How Coworking Spaces in South Asia Fight COVID-19

Now, when the world is slowly and cautiously going back to some aspects of the (new) normal life, operators should think extremely carefully about how and when they are going to reopen their coworking spaces.

The flexible workspace industry from now on won’t be the same, and that’s beyond any doubt. Health has become a priority, social distancing a norm, and cleanliness a life-saving necessity.

Tens of new procedures, policies, guidelines, and even relocations and reconstructions may totally change how we think of and use office space. And to keep functioning as a business, every flexible workspace must now meet the new requirements. Below you’ll find some ideas about how to approach this process of reopening your coworking space.

We understand that government regulations might differ from country to country. But we hope the tips below will help you set the direction for your post-COVID journey.

We’ll be updating this post regularly, so stay tuned for more information.

Focus on cleaning and disinfection

Follow a regular and extremely strict cleaning and disinfection procedure. Also, you’d want to 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 fresh air

Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system should be top-notch now. No excuses. Maintaining and cleaning it regularly, along with replacing the filters more often, should be a priority. Depending on the type of building you are in, you might also consider opening the windows 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 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 like under the weather and wants to check their temperature during the day.

It’s also a good idea to check any external visitors (if you allow such in the first place).

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. 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. If you choose the second case, make sure to check anyone’s temperature on the entrance.

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 apps 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 not to eat on their desks, or to leave as less personal belongings as 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

Digital communication, touchless, or low touch access control, and automated bookings are some of the benefits of the various technology solutions out there. You can also think of technology in terms of software management platforms that give you valuable insights into how, when, and by whom your space is being used. This will also allow you to have better visibility over your revenue streams, how much each one is affected by COVID-19, and predict any trends of recovery.

We hope this information is helpful to you. We’ll be updating the post regularly with new ideas, so stay tuned. 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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