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03/19/2020

How Your Coworking Space Can Fight Coronavirus

With the number of coronavirus cases in the United States rising daily, coworking businesses model are under a lot of pressure, and business owners are forced to quickly reevaluate whether their remote-working offices are safe environments for their members and staff.

Coworking Spaces are Perfect Environments for Viruses to Spread

While many companies across the country are encouraging their employees to work remotely, it’s trickier for coworking space operators, whose entire business model is based on remote employees paying for sharing a workspace. Unfortunately, despite multiple benefits of such arrangements, there are some health and safety concerns involved, including the potential spread of viruses among its members. With so many people working in close quarters and sharing counters, office equipment, kitchens and bathrooms, these high-traffic spaces are the breeding grounds for germs. In light of alarming spread of coronavirus, it’s important to adjust your practices and prepare your office to better protect its employees and members from current and future pathogens. 

Have several plans of action for different scenarios:

  • A member is confirmed sick with COVID-19.

As coronavirus testing becomes more widely available in the US, more coworking companies will discover that one of their employees or members has contracted COVID-19. Who do you, as an owner or manager, notify and how much can you disclose without violating the infected person’s privacy? A generally accepted rule is to notify other employees and members who have been in contact with the person who tested positive, while maintaining his or her privacy and confidentiality. It’s best to then ask the notified people to self-quarantine for a 14-day period. 

  • Someone exhibits symptoms in the space.

It might be difficult to tell whether someone in your coworking office has contracted coronavirus. Aside from exhibiting obvious symptoms, such as fever, coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath, be mindful of people who have recently returned from overseas or local trips, or have been in close contact with someone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus. Don’t be shy to discreetly approach such an employee or a member and ask them to seek a public health assessment and, if the symptoms are obvious, to leave the workplace immediately and self-quarantine. 

  • A staff member is unavailable or quarantined.

If one or more of your employees fall ill, maintaining business operations may become challenging. It’s important to asses your minimum staffing levels required to sustain necessary business functions. Hopefully, you’ve already invested in a cloud-based access control solution, which helps to keep your staffing needs to a minimum. You should also identify employees who have been cross-trained, or can be trained now, and can fill in for others. 

  • All staff are unavailable.

Consider a scenario in which all of your staff members become unavailable. Your options in this case would be hiring and training temporary workers, or suspending your operations all together. Another option could be recruiting someone within your community who’s already familiar with your day-to-day operations. 

  • Public schools are closed.

Now that many public schools in the country are closed, your employees and members with children might have to stay home to look after them. What solution will you have for your staff members? Do you offer paid or unpaid emergency leave? Can you offer a discount to clients who want to retain their membership but can’t use the services at the moment? Show as much support to those affected by this crisis as possible, and you will have happier and more grateful employees and members in return. 

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Check  with your local public health department for best practices in how to handle any outbreaks: 

  • Adjust your operations as needed.

You may need to brief your staff and community members about the procedures they’re expected to follow during the coronavirus outbreak. Self-monitoring their health should be a top priority, as well as maintaining rigorous hygiene practices and limiting physical contact with others. It’s best to suspend most or all gatherings and meetings within your coworking space for the duration of the outbreak, and avoid communal eating opportunities. Make sure that secluded work spaces, such as phone booths, corner desks or private offices, are readily available to your members. Try spreading the desks in the office farer apart, if space allows. Consider investing in handles-free doors that swing open, motion lights in all rooms, including bathrooms, and motion sensors for other bathroom features.

  • Intensify regular cleanings.

Increase the frequency of regular and deep-cleanings and sanitizing in your coworking office. Focus on communal and frequent touch areas such as door handles, phones, elevator buttons, light switches, photocopiers and bannisters. Make sure to provide plenty of antibacterial gel in every room, as well as sanitizing wipes that members can use to disinfect their individual work surfaces and computers. 

  • Limit hours or operations.

If needed, you might have to limit the hours of operations for your office. This will provide more time for the cleaning crew to come in for deep cleanings. If you’ve already invested in cloud-based access control, this can be easily achieved remotely, by restricting door access to certain times to allow cleaners and maintenance workers in. With fully remote access control systems, you can also grant temporary access to members who need to get valuables to equipment from their office or even stagger events to limit close contact while still keeping the space accessible.

  • Partial or full closure.

If the worst case scenario, you might have to consider fully or partially closing the offices for the duration of the outbreak. Have a plan in hand for how this can be achieved quickly and efficiently. Make sure to reassure your members and staff that the closure is necessary to protect them and the operations will resume as soon as it’s safe to do so. Consider offering discounts to community members who are affected by the closure. 

Summary

While all the efforts are being made to protect yourself, your employees and members from coronavirus at this time, consider this a long-term investment, as these measures can help you with any kind of viral outbreak or public health issue in the future. Your members and staff will trust you more for it, and surely appreciate your efforts to keep them safe.

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