In response to the government-ordered lockdowns throughout the United States, Texas-based coworking operator WorkSuites decided to transition their business operations for the time being.
Since social distancing measures have undercut the foundation of the coworking industry and jeopardized many jobs, WorkSuites wanted to find a new way to keep their staff members employed and simultaneously invest in the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s health and well-being. In addition to operating their spaces where possible, the WorkSuites team is now working to help small business owners apply for loans under the U.S. administration’s new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Flip Howard, Principal at WorkSuites, said this community-focused initiative came about when government lockdowns were first initiated in the U.S. Since some of the WorkSuites employees were unable to carry out their usual daily tasks, Howard decided to convert 10 team members into full-time CARES Act consultants.
“This program has been beneficial for everyone involved. It’s providing our employees with meaningful work, it’s adding value to our clients, and it’s helping WorkSuites. The more clients we help, the more likely they are to stay in business and remain a client of ours after the pandemic settles down.”Flip Howard, Principal
The CARES Act, which includes a Payroll Protection Program, is an emergency relief fund for businesses. Every business in the U.S. with less than 500 employees qualifies for the CARES Act and should be getting some assistance from the government.
The idea is to keep companies from laying off employees and help them stay afloat during the crisis. Under the CARES Act, businesses are eligible to qualify for 2.5 times the company payroll monthly average for the last 12 months. Independent contractors, self-employed professionals, sole proprietors, and SMEs can all apply to the program.
Currently, WorkSuites is reaching out to every member in their coworking network in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to offer assistance. Already, the consultants are helping over 200 businesses, assisting them with filling out all of the necessary paperwork. Some companies have only a couple of questions that can be answered within a few minutes, while others have needed more of an involved approach as they fill out the application.
In addition to common sense sanitation and social-distancing measures at the operator’s physical locations for those essential businesses still using their spaces, WorkSuites has undertaken several key initiatives to provide value to clients working from home. Also, WorkSuites staff members are answering and screening business calls for clients, scanning and forwarding U.S. mail to them, providing remote IT services, concierge services, and administrative services — such as setting up Zoom meetings with their clients.
What does the future hold for the coworking industry? Howard believes the current situation will accelerate the corporate adoption of remote work, including coworking. However, Howard sees two main problems that coworking operators will likely face when lockdowns are lifted.
“First, the recovery will not be quick, because many of the clients lost will never return. Second, for those spaces who signed leases at the top of the market and whose pricing model depends on ultra-high density, there may not be a way to turn a profit while customers are still concerned with social distancing. I predict you will see many businesses flock to traditional, executive-suite style private offices rather than tightly packed coworking spaces. Many new coworking spaces will have to find creative ways to compete.”Flip Howard, Principal
At a time when economies are facing near-total collapse, lending a hand to those in need is more important than ever. With so many small businesses dealing with operational crises, coworking spaces are in a unique position to offer their support.