Coworking Through COVID: How Carlsbad Companies Are AdaptingSeptember 7, 2020
Today, work meetings are peppered with curious house cats and babbling babies. These virtual meetings have become the hallmark of pandemic professional life. COVID-19 thrust millions into remote working overnight. As the months tick by, what started as a test run feels like the long run. In fact, at least 16 percent of workers are expected to work from home (WFH) indefinitely, according to new study by Harvard Business School.
New WFH employees are learning what many entrepreneurs figured out a long time ago: Sometimes, you still need a workspace — a refuge free from house cats and babies. That has many professionals eyeing coworking spaces that offer that drop-in flexibility, and here in Carlsbad, plenty stand ready to receive them.
“Carlsbad is home to some of the region’s premiere coworking spaces, so thankfully, we have capacity to help employers figure out the ‘new normal’ of work culture,” said Matt Sanford, Economic Development Manager for the City of Carlsbad.
Indeed, Carlsbad’s coworking spaces have sprung into action. CommonGrounds Workplace, Downtown Works, and HeraHub, among others have all been working to pivot along with the workforce during COVID-19. Here’s how they have adapted, and what they anticipate for the future:
First and foremost, all three coworking spaces are committed to protecting public health. Sanitizer and multiple daily cleanings abound at each location. All of them also ask visitors to sit at least six feet apart, per state guidelines.
Technology is helping, too. For example, before folks can access the WiFi at CommonGrounds Workspace, they must answer health-screening questions. At HeraHub, staff has created an online video outlining all its new health protocols. And Downtown Works has installed air filters with blue-light technology that curbs bacteria.
They’re also taking advantage of outdoor space, which poses a lower COVID-19 infection risk according to health authorities. CommonGrounds Workspace has a patio work area, and this fall, Downtown Works is building a large outdoor space. HeraHub is equipped with garage-style doors that can make its offices open air.
“We also brought all of our events and curriculum for entrepreneurs online,” added Lisane Basquiat, owner of the HeraHub in Carlsbad. “Coworking spaces provide human connection. So as we talk about public health, it’s important we also talk about the isolation that can result from quarantine. I think our members need each other now more than ever, so we’re creating ways for them to stay connected digitally.”
As new WFH employees recalibrate, many of them want to test the waters of coworking. New membership packages let them do that.
All three coworking spaces give members the option to share hours. This way, spouses, partners and colleagues can divvy-up office time as needed.
“We realize that families may have two parents working from home now, so they may need to juggle office hours day by day,” said Niki Ellis, Downtown Works Community Manager for the new Carlsbad location.
In that vein, all three coworking spaces are also catering to students who must be homeschooled due to COVID-19.
“With uncertainty around schools, distance learning, and library availability, coworking spaces can double as a quiet space for tutoring and deep study sessions,” Ellis said. “We’ve even started offering hourly drop-in options. We understand this is new territory for everyone, so we’re all about providing flexibility right now.”
A NEW BREED OF EMPLOYEE
In the wake of COVID-19, major companies — including Google, REI and Nationwide Insurance — are embracing long term work-from-home policies. As a result, industry experts predict we’ll see a new type of workforce: WFH employees who choose to cowork a couple days per week. In fact, commercial real estate researchers with CoStar predict that most companies will adopt a hybrid approach that embraces work-from-home about 40 percent of the time.
That means coworking spaces once reserved for entrepreneurs could very well need to accommodate this new breed of hybrid employees. All three coworking spaces in Carlsbad say they’re prepared to do just that.
“As we reimagine the traditional office culture, we’re sure to see more big companies with distributed spaces for coworking,” said Jacob Bates, CEO of CommonGrounds Workspace. “We can also likely expect to see more companies offering stipends for coworking members. Employers are realizing that nobody can work from home all of the time, nor should they have to.”
While these co-working companies have had a crash course in tenacity, Matt Sanford said they’re also a testament to the grit of the city’s business community.
“With the rapid disruptions we’ve all faced, it’s difficult to imagine what the future of working will look like, but I think we can all agree it will include more coworking, more flexibility,” said Sanford. “We’re thankful to have those coworking spaces and industry leaders right here in Carlsbad, so no matter how things shake out, we’ll be ready.”