Is Coworking Ready for the Coronavirus?
Updated: Mar 12
Bryan Murphy, CEO of private workspace provider Breather, says his phone has been ringing a lot in the last couple of weeks.
“A number of companies have been contacting us recently, in the last a week or so, that are currently in coworking,” Murphy says. “They are looking to get out of coworking facilities and into a private workspace. Their concern is over the Coronavirus.”
Both coworking and private workspace are in the flexible workspace category. With coworking, companies or individuals can rent a desk in an open area among many other guests and get some amenities. A private workspace provides different advantages. “You have your own private office, and you don’t share it with other people,” Murphy says. “The advantages of that are that you’ve got privacy, there’s a lot less noise distraction, and they tend to be cleaner.
That privacy, limiting the number of people workers interact with, is something companies are attracted to in this current climate, according to Murphy.
“Coworking is high density, and you’ve got a lot of different people on the floor,” Murphy says. “They [the people calling him] are looking at private, standalone space. It’s just like [having a suite] in an office building. It’s your space and only your space.”
Coworking companies have been taking dramatic steps in response to the outbreak. Earlier this year, WeWork “temporarily suspended all events in common areas in its Greater China locations. It also encouraged “members to work from home when possible and in private offices or conference rooms while in their WeWork location.”
WeWork would not allow members to access its greater Mainland China locations before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. to properly clean, disinfect and monitor its locations. “Across all of our Asia Pacific locations, WeWork is following government and health authorities’ instructions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including the regular cleaning and disinfection of our spaces among other measures,” the company said on its website.
On Friday, WeWork announced that it “resumed operations” in several buildings in East China “per government’s approval.”
As Breather prepares its spaces in the US, Murphy says his company has been developing an “enhanced” cleaning and disinfecting program for its areas, which included buying supplies and training its team members about proper cleaning techniques.
Like many people following news reports, Murphy expects Coronavirus to spread to other metro areas. “My expectation is that it will come into the major markets,” he says. “We are prepared to follow the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] guidelines on cleaning and maintaining good health.”
Of course, if Coronavirus continues to spread, companies could instruct their workers to telecommute, which would obviously harm Breather and other flexible workspace companies.
“I am very concerned about that, but it can’t last forever,” Murphy says. “At some point, we’ll have to go back to work, and then they’ll have the opportunity to choose how they go back to work.”