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How Coworking Spaces in South Asia Fight COVID-19

Now, when the world is patiently waiting for more people to get the vaccine and return to the office at some point, you should think extremely carefully about how and when you are going to reopen your coworking space. Of course, it’s a matter of government regulations in the first place. But it’s also about how you adapt your business to the post-COVID-19 reality.

Workspaces won’t be the same, and that’s beyond any doubt. But the transformation is not about cleanliness and disinfection only. There has been a fundamental change in the global perception of how and where we work turning our vision towards flexibility, hybridization, and decentralization.

To keep functioning as a business, every flexible workspace must now adapt. There are 4 main pillars of the reopening journey:

  • How do I provide a safe and clean coworking space environment?
  • How do I get my team back to the space?
  • How do I get coworking members back to the space?
  • How do I make my coworking business profitable in the post-COVID-19 reality?

In a series of blog posts, we’ll try to answer these questions. We hope the tips in these articles will help you reopen and operate your business. We’ll be also updating the information regularly, so stay tuned for more information.

So let’s answer the first question: How do I provide a safe and clean coworking space environment?

Focus on cleaning and disinfection

This is obvious. Follow a regular and extremely strict cleaning and disinfection procedure. Increase cleaning frequency and run through this process several times a day.

On top of this, now you should pay special attention to surfaces and areas that are widely used by many people. These are:

  • coffee stations
  • water dispensers
  • elevator buttons
  • printers
  • countertops
  • door handles (of the office space, meeting rooms, kitchen, fridges, bathrooms…literally every handle)
  • light switches
  • digital touchscreens
  • chair backs
  • meeting room amenities and accessories…

…and more.

Provide hand sanitizers and disinfectants

importance of cleanliness for reopening your coworking spaces

Install hand sanitizers at key places such as reception, common areas, office entries, meeting rooms, phone booths, desks…like literally everywhere. You have plenty of options for dispensers you can use. Some of them you can put on tables and desks, some of them you can install on the walls. And if you can go with touchless ones, that’s even better.

You might also consider placing disinfecting wipes on desks and other key places so people can additionally sanitize their desks, laptops, keyboards, etc if they wish.

Focus on ventilation and clean air

Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system should be in exceptional condition. No excuses. Maintaining and cleaning it regularly, along with replacing filters when needed, should be a priority. Also, instead of circulating the same air, you should now aim for getting fresh air from outside.

Air purifiers and UVC lamps are other tech solutions that can help you keep the air in the space as clean and safe as possible. Both technologies help in eliminating viruses, including COVID-19, bacteria, allergens, mold, and mites, that can be transmitted in the air.

Depending on the type of building you are in and the outside weather conditions, you might also consider an open window policy for some time during the day. This might be early in the morning, during lunch, or whatever makes sense to your space.

Think about temperature check on entry

To have higher transparency on your community’s health status you might consider a temperature check on entry. There are plenty of touchless devices out there so you might want to have a couple of those in your space. They will also help in case someone feels under the weather and wants to check their temperature during the day.

Reconsider non-member access to space

You might want to rethink if you allow external visitors in the space. These could be the clients of your members, job candidates, people who asked for a tour, couriers, etc.

One option is to restrict any access to such visitors and make online meetings instead (when possible). Another is to designate a particular meeting room/lounge area/etc, close to the entrance or in a relatively isolated area, where external visitors will be allowed.

Four tour visits, you might choose to stick to virtual tours. However, If you still need to arrange a physical visit, you might want to do it outside of business hours, and with all precautionary measures such as masks and gloves.

Reconsider your meeting room policies

Think about establishing new policies for meeting room usage. You might want to set limitations about the number of people using the room. Also, you’d definitely want to clean the room after each meeting.

Make sure to have some time blocked after each booking to prevent back-to-back meetings and allow your cleaning team to do their job. You can either block such slots manually or use coworking software to automate the booking process for you. Also, make sure you’ve placed hand sanitizers in each room and the ventilation is working properly.

Provide a safe distance between desks

Think about how you are going to provide a safe distance between desks. For example, you might restrict members from sitting next to each other. Or you might relocate desks if the space allows you to.

Also, ask companies to come on a rotation basis instead of the entire team returning at once (although most probably, you won’t need to ask them, because it’s common sense). This will prevent many people from sharing the same indoor space at the same time. And keeping a safe density in your coworking space is now essential.

Restrict physical events

online coworking events with OfficeRnDEven though some of your members will return to using your coworking space, remember that getting many people in the same closed room is still dangerous. So keep your event space closed for any gatherings at least till the government in your country explicitly announces that indoor events are allowed. This means no events organized by you, nor hosted by your members. However, you can still rely on technology to host virtual events, coffee meetups, and knowledge-sharing sessions.

To support you in these efforts, at OfficeRnD we recently released Video Rooms, a conferencing structure integrated directly into the app. Check this post out, if you are curious to learn how they can help you keep your community engaged.

Encourage transparency

Keeping your workspace safe is a mutual responsibility. On top of the effort that you put into providing a safe workspace environment your members and your team should understand their role in the process, too. Encourage them to be transparent about their well-being and immediately report if they’ve been in contact with an infected person, they feel under the weather, or have been tested positive for COVID-19 themselves.

Set procedures in case a COVID-19 case is reported

Make an action plan about the measures you’ll take if a COVID-19 case within your community is reported. You might need to close the area where this member was sitting or the entire floor for a few days to perform full disinfection. You might also need to ask the teammates of this member to stay at home for a certain period of time (this period should follow your government’s guidelines for people who’ve been in contact with the infected person).

Encourage self-care and healthy habits

Developing healthy habits and keeping the immune system strong is the bare minimum everyone can do. Encourage your members and your team to take good care of themselves, get enough sleep, have a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. You might create a slack channel and share some tips daily, or send a weekly newsletter, or organize an online workshop with health consultants, or anything that makes sense to you and your community.

Encourage members to keep their desks clean

Encourage members to make additional disinfection before and after they use their desks. Also, ask them not to leave personal belongings on their desks if that’s possible. The fewer items coworkers are storing on their workstation, the easier it will be for your cleaning staff to disinfect and keep desks clean and safe enough.

Introduce a Virtual office service

While some people might be happy to return to the office, others might be hesitant and continue working from home. Companies like Google, for example, allow its staff to work from home at least till the end of 2020. And this trend might affect both your members and potential customers.

However, most businesses will still need a business address, mail management, and probably meeting space from time to time. And that’s why virtual offices are becoming so popular. A Virtual office allows businesses to use all or a combination of the mentioned above services without the need to rent a physical office space. You can read more about the virtual office service here.

Rethink the technology you are using

There are numerous apps and tools that will help you navigate through the post-COVID-19 world. Some of them include digital communication apps, touchless, or low touch devices, smart access control solutions, and more.

You can also think of technology in terms of coworking management software. The coworking management software can give you valuable insights into how, when, and by whom your space is being used. It will also allow you to have better visibility on your revenue streams, how much each one is affected by COVID-19, and predict any trends of recovery.

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We hope this information helps you to gain more clarity about how to safely reopen your coworking space. We’ll be updating the post regularly with new ideas, so stay tuned. Also, expect more resources relevant to this topic like:

Meanwhile, you can check our COVID-19 resource page, where you’ll find plenty of useful information on the topic. Another post you might like is How Coworking Spaces in South Asia Fight COVID-19 where you can learn from the reopening experience of Kickstart, the largest flexible workspace provider in Pakistan.

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