Interviews

Running a coworking space in the COVID-19 era: Malaga

Running a coworking space in the COVID-19 era: Malaga

Puedes leer este artículo en español aquí.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, coworking spaces around the world have been wondering how best to overcome it in conditions that change almost daily. In the case of Spain, one effective tool is the CWSC WhatsApp group, where participants share the experiences and resources of their coworking spaces. Earlier this week, Ben Kolp from The Living Room Coworking in Malaga shared how they’re preparing for the upcoming month of April.

“The first news that hit close to home was when the Wuhan football team came to train 50km from Malaga. From then on, I think the turning point was when the situation started to get complicated in Madrid and the closure of the schools was discussed: that was when I started to worry.” This is how he remembers the first moments of COVID-19.

“Then our members began to ask us if we could have hydroalcoholic gel, they were concerned about the frequency of cleaning, disinfection of the tables, etc. At that point, in addition to taking the necessary measures to minimize risks in the space, we explained what our position had been up until then. We told them that there is no denying that there is a problem and that it must be taken seriously.”

Just two days before the state of emergency was declared in Spain, Ben made a move and decided to call the owners of the premises to discuss what could happen in the coming days and weeks. “I called Lola and explained that although it was not my intention, I might be forced to close and I wanted to understand if there were any options for them to support us financially. Obviously it was a decision that couldn’t be made on that call, but within an hour I received a call from the CEO of the company that owns the premises to tell me that as long as we were closed by decree we would not be paying rent. A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.” He also contacted the owner of his second location and the response was similar: he was only asked to cover the community fees for the space.

Two days later, when a state of emergency was declared and the government limited face-to-face work to essential jobs only, The Living Room Coworking closed its doors. “Our coworkers obviously still mostly had keys to access the space but TLR staff needed to lead by example, ensuring our recommendation to all our members to work from home would make sense. We canceled all the events and started doing them online: from cooking together, to a jam session, to fitness classes, to sharing beers. The nice thing is that all these initiatives were started by our family: a big thank you to Amani who is the most active! We also announced that we will refund 50% of the March fee in April.

In fact, it was after a virtual meeting that Ben started to think about something. “I couldn’t help but consider the fact that despite the current situation, there was still a very good atmosphere in the family and that I had to do something to keep it going, so I started to think about setting up a voluntary quota for April.”

The next day, the Spanish government extended the confinement until 11 April. “I contacted all the suppliers and TLR staff to explain my plan and ask their opinion on it. Carlos, my community manager, told me that we couldn’t do it by WhatsApp or email, we needed to do it more personally, ideally in a conference call or a video.”

Soon after things began to heat up and Ben realized he had to act quickly: he started to receive messages from several coworkers announcing that they would probably unsubscribe next month.

On Monday the next week, in a video distributed to his community via WhatsApp and email and shot in his home, Ben explained the situation and how TLR was going to deal with it.

Ben did not want us to share the video because he considers it to be something internal to his community, but he did allow us to summarize what was communicated, what measures they were taken, and how they were explained to members.

Measures taken:

  • TLR has been able to reduce its fixed costs by 70% by talking to suppliers.
  • TLR continues to organise online events, stays in close contact with all family members, and is available simply to chat on the phone.
  • All TLR staff have reduced their salary by 50%.

Measures affecting members:

  • The April fee, by default, will be €0 for all members.
  • Members can contact TLR to make a voluntary contribution to the space if they wish.
  • Once the costs have been covered, any money left over will be used for a “welcome back party.”

The response from their community has been commensurate with the deal the space has given them, with members paying 100%, 50% or one person who said they would pay 40% because they wanted to contribute to cover all of the current costs and contribute 10% to the welcome back party.

The response from their members 72 hours later is that they have covered 50% of TLR’s fixed costs for the following month of April.

As of April 2nd, the response from the community has been to cover 110% of the fixed costs for the month of April.


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!

Madeleine Dymond

Communication Assistant at Cobot and former coworking space organizer. Part analog bookbinder, part digital publisher, and lover of classic film scores and animal colors.