How do you safely reopen a coworking space during the coronavirus pandemic?

May 13, 2020

Last week, after almost two months of closure, Proximity reopened the three coworking spaces we own and operate in Colorado. We closed our coworking spaces upon stay-at-home orders issued in our state, and during the closures we worked to keep members engaged with steady communication via email and social media and hosted numerous virtual events. We also allowed members to fully pause billing on their memberships.

Now that businesses in Colorado are permitted to reopen and many of our members are eager to return to their coworking spaces, we spent a lot of time researching and preparing for a safe reopening. Here’s the plan we used and the steps we followed. We hope you find these tips useful as you prepare to see your members (in real life) again.

Check guidance from local authorities

State, county and city officials are all providing guidance on reopening businesses. Research the requirements, recommendations and timelines for your state specifically for office-based businesses. Many economic development groups are also providing support to help businesses understand guidelines. Also read what your state’s health department is recommending. Additionally, OSHA and the CDC recently issued guidance for businesses preparing to reopen. Once you identify your best sources of information, subscribe to their emails or follow on social media to keep up on the latest updates.

Decide who’s allowed to return to your coworking space

To prioritize safety and help provide members with a higher level of comfort in returning to our coworking spaces, we decided to reopen to current members only. This includes members with private offices, dedicated desks and flex desks. Members may not have outside guests or host meetings with non-members during this time. We are also capping our occupancy to 50% at each of our spaces. We monitor this using data from member check-ins via Proximity Wave. We’re also requiring flex desk members to reserve a room, desk or specific workspace every time they plan to be at one of our locations. To increase the dedicated space available to members, we provided unlimited conference room time so that reservations can easily be made and availability can be seen by all other members.

Consider extra support for families

We all have members who’ve been working at home while providing childcare or homeschooling their children. To give parents and caretakers a workspace option outside the home, we’re allowing our current members to share their membership with their partner free of charge. Only one person at a time from the membership is allowed at the coworking space. We’re also offering an add-on membership for college students who returned home after their campuses shut down.

Make a plan for access to your coworking space

Our plan is only as good as our ability to enforce it. Typically, the main doors to our coworking spaces remain unlocked during standard business hours. As part of our reopening plan we decided to keep the doors to our coworking space locked because all members have the ability to unlock doors with Proximity’s mobile app for door access.

Assess onsite staffing needs

Two of our three coworking spaces normally operate with an onsite community manager. In order to help reduce exposure for managers who are normally in contact with many members throughout each day, we’re not staffing our coworking spaces during this time. Members can check themselves in when they arrive and access the spaces on their own. They’re also provided with their own cleaning supplies and are discouraged from using any shared kitchen resources, especially dishes.

Confirm and document your plan for cleaning

We use a professional cleaning service for our coworking spaces. As an added precaution, we also provide supplies for members to clean their own workspaces, phone booths and conference rooms before and after use. We also created signage instructing members to clean any community space or shared items before and after each use.

Stock up on supplies for your members

As everyone knows, items such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies are difficult to come by right now. You may need to get resourceful and create some of your own solutions if you can’t find the supplies you need for your coworking space. Once you have an idea of how many members are returning to your space, plan to purchase adequate cleaning supplies and paper goods for your members, as well as recyclable or compostable dishes and utensils.

Don’t abandon the coffee

In an effort to continue providing our members with their favorite amenity, we purchased a single-serve french press for each person returning to our coworking spaces. This keeps kitchen interaction minimal while still helping everyone get their daily dose of caffeine. We’re asking members to bring their own mug from home, and we’re offering pre-measured coffee servings to keep the process simple.

Change your layout to encourage social distancing

Members should follow social distancing guidelines and remain six feet apart at coworking spaces. We rearranged our furniture to create more space between desks, in common areas and in conference rooms. For shared tables and conference rooms, mark off seats that are unavailable so that members are discouraged from sitting too close together. To create additional separation between workspaces, also consider dividers and movable walls. These solutions are available to order from our partners at Interior Environments.

Reiterate health and safety recommendations

We’ve heard it a million times, but use signage in your coworking space to consistently remind members to:

  • Stay home if they are sick or show symptoms of coronavirus
  • Wear a mask
  • Wash their hands throughout the day

We’re also using Proximity Wave to ask members to self-certify upon checking into a coworking space that they aren’t sick or showing any symptoms.

Set expectations and communicate regularly

Prior to reopening, we announced all guidelines to our members via email. We also hosted a Zoom call to recap the policies and provide an opportunity to ask questions. Continue to monitor your local guidelines and be sure to keep your members posted on any changes you need to make at your coworking space.

Prepare for the worst

We’ve asked our members to notify us immediately if they become sick. If this occurs, the coworking space will close for 14 days to allow time for other members who may have been in contact to watch for symptoms. If a closure occurs, the coworking space will be professionally cleaned and disinfected again prior to reopening to members.

To all the coworking space owners and managers preparing to reopen, we just want to say thanks for everything you’re doing to provide your members a safe, productive workspace. Coworking plays a crucial role in the daily lives of thousands of people, and so many have been missing their communities. As you start to see (non-virtual) member faces again, we hope you feel encouraged and supported.

A disclaimer: This is our plan for reopening our coworking spaces and not all information will be applicable to every coworking space. We highly recommend you research and review your local regulations and seek professional legal counsel to address questions.

Reopening Your Coworking Space