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Coworking spaces are built for community, conversations, and networking—all of which is discouraged now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
A new coworking location called the Village Workspace opened in Centennial three-and-a-half weeks before Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide stay-at-home order until April 11. Gina Schreck, owner and founder of the Village says when Denver implemented a similar order on March 24 she knew it was only a matter of time before she had to make the tough decision to only allow members with private offices access to the space.
“We still had people coming in, and they were able to keep social distancing because we’re brand new and we’ve got lots of space,” Schreck says about business prior to the stay-at-home orders. She has since closed all shared public spaces at the facility and credited members who don’t have a private office.
The Village, like several coworking spaces in Colorado, can remain open under Polis’ order because coworking facilities process mail and packages for members. Some private offices are also rented by “essential businesses,” such as realtors and title companies, Schreck says.
Craig Baute, founder of the coworking brand Creative Density and the coworking alliance Denver Coworks, says some facilities are closing and some are only allowing members with a private office to use the space. “That’s pretty much everyone’s MO right now because then they’re in their own space, their own cough cube,” he says.
Galvanize, for example, temporarily closed its Boulder and Denver locations for a deep cleaning from March 18–24 but reopened operating under “weekend hours during weekdays,” according to the company’s website. This means all Galvanize employees are working from home but members, who are also encouraged to work from home, have access to the space. CEO Harsh Patel said members were refunded for time lost while the space was closed.
“The coworking world is going to have to be a little more adaptable to come out of this,” says Baute, who formed Denver Coworks in 2012 and now has 25 coworking owners in the network.
Baute says Creative Density, which has three locations across the Denver metro area, is finding new ways to give back to members. He began hosting online happy hours, and last week started providing office chairs and computer monitors for members to checkout and take home. “We’re doing different things to support our members and they’re taking advantage of it,” he says.
Other businesses are taking extreme measures by not collecting rent from members for the month of April. Rise Collaborative, which temporarily closed in late March, and Shift Workspaces are at least two in the metro area offering such a reprieve.
“Rise Collaborative has always stood for supporting others. So it only made sense for us to close our doors through April 11 in Denver/April 22 in St. Louis and not charge our members April 1 because we need to support our society in slowing the spread of this virus, and support Rise members who are hurting financially in the wake of this crisis. It was a very difficult business decision, but a very easy moral one,” Rise founder and CEO Stacy Taubman wrote on LinkedIn.
While it may take some time for coworking spaces to operate at full capacity again, Schreck says she can’t wait to host “a coming out of quarantine party” instead of her previously planned grand opening.
“The positive is there’s still people who are talking about membership, just it’s going to be a little bit later, and I think what’s going to happen is after everyone’s been in lockdown at their home, they’re going to [say], ‘I need to get out of the house. I need to work somewhere else,’” Schreck says.