Guides and Resources

Reopening Your Space Post-COVID-19: Resources and Advice from Coworking Experts

Sam Bender
May 19, 2020
Reopening Your Space Post-COVID-19: Resources and Advice from Coworking Experts

Are you wondering how to safely open your doors and welcome your community while maintaining workplace health and wellness? It’s not an easy balance!

After conducting a survey of several spaces around the world that use Cobot software, we’ve collected some targeted reopening strategies and advice. Specific advice varies greatly depending on where you are, what your members want, and on local regulations — but there are some best practices and a few tips from other spaces struggling with the same questions you are. Each quote is real and comes from coworking spaces using Cobot to manage their reopening process.

Rethink Normal

There are lots of ways that people express this. The “New Normal.” “Back to Normal.” “The Next Normal.” Whatever you want to call it, it’s time to make meaningful changes to the ways people interact with your space, while creating usage conditions that will help keep your members safe.

[We’re] not allowing any external conference room rentals or events so that members feel safe and healthy; raising the flex member prices and offering all members a dedicated desk or an office to use so that no one has to just sit at common places; turning some of our smaller conference rooms into offices that can be rented out for short-term leases.

Some of your members will have children who aren’t able to go to school, daycare, or summer camp — find ways to increase your flexibility and target your services to them. What about members on a cheap flex desk plan? Your standard flex desk setup is going to be an issue going forward. Have you looked into converting your meeting rooms into fixed desks with plexiglass barriers? Take your lowest-tier members (and some of the most likely to leave out of cost considerations) and find a way to upgrade their membership. Can you afford to put them in some of those new fixed desks you need to fill? Now’s the time to be creative to keep your members happy while maintaining your margins.

Thorough sanitization on a daily basis restores confidence in the readiness of the space.

Your members are going to demand cleanliness beyond anything imaginable six months ago. Stop thinking about how to clean every desk and start working on ways to minimize surface contact and close-quarters grouping so your staff can target “hotspots.” Coffee pots, door handles, light switches, these are the obvious target areas (and you should eliminate them whereever you can) but far from the only problematic ones.

Do your members congregate by the bathrooms? Put dividers in hallways so they aren’t physically able to get too close to each other in passing. Do you have a bulletin board? Make members submit their bulletins to you so that there aren’t multiple people interacting with the board. There are likely a hundred hotspots that you need to identify and eliminate so that your staff doesn’t need to spend all day disinfecting.

Try literally walking through your space as if you were a member, from sign in to sign out. Do you lean on a pillar, or rest your hand on a table? Would you open or close a window to adjust the temperature? Are there any blind corners that might lead you to accidentally bump into another member? Write down every issue and find a solution for your space. From what we’ve read, physical borders, multiple paths, and

Our Space is maximally arranged for the best usable occupancy. Today that means we can seat 10 (maximum gathering under our local shelter in place rules) ensuring minimum contact distances of six feet or more to protect our members and users.

Technological Solutions

Before COVID-19, most of us wouldn’t think twice about opening a door using a handle. Now it’s hard to look at a door handle without summoning mental images of the thousands of people who might have already used it today.

Luckily, we live in an age when there are already companies with the technology to replace this basic piece of infrastructure with devices that are not only more hygenic, but more secure as well. Look into door access companies such as Salto KS, Tapkey, Sensorberg, and KISI, and get to work making sure your members can avoid unnecessary door interactions.

The more your space is automated, the less physical interaction your members will need to have with each other — or with your staff. If you have a paper log of room bookings or a bulleitin board with community pdates, if you need staff to handle credit cards and cash, or if people need to hand physical forms back and forth, you can easily cut these interactions out using software to automate your space.

Time for Outreach

More than ever, workers are looking for communities while their workplaces have put them on extended work from home. There’s never been an opportunity like this — but it’s going to require a push to change one of the most prevalent stereotype about coworking spaces: that they’re simply rooms with too many workers in a small space.

Let’s work on the image of coworking as a safe space where independent workers and small teams can share a creative (and immaculately clean) space that’s flexible, close to home, and provides the best parts of office life without the any of the baggage of a traditional office.

We plan on letting only members in with pre booked spots. We plan on only being 50% occupied for some time to ensure distance and safety.

Occupancy and density are going to be on everyone’s mind. You want to stay profitable without risking the health and safety of your members, and it’s going to take a serious committment to sell yourself in a new light and take distancing serously.

[We’ve kept] fully flexible plans in place — our tenants have been so happy we’ve been able to pause their payments until we open. I believe this means we’ll be able to grow further as a positive.

The way you reacted — and the way you continue to treat your members — will be remembered long after the current crisis abates.

Local guidelines

You need to have a thorough understanding of what laws, regulations, and ordinances you’ll need to obey in order to be compliant with your local government. Right now, there’s still a lot of uncertainty, but you have the opportunity to learn from reading about what other countries are doing to promote good health and safety.

The UK has published a comprehensive guide to workplace safety, with best practices on everything ranging from sanitizer placement to handling on-site visits.

In the United States, the Centers for Desease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of guidelines for reopening across the country. If that’s not enough for you, several states have released their own guidance as well. California has posted industry-specific reopening guidance designed to reduce risk. Be sure to check out their PDF designed for Office Workspaces. New York has release a reopening guide with a focus on safe metrics to determine if it’s the right time to reopen your business.

In Germany? The German Bundesregierung guide to reopening for businesses based on recommendations from the Robert Koch Institute. Be sure to follow specific laws and protocals established by your Bundesland.

South Korea has had an excellent response to COVID-19, and they have released their guidelines for reopening. That’s written in Korean, but Quartz Magazine has translated some of the actionable advice from the document into English.

Compiling so many sources is tough for any one organization, which is what makes the Crisis Directory so special. It’s a crowd-sourced directory with links to local initiatives and opportunities around the world. Check it out and see if there’s anything relevant to you. If not, why not add something to help your neighbors out?

So, are you ready to open?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Some experts in the field continue to advocate for more time away from any sort of gathering place, regardless of precautions, and it’s worth taking a good look at your situation and making the tough decision.

Alex Hillman has been a leading advocate for keeping the safest possible approach to reopening, and it’s important to undestand that any return to public life under the current conditions carries risk. You can read his thoughts about whether coworking spaces should reopen in his blog. We strongly believe in the power of coworking spaces to be a positive force on their community, and that situation comes with responsibility toward the communities we inhabit.

Once you’ve looked at your situation, read up on how other spaces are handling the crisis, analyzed your space, and thought about the wider implications of reopening, then you have a good foundation to make your decision. We’ve collected even more resources on our website that you can check out, including news articles and more community links.

Good luck, stay safe, and happy coworking!

If you aren’t already using Cobot as your coworking management software, give it a go! You’ll find that our features can help you run your coworking space more effectively and grow your community. Just sign up for a free trial or a live demo session. And if you have questions, our support team is all ears!

Happy Coworking!

Sam Bender

Senior Communications Specialist at Cobot and all-around connoisseur of useless trivia, reading on airplanes, sleeping in late - and working from interesting places!