More people are continuing to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, but co-working spaces are starting to offer a nice respite from the living room office.
Work Nimbly, a co-working space in Williamsburg, has continued to operate throughout the pandemic but without access to the public. The business offers private office space to individuals who have used the service while maintaining a clean and sanitized workspace, said owner Jenn Haynes.
Haynes said the bulk of the business’ income comes from the private offices, followed by monthly memberships. While members were permitted to use the business during the past few months, she said none of them did.
But as the state starts to gradually reopen and people look for ways to get out of the home, she said she expects more people than ever to be interested in co-working spaces.
“There’s a lot of places that aren’t offering meeting spaces anymore,” she said. “So places like Starbucks, you’re not going to be able to get into and it’s hard to talk about your financial plan in a Starbucks from six feet away.”
As many people have been working from their living rooms and kitchens for months, they might be looking for new ways to get out of the house.
Haynes said she also expects there to be an increase of clients as more businesses reconsider their current office facilities. As most commercial leases last about five years, a six-month contract with Work Nimbly can be attractive to businesses.
“I think in the long term a lot of companies will be looking at if they need that overhead for long-term space,” she said. “Or if they want something more agile where they can meet if they need to but they don’t need to do it everyday.”
To prepare for an influx of new clients, the business has created a new “mini-office” spot, converted from a lounge previously, that provides another location for monthly members to reserve space.
Work Nimbly also uses large meeting tables that allow people to meet while staying a decent distance from each other, and the business has limited the number of people that can work in one conference room.
The business has also started implementing new cleaning procedures for guests and placing signs that ask people not to enter if they have coronavirus symptoms.
“One of the things we do is create community,” she said. “So our community has been very supportive of maintaining the area around themselves…I think when people have that responsibility, they will take it.”
James Crenshaw, chief marketing officer and partner for Gather, a coworking space with locations in Newport News, Norfolk and Richmond, said many of their clients have decided to stay home and work remotely.
But despite having less clients using the coworking spaces, Gather has stayed open.
“We have stayed open during the crisis because we have essential business that use our space,” he said, adding the clients include medical laboratories, banks and construction companies. “So that’s been really important to stay open as a resource for them.”
The company’s membership base consists of other clients from startups and freelancers to nonprofit organizations and fortune 500 companies. Each of their members have 24/7 access to the building but most of them come to Gather during the day between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Story continues after the video)
Crenshaw said normally two full-time staff members are there for assistance and they have been implementing increased sanitation practices such as wiping down surfaces. The janitorial staff have been asked to take extra precautions, too.
“We have installed 950 CADR H13 HEPA air purifiers in all Gather work cafés,” according to Gather’s website. “These medical grade air scrubbers remove viruses, bacteria, pollen, dust mites, mold, and many other harmful elements.”
The company has also ordered sneeze, cough guards and touchless hand sanitizing stations. In the meantime, other updates to the coworking spaces include optional face masks for clients, hand sanitizer stations and disposable plates, cups and silverware.
To ensure social distancing measures, Gather has placed signs and markers, limited each coworking space to 10 people, removed half of the seats in their work cafes and leaves doors propped open to reduce the number of people touching the door handles.
“We think there is a number of companies who will consider coworking,” he said. “Gather is set up where we have several, in Newport News, over 100 private offices that we could spread people out.”
Crenshaw has seen a “pick up” of essential business with people needing a place to work too. He said Gather offers something unique by providing a “Class A office spaces” with ample amenities and flexible membership options including month to month plans.
“It’s uncertain times,” he said. “They don’t know what their revenue is going to look like in the near or long term. We’re seeing larger companies have that mindset.”
The company applied for a small business loan and has another location under construction in Virginia Beach set to open in later July.
“We’re going to be constantly watching the situation and continuing to improve the safety of our spaces whenever new guidelines are announced,” Crenshaw added.
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