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Count co-working companies among the many that have made major adjustments to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 20 of world’s largest co-working companies have joined up to form the Workplace Operator Readiness Council, The Wall Street Journal reports. U.S. companies Industrious, Convene, JustCo in Singapore and IWG PLC in the U.K. are among the co-working firms to join the umbrella organization.
Workplace Operator Readiness Council members said last week they would release a playbook that will detail how they will make workplaces safer—including contact tracing, decontamination and social distancing.
Convene is working with Eden Health, which helps employers understand insurance and other health-related matters, on a screening system that has an app for self-administering temperature checks. Meanwhile in Mexico IOS Offices developed a new position on the staff of its co-working offices—the “Safety Heros” will wear Tyvek suits and be in charge sanitizing all of its locations’ visitors.
Other suggestions include co-working locations considering requiring reservations for any communal meeting spaces. The playbook recommended shared spaces should be locked to prevent anyone from coming in without reserving.
For these co-working space providers, forming this organization is similar to when car companies share technology and data when they attempt to make vehicles more crash resistant, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“You can compete on other things,” Industrious Chief Executive Jamie Hodari said. “But, you don’t want to get sharp-elbowed about health and safety.”
Desperate times call for desperate measures during COVID-19
Watching usual competitors work together is a sign of how concerned the co-working space industry is about the pandemic disrupting its business model. A lot of these companies lease their spaces from landlords long term, and sublet them to office users on flexible terms. The pressure starts to mount if their revenue decreases each month because tenants are not renewing their leases.
Currently, co-working companies are debating how and when workers should return to the office as the virus begins to dissipate. Typically, co-working spaces are built for high density—the exact opposite of the social distancing guidelines that medical professionals recommend.
“I think of this as a wartime council,” Fifth Wall co-founder Brad Greiwe, told The Wall Street Journal. “In a time of war, you go through extraordinary measures to protect the homeland.”
Meanwhile, Hodari said he was surprised to see that so many co-working companies’ senior executives were open to working together to create guidelines on bringing people back to their offices. The Workplace Operator Readiness Council also comprises landlords like Hines and Jamestown LP, design firms such as Gensler as well as top epidemiologists.
The co-working companies in the council will continue to compete in a lot of respects, however.
“When clients tell us they need certain things, we’re not sharing that broadly,” Andrew Kupiec, chief executive of Hana, a co-working business created by CBRE Group Inc., told The Wall Street Journal. “It might be how they want to have density. It might be what kind of furniture they’re asking for or even how they’re going to have their teams rotate in and out for alternative work schedules.”
WeWork won’t be joining the Workplace Operator Readiness Council
WeWork, the largest co-working company in the United States, is not part of the group, according to The Wall Street Journal. When reached for comment, a company spokesperson explained WeWork wasn’t taking part because, “with over 100 locations in China, WeWork quickly developed, shared, and began implementing” plans for a safe return to the workplace in early April.
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