No one can argue that one of the unintended consequences of COVID-19 is that the way we work is forever changed.  Companies have invested in the technology to enable their employees to work as efficiently as they do in the office, outside of the office.  Does that mean everyone should work from home? No. It means that this pandemic has accelerated the need for a third place to work that is not your home and not your office, where you can perform the same functions just as efficiently with the aid of technology. It also means that the third place is not a coffee shop or a gym-or really anyplace whose main business function is not to provide a safe and healthy place to work.

Workbar’s commitment to the health of our members has been the core value that has driven the fundamental design of our spaces since day one.  It did not take a pandemic for us to see the value in being a leader in workplace wellness. Workbar Back Bay, which opened in 2017, was the first and remains one of the only coworking spaces in the world to achieve WELL Certification from the International Well Building Institute.  Achieving the highest standard in workplace wellness was not an easy task and required days of stringent onsite testing to meet the requirements. As other companies scramble to redesign spaces to adapt to the new focus on health and safety, our members can rest assured that they are in a space that is already best in class for wellness. A few examples include sensors that continuously measure air pollution and sound an alarm if there is ever too much carbon dioxide.  The alarm is a trigger for our Community Manager to increase the fresh air to accommodate the amount of people in the space. Our members also appreciate a higher percentage of clean air due to the increase in air changes and added filters. This is all in addition to the strictly enforced cleaning protocols, lighting systems that mimic the circadian rhythm, custom furniture designed to ease the stress on one’s muscles and the integration of exercise and healthful nourishment.

When the time comes to welcome our members back into our spaces, they will notice an even higher level of commitment to their wellbeing.  There will be cleanliness stations at the entrance of all of our locations to encourage our members to leave germs at the front door. We are adding air purification systems with UV lights to reduce bacteria in the air.  Our technology team is redeploying an early feature of our platform that provides the total number of people in the space on our homepage in real time. Members can check the density in the space before they leave their home and can change locations based on their comfort level.   

Our business model is going to continue to evolve with the understanding that our current and future members may want to limit their time in our open coworking neighborhoods.  We are proactively taking steps now to accommodate those needs. A few of those steps include increasing the supply of dedicated desks in our spaces and adding partitions between workspaces. We are siphoning off a percentage of our meeting rooms to companies with remote employees to alleviate the pain point of finding a safe, clean space to do a video call or get a few hours of private work done.  These employees will get the added benefit of using our technology to reserve the meeting room privately amongst themselves.

Workbar; Back Bay; Boston, MA; Architect: Analogue Studio, LCC

In the meantime, we are hard at work making virtual coworking a reality.  Workbar Cares is a new platform we developed for our team, members and community to give to those who need it most. We encourage acts of kindness as a small reminder of our continued connection to each other. As we always have, Workbar is promoting connections amongst our members at a time when they need it most: ‘Members helping members’ facilitated by ‘Workbar helping members.’  We are also introducing Workbar Live, a sophisticated virtual event program aimed at providing educational and impactful content through strategic partnerships with industry thought leaders. Our goal is to provide expertise in an array of discussion topics, all designed to stimulate meaningful connections and executed in the form of live virtual events and digital newsletters.

Our solid business model, based on risk management, combined with our strategic growth initiatives over the past ten years, have put us ahead of the curve of the workplace trends that have been magnified by the pandemic. In addition to making health and safety a priority, companies are going to reevaluate their workplace strategy to hedge their ability to quickly scale up or down with little notice based on market volatility.  There will be value in splitting teams across multiple locations. Having a hub and spoke network of spaces will provide these teams with mobility and with the convenience of working closer to home. Workbar will be the workplace solution that companies look to at first to bridge the divide between home and work. Workbar will be the workplace solution that employees ultimately demand from their companies for productivity, efficiency and most importantly, health.