Co-working companies that are changing the way they operate to attract new members and tenants include Convene, Workbar, Dayhouse Coworking, Indy Hall, and Cove. Three companies that are offering services in the co-working space that directly relate to the COVID-19 pandemic are First Line Software, Lunar Startups, and WELL. Three best practices for reopening co-working spaces following the COVID-19 crisis are prioritizing members’ health, revamping meeting room policies, and adding new plans and discounts.
- Since the COVID-19 crisis, the co-working company Convene has developed its “Covene 2.0” plan, which is a hybrid membership program that the company is calling a “third space experience.”
- Covene 2.0 has the goal of creating a “consistent experience across their client space and the growing at home work.”
- This new plan combines the “physical experience with a digital one” and becomes “phygital,” and allows Convene to better connect with its customers.
- According to Convene’s CEO, Ryan Simonetti, the “phygital” experience is “very much the direction that we’re going, which is decoupling Convene from physical space, and really leveraging our technology, our human services, our design capability to bring that to our client’s space and then to an at-home workforce, to support a growing remote and virtual workforce.”
- Part of Covene 2.0 allows clients to hold hybrid meetings, with a small group meeting in person and the remaining employees attending the meeting via a live stream.
- Using Covene’s meeting platform, employees will get an “improved user interface and experience with a dedicated service component intended to mimic the physical experience enhanced with Convene’s premium service and technology factors for a seamless online event.”
- Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Workbar, a co-working company that has nine locations in Boston, Massachusetts, made the decision to invest in suburban spaces to give members the ability to work from a space closer to their home rather than commute into the city.
- Post-COVID-19, Workbar is marketing its suburban locations to “attract companies with employees who might be less eager to commute into cities post-pandemic.”
- Workbar CEO Sarah Travers stated, “I think we will see a surge in demand of people who do not want to get on public transit and commute into the city, and people will flock toward suburban areas closer to their homes.”
- In addition to focusing its marketing efforts on its suburban locations, Workbar has also installed desk dividers and touchless thermal scanners, which use infrared technology to take a person’s temperature.
- Moreover, Workbar is re-introducing a density tracker on its subscriber website that was initially used a decade ago to help members determine how many members are at a location before making the decision to go in.
- Finally, Workbar’s daily community events, which were held in person prior to the pandemic, are now available virtually on its Workbar Live platform.
3. Dayhouse Coworking
- When the COVID-19 crisis hit Illinois in mid-March, Dayhouse Coworking moves all its community events online and they proved to be so popular that founder Jen Luby has decided to make the online option permanent.
- The company now provides a “‘Work From Home’ membership for $29 per month, which allows members to access daily digital programming, such as lunch-and-learn events, happy hours and worksprints during which members set a timer to accomplish tasks together.”
- The Work From Home membership option is significantly cheaper than Dayhouse Coworking’s in-person memberships, which range from $39 to $349 per month.
- During the Pandemic, Dayhouse Coworking has made the $29 fee a “suggested price,” and while most members have paid in full, some have only been able to pay what they can afford.
- Participation in the Work From Home membership plan during the crisis has been five times higher than participation in the in-person plans and has allowed Dayhouse Coworking to continue to operate even though overall revenue is “dramatically down” by about 60%.
4. Indy Hall
- Like Dayhouse Coworking, Indy Hall in Philadelphia is now offering its @Home membership plan that allows members to pay $20 per month and access “coffee discussions, productivity challenges, entertainment events and more while its physical space is closed.”
- Prior to the crisis, 60% of Indy Hall’s members only visited the office once a month or less, so the company doesn’t intend to reopen until the benefits of doing so outweigh any potential risks.
- The @Home membership plan is much cheaper than its in-person plans, which range in price from $120 to $300 per month, while once-a-Month access was priced at $30 per month.
- Since lockdowns began in March, Indy Hall’s co-founder Alex Hillman has seen “about 30 to 40 members gathering virtually each morning, which he estimates is at least four times as many as those who typically gathered in the kitchen.”
- Cove is a co-working company located in Washington D.C. and is now offering a Cove @ Home plan for $65 per month and like Indy Hall, is not planning to reopen its physical offices until the crisis has passed.
- Unlike other coworking companies’ virtual options, Cove’s more expensive plan includes “monthly gift boxes of snacks or wine, which members are encouraged to consume while socializing on the company’s virtual happy hours.”
6. First Line Software
- Cambridge Innovation Center, which provides co-working space for entrepreneurs in several U.S. and international cities, has launched a company to perform COVID testing at co-working sites and facilities.
- The company, First Line Software, is working “working with an innovative startup bringing reliable, home-administered coronavirus testing to consumers.”
- This testing will not require a laboratory and will allow co-working facilities (and others) to access antigen tests at reasonable price point so that members can be assured their co-working spaces are safe.
- Cambridge Innovation Center’s goal is to ensure every member is tested daily before they enter the co-working space.
7. Lunar Startups
- Lunar Startups is a startup accelerator focused on helping startups founded by women, black, Indigenous people of color, and LGTBQ+ make connections and raise capital.
- The co-working space The Coven in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota began partnering with Lunar Startups in March to offer free digital workshops called “Fix-It Fridays.”
- Each workshop takes “three founders through a brainstorm/whiteboarding session to help solve a marketing, financial, operation, or staffing challenge” either related to COVID-19 or another business issue.
- Lunar Startups is taking advantage of The Coven’s digital membership base to get provide more potential connections to its startups.
- WELL is a company that provides a tool to determine the health of a building and in the wake of COVID-19, the company is poised to take advantage of co-working members’ desire to know that their workspace is safe.
- According to Liz Elam, founder of the Global Coworking Unconference Conference, “People are going to really value WELL certification” as part of returning to co-working spaces.
- Many coworking experts, including Ryan Simonetti, CEO and co-founder of Convene and Tim Rowe, CEO and founder of Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), predict that “extensive efforts and investments will be made behind the scenes to support a healthy environment for all occupants,” which include ” improving filtration, air quality and appropriate HVAC infrastructure, not only in their own spaces but in the overall building system.”
- WELL provides a certification that a building meets “operational policies, maintenance protocols, emergency plans and stakeholder education to address a post-COVID-19 environment.”
- In its marketing efforts, WELL states that the “WELL Health-Safety seal signifies your visible commitment to supporting the health of individuals in your space.”
- Iconic, a co-working brand in Dublin, Ireland has already achieved the WELL v2 Certification for its COVID-19 response protocols.
Best Practices for Reopening a Co-Working Space
1. Prioritize Members’ Health
- Nearly all co-working industry experts recommend that when reopening a coworking space, members’ health must be a top priority.
- Surfaces should be regularly wiped and disinfected and disinfecting wipes should be placed on desks and near commonly used equipment like coffee stations, water dispensers, elevator buttons, printers, counter tops, light switches, touchscreens, and office supplies.
- Place bottles of hand sanitizer that consists of between 60% and 95% alcohol in as many places as possible to encourage their frequent use.
- Touchless hand sanitizer dispensers are also an excellent option to have at various key locations around the space, including the entrance, kitchen, and other common areas.
- Designate extra time for cleaning during which the space will not be accessible for members. This will allow for thorough cleansing of frequently-touched objects like door handles and chair arms.
- Offer healthy packaged snacks and fresh fruit to boost members’ immune systems, but consider suspending food and beverage services by third parties to better control the workspace environment.
- Ensure the entire work area is well-ventilated and that the HVAC system is regularly maintained. If a co-working space allows, it is recommended that windows be open for at least part of the day to bring in fresh air.
- Send out or post regular reminders to members to wash their hands with soap and water (rather than sanitizer) and that they should follow the recommended guideline of 20 seconds.
- Consider providing disposable masks to members who may feel more comfortable wearing them in common areas.
- Also consider having a daily temperature check when members enter the space to have “higher transparency on your community’s health status.”
- Proximity is an example of a company that has developed and documented its cleaning plan upon reopening its locations.
- Shift Workspace in Denver, Colorado has invested in “hospital-grade UV light disinfectant technologies that sanitize conference rooms and common areas every night. In addition to providing masks and safety signage, members will know that the workspaces are as clean and hygienic as possible, giving them an added sense of safety while they work.”
2. Revamp Meeting Room Policies
- A second best practice that coworking experts suggest for reopening a coworking space is to revamp meeting room policies.
- Set limitations on the number of people who can use a meeting room at one time, as The Biz Foundry in Tennessee is doing by limiting conference room usage to a maximum of eight people.
- Offer meeting rooms available to single members who want to host virtual meetings.
- Reduce the number of meetings that can be held in a single day, which will allow each meeting room to be cleaned between meetings.
- Kwench, a co-working company in Victoria, Canada, is operating its four meeting rooms at reduced capacity to allow people to maintain the recommended two meters (six feet) between each other.
- Conference rooms can be mask-free areas, but social distancing should still be mandated, as Geekdom, a co-working company in San Antonio is doing.
- If allowing non-members in the space, dedicate a single conference room for their use.
- Post conference room capacity signs near doors to remind members of the guidelines.
- Advertise the use of conference rooms to small corporate teams to help companies provide ways for their employees to physically distance themselves from other teams.
- Use a coworking app like OfficeRND to schedule conference room use and to block of time for cleaning.
3. Add New Plans and Discounts
- With the uncertainty around the COVID-19 virus and whether there will be further shutdowns or limits on capacity, co-working experts agree that a best practice for reopening a co-working space is to add new plan types and discounts.
- For example, introducing paused membership or roll-over credit plans for unused days are becoming popular among co-working companies that have had to shut down for significant time during the pandemic.
- This not only builds loyalty among members who were not able to use all their paid days due to the virus, but it also relieves a concern that many people have about buying a co-working plan.
- Another popular idea is offering current annual members discounts of 30% to 50% on the time that members were unable to use the space, while also extending the membership period by that same amount of time.
- Other companies are offering a discount to members who renew their plans, with an increasing percentage off for longer terms.
- As more people have transitioned to working at home, some co-working companies have begun offering a “family plan,” which allows members to share their plan with another person in the household so that childcare duties can also be shared.
- Another share-type plan that is gaining popularity is a punch-card system that enables “members to share their membership with other people in their friend or business circle,” which helps people share expenses during the economic downturn.
- Atrium, a co-working space company in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is an example of a co-working company that offers membership pauses: “We have members that pause and play their memberships as their business needs require.”
- Common Desk is an example of a co-working company that is offering a roll-over option for people who have day passes they were not able to use during COVID-19 shutdowns.