Co-working Safely During COVID-19

We can’t all work from home forever. Truly, we can’t do it.

Ohia Advisors, supports employers and co-working spaces as they adapt to the challenges of COVID-19, and we’ve worked with spaces like Workhub at the Substation to create a safe work environment for remote workers outside of the home. We have seen the challenges of remote work become more apparent for employees and their companies over the course of 2020. Here are a few of the most common problems that they share with us:

1. Not everyone likes working from home. Sure, most of us don’t miss our commutes. But satisfaction with working remotely goes much deeper. A strong majority of employees report a negative impact on their job satisfaction and motivation while working remotely during COVID-19.

2. Not everyone is mentally healthy working from home. As social creatures, and work is much more than a salary and job description for many of us. Mental health issues, particularly anxiety and depression, have increased as the pandemic has persisted. Social isolation is a contributing factor to these increases.

3. Not everyone is as effective working from home. The question of whether the shift to remote work during COVID-19 has helped or hurt productivity is a contentious one without a clear answer. One consistent trend in our conversations is that the number and variety of performance issues has gone way up for most managers.

4. Video meeting overload is real. Working from home means working longer and being on screen more for many employees. The National Bureau of Economic Research found that the average work day is now longer and meetings are more numerous. Also, it turns out that video meeting fatigue is real — our brains are better adapted for in-person communication.

As more and more people seek to recapture the benefits of in-person work, there is an immense opportunity for co-working spaces to serve as the hubs for new professional communities. We may very well emerge from COVID-19 to find that one of the bright spots is the opportunity for more professionals to work with and learn from their neighbors.

Those communities will require a shared understanding of safety during COVID-19 in order to be successful. Our team supports co-working spaces like Workhub in creating and maintaining safe workplaces for members and staff. Our goal is to create the kind of spaces we would want to work in. As Roslindale residents and Workhub members, we are proud to have helped make that happen in our own community!

We hope to see more co-working communities emerge and grow in the coming months. If you are part of one, or want to be part of one, here are some first steps to help you get there:

1. Start by preparing staff. Co-working spaces should develop a plan for how staff are expected to contribute to the health and safety of the co-working community during COVID-19.

2. Institute a strong screening program. Awareness of potential symptoms of COVID-19 is a critical component of creating a safe working environment.

3. Focus on safe behaviors. The primary driver for the transmission of COVID-19 is safe behavior, including the proper use of personal protective equipment. All staff and members should commit to and support these safe behaviors.

4. Be mindful of air quality. Improvements to the circulation of air within a building, the intake of outside air, and the quality of air filtration can contribute to a reduced chance of person to person transmission via large respiratory droplets or aerosols.

5. Clean surfaces, but don’t overinvest in it. While COVID-19 can survive on solid surfaces, these are a much lower risk for transmission than respiration. Focus on surfaces that are high contact, like door knobs and handrails, or surfaces that may come into contact with bodily fluids.

6. Communicate with members. Working together in any space during COVID-19 is an exercise in minimizing risk, not eliminating it. Communications with members can help to create clear expectations, reinforce safe behaviors, and raise awareness of potential safety issues.

Co-working spaces don’t have to be rebuilt to be safe during COVID-19, just reimagined. Ohia Advisors is proud to have helped Workhub make that transition. If you are looking for a safe place to work in the neighborhood, we may see you there!

Thank you to Ohia Advisors who advised Workhub on its covid readiness plan. This blog is a contribution from co-founder and CEO of Ohia Advisors, Jeff Wetherhold:

Jeff Wetherhold is an educator and coach who specializes in helping organizations build and support healthier communities. He co-founded Ohia Advisors to provide organizations with a stronger connection to the scientific and medical knowledge needed to ensure the health and safety of their teams. This work builds on 15 years of experience in program design, instruction, research, and evaluation in the health care and education sectors.

Jeff has supported a broad range of health care education and performance improvement work over the course of his career. He is currently a faculty member and was previously a staff member with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Boston, MA. He has also served as a staff member, consultant, and instructor for many health care and education organizations including Health Leads, Jobs for the Future, the MIT Center for Biomedical Innovation, and Upstream USA.

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Workhub at the Substation

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