate Plus for unlimited sessions at a cost of $6.99 a month (billed yearly) or $9.99 a month (billed monthly).
While Focusmate doesn't offer a robust community element in the way that some other virtual coworking platforms do, it does allow you to build specific relationships with other users over time. As you work with the same people repeatedly, you can favorite them, create locked-in sessions with your favorites and develop a long-time working rapport with these individuals.
Beyond its blog, Focusmate doesn't appear to provide personal development resources, so it’s best for those who are looking for a no-frills virtual coworking platform to stay focused and accountable, and nothing else.
Flow Club: Member-led virtual coworking for deep work productivity
Flow Club’s member-led virtual co-working sessions mean every flow feels different, and the onboarding to get there was easy to use and helped me understand the platform quickly.
The flow club sessions are uniquely designed by the hosts and vary in length from 30 to 190 minutes, with a clear description of how they intend to run the session below. The hosts are other members, and the style of the flow varies depending on who you work with. Some clubs are chat-only, where you can share your intentions in the chat rather than having to speak out loud on the video.
Although the variety is nice, not being able to access a consistent and expertly facilitated session like you can with some other platforms was a drawback. And made things feel more like a streaming platform than a purpose-built tool and community for modern workers.
Ease of use
I found the website slightly confusing to navigate at times, and it was difficult to find my way back to the onboarding checklist. Additionally, there was no way to automate booking multiple sessions in advance, which I found inconvenient. If you follow a specific host, you can book their sessions regularly, but, disappointingly, planning out a schedule for yourself simply wasn't an option.
Cost of platform
The cost of the platform is a bit expensive compared to other flow sites, but there is a 7-day free trial, and you can choose a plan that is either a monthly cost of $40 or $33.33 per month when billed annually.
The community element provided by Flow Club is its best quality, and I appreciated the detailed descriptions of the hosts. The platform fosters a sense of accountability, and I can imagine regularly joining a specific club and getting to know my group could help me tackle a particular project.
In terms of personal development, the blog on the platform has some interesting pieces and specific guidance for how you could use Flow Club. For example, there is a morning routine club, and if you are in-house, you can set up Flow Club for your company using their slack integration to suggest coworking clubs with your team. But the resources simply weren't as comprehensive and deep as those offered by other platforms. Overall, I found Flow Club to be a good tool for productivity, building my focus bubble and getting things done!
Caveday: Separate your in-cave work time from the rest of your day
Caveday offers facilitator-run deep work sessions, referred to as being inside the cave, as well as a host of member events and personal development courses.
Caveday flows last between one and three hours and are led by a facilitator over Zoom who guides you through one to three hour-long sprints of deep work. One aspect that really stood out to me was the physical artifacts and rituals provided to enhance the experience.
The inside/outside the cave coin is a tangible reminder of the transition into deep work mode, while the signal-blocking phone case is a practical tool to minimize distractions. I also appreciated the physical ritual of rubbing hands together and clapping before entering the cave and starting my session - it helped me mentally prepare and get into the zone. These small touches added a lot to the overall atmosphere of the platform and helped me find my flow.
If a specific session isn’t running, you can try out a solo-cave deep work session, but it wasn’t as effective as a live deep work session with others.
Ease of Use
I found the platform to have some technical issues with the website navigation, such as a sad grey-faced man error message popping up stopping me in my tracks. I couldn't tell if this was due to my internet connection or Caveday's website, but it was not a problem I encountered on any other platforms that day.
However, booking a cave through the member's dashboard was straightforward, with options to select specific caves with a certain number of sprints. While the caves are not scheduled every hour on the hour, they are pretty regular, with bonus caves regularly added. I loved the idea of planning my week in a specific weekly planning cave that was scheduled every Monday as well.
Cost of platform
In terms of cost, Caveday is toward the steeper end of the market at $39 per month, with discounted rates of $35 per month when paid quarterly or $30 per month when paid annually. There is a free trial available, but I had to input credit or debit card details to try it. This added a bit of an extra stress of whether I’ll remember to cancel the trial if I don’t go forward with Caveday, and was not a barrier I encountered on the other platforms. Although I liked the platform, I found the sessions and resources available with FLOWN to be as good or better, yet for less than half the price.
The community aspect of Caveday is great, with cavers able to engage with a Slack-like forum to introduce themselves to each other. Regular challenges like the Cave Squad Accountability Challenge provide financial rewards or punishments for not completing goals, which made me think Cavers are pretty work-hard play-hard people. I also liked the look of some half-hour facilitated cave-dweller meet-ups: just long enough to get to know your virtual co-workers without getting Zoom social fatigue.
In terms of personal development, there were some great planning templates, included within the membership, for weekly, monthly, and yearly use, as well as specific caves allotted to filling them out. Monthly deep dive podcasts with experts in their field and on-demand content in planning, focus, inspiration, and onboarding are also available.
And Caveday also offers extra courses for an additional cost. For example, their 7 core skills of knowledge work for an additional $300 for members ($450 for non-members), but it seemed like a lot of money to pay for a course in addition to the already hefty membership fee.
Overall I found Caveday created a real sense of “now is the time to get work done” through monotasking inside the cave and deliberate planning, as well as learning more about productivity through academic learning. But perhaps isn't the best value or most comprehensive platform available.
Are there any virtual coworking spaces free of charge?
FLOWN: Flown offers a 30-day free trial period for their virtual coworking platform, which includes daily group co-working sessions, virtual workshops, and access to a community of remote workers. As well as the trial, FLOWN is open to anyone on a Friday, so you can access Flocks for free forever.
Focusmate allows you to take part in three one-to-one focus sessions per week for as long as you like, but you’ll have to pay to use it more regularly. Caveday also offers a month free trial period, although users are required to input their credit or debit card details to try it. Flow Club offers a 7-day free trial period for their virtual coworking platform, which you can take part in without having to enter your credit card details.
Try FLOWN for free today
Whilst I enjoyed Caveday’s separation of being inside and outside the cave, and liked the idea of connecting with the same group over time with Flow Club or building one-to-one relationships with Focusmate, the community aspect of Flown is so supportive and welcoming I can’t help coming back again and again.
FLOWN Flocks are effective for keeping me focused, and I love the overall ethos of balancing work, mindfulness and wonderment to keep me in a consistently productive state of mind.