What three coworking space operators learned during reopening, plus tips for communication, safety and automation at your space

Enduring more than a year of the pandemic has brought about tremendous change and loss to our way of life. It has also forced a shift in the way millions of workers interact with their customers, teams and workplaces. This transformation means that the modern workforce now demands flexibility in how organizations interact with employees and meet their needs.

It’s no secret that the future of work is here to stay, and with a broad reopening of the country prompting a return to workplaces (and the reintroduction of non-pajama pants into the wardrobe), we’re presented with a new set of opportunities to meet the current moment. The good news for coworking and flex spaces: you’re perfectly positioned to help meet these demands.

During a recent Proximity Connect panel discussion, we heard from three members of the Proximity Network on what their businesses experienced during the pandemic. What’s Next: A Panel Discussion on Coworking and Covid was a candid conversation about both optimism and uncertainty. Members are returning to spaces and there are more workers than ever before who are learning that a home office is not the only alternative to a corporate office. As coworking and flex space operators continue adapting membership offerings, space layouts and marketing strategies to attract new and returning members, several themes have emerged. Here are tips to keep in mind as you prepare to reopen your space and welcome more members back into your community.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

As we head into summer and experience reopening in many regions, you may need to implement additional changes to your current community policies. Space operators are addressing this through community engagement, by first and foremost asking about members’ current needs and listening to them before implementing change.

“Everyone in our space has been incredibly respectful,” said Amy Lessley of Staunton Innovation Hub in Staunton, VA. “I’m going to be really listening, because overall we would rather go a little bit more conservative and make sure everyone can participate, than to go a little less conservative and isolate those people who aren’t ready [to return].”

The Proximity platform supports several ways for you to keep communications streamlined and in front of your members. Leverage Proximity’s Mailchimp integration to update your members and guests on important changes, policies or even cleaning schedules within your flexible space. You can easily update your hours, policies or other information with a sitewide banner on your Proximity member site. You can also create an automatic welcome email that allows you to send members updates upon checking into your space.

Set expectations, automate your processes

“Work has changed forever, no matter what,” said Tessa Arneson, founder of Maven Create in Salt Lake City, UT, and with change comes expectation management. It’s important to set expectations with members and staff within your flexible spaces in order to ensure uninterrupted operations for everyone. Once you’ve communicated changes or updates to your community policies, make sure that members are staff are clear on how these changes will be implemented. Increasing automation is one of the biggest changes many spaces adopted during the pandemic.

For example, the Proximity Wave greeting system allows you to prompt all members and guests to check in to your space upon arrival and self-certify they are not experiencing signs of illness. If you require check-ins, make sure visitors know in advance to expect this. Many spaces also converted flex desks, phone booths and other casual workspaces to reservable resources. If more of your workspaces now require a reservation, post signage and proactively communicate your guidelines. Panel moderator and Proximity cofounder Brian Watson reiterated that, “setting those expectations of how it needs to work for customers,” is integral to flexible workspace management in our current return-to-work environment.

Establish a safety baseline

It’s important to make sure members feel safe returning to physical spaces after a year of isolation, and there may be a variety of factors that would determine each individual’s comfort level. “I think that people are ready to have fun, connect again, and people are ready to feel like part of a community,” said Arneson.

We made it through a year of virtual meetings, and it’s exciting for members to have the opportunity to once again meet face-to-face. However, it’s important to check in with new and returning members, and be open to offering ways to encourage social distancing where possible. You can make use of a conference room or other space while still offering a virtual option for those who feel less comfortable with in-person meetings. “We survey our members, always,” said Arneson. “We let our members set the tone.”

In addition to physical signage in your spaces that reminds members what current mask and health mandates are, you can also enable automatic check-ins to identify when someone has unlocked a door at your space, accessed your Wi-Fi network or checked in for a room reservation. Communicate to members that if a COVID-19 case is reported, you have the ability to know who was in your space and what date.

Continue to be flexible with your space layout

With social distancing adopted as a norm and habit over the last year, members are likely to desire more space between physical desks and chairs. There also might be a change in how your members are using your physical space and resources, so be prepared to maintain flexibility in your setup. During our event, panelists and attendees shared the various ways their spaces have accommodated layout changes, such as a higher demand for private offices, and more corporate clients requesting pooled access to a shared office for their teams.

Melinda Cadwallader of The Hive in Coeur d’Alene, ID discussed how an influx of creatives and makers within her community was the catalyst for markets and pop-up events, which created a need for more event space. “I didn’t open this space thinking I was going to be an event planner, so we’re going to learn how to do this,” said Cadwallader, who opted to modify her existing layout to create a unique event space. “We’re all working together. Everyone is contributing to the really neat and eclectic things that are happening around here,” she said.

Event attendees also shared that in many of your spaces, there was a strong demand for private offices. Pay attention to booking trends and reallocate and convert space if resources allow. If you need to incorporate separation between workspaces, you can consider implementing furniture selections to divide space. Our partners at Interior Environments provide professional design and furnishings available through the Proximity Marketplace within the Proximity platform.

Make it personal

After more than a year of isolation, help create excitement among your members about returning to and building community within your spaces. A little goes a long way in showing people that you’re happy to have them back or see them there for the first time. Whether it’s providing single-serve French presses for members returning to your spaces or providing a personalized message and a welcome box full of swag to each new member like Proximity Network members Hygge Coworking in Charlotte, NC, get creative with how to make each member of your community feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves, and something bigger than work.

The Proximity Platform

Proximity is the workspace management platform that helps you connect people and places and makes daily operations easier for you and your members. Proximity software helps you automate membership management, reservations, billing, Wi-Fi control, digital door access, guest management and more via a single solution. View Proximity features to learn more about streamlined management for your flexible space or schedule a demo with our team.

Coworking Space Reopening