Convene Prepares Its Space For The Post-Pandemic World
Across the globe, coworking and events spaces have been forced to close their doors. The coronavirus has created ghost towns from commercial areas and echoing halls of offices and shopping centres.
But the real estate sector can’t sit and wait forever. The time has come to look beyond the virus to how these spaces could operate in the new, vastly altered environment.
New York-based company Convene has just released its updated operating standards for how it will manage its spaces. These standards focus on five areas: testing, monitoring and access to health services; frequent communication and transparency; design that facilitates social distancing; increased cleaning and improved air quality; and updating its service delivery standards.
“What’s particularly exciting about this time, while it’s also tough in many ways, is the opportunity to innovate and create something new,” Convene Global Chief Operating and Chief People Officer Amy Pooser said. “We wouldn’t have grown the way we have for the last 10-plus years if we didn’t evolve to what our clients demand.”
Flexible Space At Today’s Standards
Convene operates 32 flexible working and hospitality-driven events spaces across the U.S., all of which are currently closed due to the global pandemic, and is due to open its first two locations in London in 2021. The company is currently making significant changes to its properties to allow customers to be able to work effectively as soon as government advice allows.
“We’re partnering with medical experts to rethink our spaces and procedures in order to make them as safe as possible for people to host meetings and conduct business,” Pooser said. “One of the most important measures we’re taking is testing and active monitoring, which is a symptom screening process that will be required of all employees, members and guests prior to entering a Convene space. It’s definitely a ‘new normal’, but these precautions are crucial to making sure we keep people safe and well.”
Further measures include temperature checking once you arrive at a Convene property, a decrease in maximum capacities, more frequent cleaning and a redirection of foot traffic to cut down on corridor bottlenecks.
Despite industry predictions that the coworking sector could shrink due to coronavirus, Pooser believed that it will remain as crucial for businesses as ever.
“Running an office just became a whole lot more complicated,” she said. “You can’t just lease a space, buy some desks and call it a day. Running an office requires you to be an expert in commercial real estate, human-centered design, cutting-edge technology, premium amenities and now you can add to that mix stringent cleaning and public health standards. That’s a lot for companies to try and take on themselves. Coworking and flex offices offer an ideal solution for companies’ changing real estate needs.”
The Hybrid Meeting
Meetings and events will continue to be fundamental to how businesses operate, Pooser argued, despite people’s intense awareness of the health risks of getting people together.
“Years ago, people made predictions that videoconferencing would replace in-person meetings and events, but that didn’t happen,” she said. “It’s human nature to want to connect in-person. That desire is no different today and many people are yearning to return to that normality.”
As well as real estate changes, Convene is offering clients ‘hybrid’ events, which bring together in-person and virtual attendees. Rather than bring lots of people together in one place, a company can gather people in small groups and broadcast the content of the meeting. Convene recently managed a 3,000-attendee event for a publishing company that took this format, integrating technology such as recording and sharing material.
“Real estate is probably more important for events than ever,” Pooser said. “If you’re planning on hosting a hybrid event, you’re now looking for multiple suitable venues rather than a single space. You need venues that are spacious, well-equipped and easily accessible in locations spread across a single city, the country or even the whole world.”
The New Normal
Pooser argued that the fundamentals of offering excellent levels of hospitality, which is what Convene focuses on, will not change.
“Hospitality is all about making people feel welcome and comfortable in your space — warm smiles, anticipating their needs, great food, etc,” Pooser said. “As we adjust to the changing post-coronavirus world, a big piece of that hospitality will be making people feel safe.”
However, what will change — and what is still unclear — is the demands from society and government in all aspects of social distancing. All coworking and events operators need to be able to continue to adjust their business models as new guidelines and behaviours emerge. Convene is already prepared to alter its operations again as necessary.
“We're assessing how to measure our effectiveness based on the use of our spaces and how satisfied our guests and members are,” Pooser said. “We'll be surveying everyone in our spaces, including our employees, on how safe they feel and about the cleanliness and experience in our locations. In addition, we’re going to measure the utilization of our active monitoring process to ensure proper disclosure of health status and the ongoing cleaning and adherence to our new standards.”
Pooser is extremely confident about the future of coworking and hospitality, which will be music to the ears of those invested in the sector. As countries around the globe continue to ease social distancing restrictions, the new normal will start to become even clearer. The operator able to make the most of all new environments could become tomorrow’s champion of bringing people together.
This feature was produced by the Bisnow Branded Content Studio in collaboration with Convene. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.