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Social distancing and the state of coworking spaces today

What is social distancing? It simply refers to a set of interventions and measures by staying physically distant to hinder the spread of contagious diseases. The term has entered our lives with the pandemic and has become so widespread that we have been hearing and seeing everywhere every single day.

The term is no stranger to any of us now. Social distancing, social isolation, or physical distancing; whatever you may call it, has obliged us all to self-distance and lock ourselves away longer than we have ever done before. The once-popular term of social distancing is now leaving its place to physical distancing, though. And there is a fair reason for that.

Dr. Maria Kerkhove, an epidemiologist from the World Health Organization (WHO) recently stated in a press briefing that they are now changing their discourse in order to emphasize the need to stay socially connected for the sake of our mental health. For ideas on how to stay sane in this period, you can move on to our new and constructive article.

With everyone having to retreat to their homes, silence has taken over public spaces, corporate buildings, restaurants, cultural institutions, schools, and last but not least, coworking spaces. Playing by the rules of physical distancing, many coworking spaces are closed down, but that doesn’t keep them from socially interacting with their community.

How coworking spaces around the globe are adjusting to the conditions stipulated by the Coronavirus pandemic

Shutting down and canceling events

Many spaces closed down their locations and strictly advised all members and staff to work from home. This is a tough decision to make, but their hands were tied when the government commanded an absolute quarantine. Therefore, some businesses had to make their regulatory arrangements and cease their physical operations entirely, whereas some called a halt without waiting for any enforcement.

Keeping physically operating by taking hygiene and other social distancing measures

Suspending services

Some relatively small and local coworking spaces such as Cowork Frederick, US, and The Mill, US stay open by following physical distancing guidelines and suspending a portion of their services like personal meetings, events, and communal kitchen/barista facilities.

Keeping social distance and applying health measures

In the meantime, spaces that keep their doors open such as Kolektif House, TR have announced that they have taken serious health and hygiene measures at their locations. Workplace disinfection applications and health checks on the personnel, as well as the incoming members, have been routinized.

To ensure physical distancing during work, some providers have rearranged their spaces by moving their furniture further apart or clustering the workspace by putting unrented private offices to use. Again at the locations of our partner, Kolektif House, signs are used on floors to remind visitors of social distancing. The number of people at meetings and events are subject to limitations. Distance between individuals is strictly kept minimum as one meter.

Office disinfection and hand sanitizers

At the locations of Ruul’s business partner, Workinton; cleaning frequency has been doubled, sanitizers were positioned all across the working spaces, café area was closed down and catered products have started to be offered in closed packages.

Findings of a recent survey shared with more than 14.000 coworking spaces across 172 countries conducted by Coworker show that approximately 75% of the spaces have made hand sanitizers accessible at their locations.

Offering virtual services and events

The situation evoked the creativity and adaptation skills of the business owners. Many coworking spaces have proven that their services are not restricted to their spatial capacity.  Some offer chat rooms for online engagement between members, whereas others organize virtual classes or workshops sourced by their members.

From reading lists to guides to working from home, spaces share engaging and practical content with their community to support them from afar. They shift their planned events online by making use of the technology and some even bring in new event ideas such as digital happy hours or online breakfast meet-ups!


Brainstorming and collaborating with other coworking spaces

Physical distancing and the challenges that came with it not only steered the members’ community to interact but also enabled a ground for dialogue and cooperation between coworking spaces.

Google for Startups hubs are supporting each other by sharing case scenarios from their local areas, exchanging insights, and offering financial strategies to overcome the potential risks. Despite its gloominess, the Coronavirus pandemic seems to have a part in turning the competition into solidarity.

Providing flexible payment and membership solutions

As a natural outcome of not being able to get output in return for their leases and the downfall in everyone’s business, members tend to ask for flexible solutions. Refunds, withdrawal from further membership, daily and hourly use instead of monthly or annual packages are among the most prevailing requests. Spaces that are likely to pull off the financial loss heartily try to offer whatever they can to their clients.

Anyhow, it is a difficult time for coworking spaces that cannot receive funding from their government or any convenience from their landlords. In this case, it remains up to the economic means and the conscience of the users to keep supporting their business partners through this hardship. Coworking spaces seem willing enough to make it up to their loyal clients.

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Deniz Öksüz Fer
Deniz is the Head of Communications & Brand Strategy at Ruul. She's been serving as a solo linguist, writer and editor since 2011. In 2020, she teamed up with Ruul to tell their inspiring story.
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