Coworking spaces see uptick in inquiries as pandemic keeps entrepreneurs, startups stuck at home
Tabitha Schneider gets a lot of calls with the same sentiment.
“What I’ve been hearing is, ‘I need to get out of my house. I can’t work from my house any longer,’” says Schneider, cofounder of Reno Hive, a coworking space occupying the second floor of downtown Reno’s Arlington Towers. “We are seeing an uptick of people that want space because people are sick of working at their house.”
It’s a Wednesday afternoon and Schneider is seated inside the social distance-friendly, 11,000-square-foot coworking space overlooking the Truckee River.
Some Hive members are tucked away in their private office on a video call; others chat in the community space; all appear to be in a state of workday bliss.
With the coronavirus pandemic driving many professionals out of offices and into their homes, Schneider expects to see more and more people trade their kitchen table for a coworking space.
During the COVID shutdown this spring in Nevada, which closed coworking spaces for more than two months, some people have likely discovered home is not the most conducive environment for getting work accomplished.
Jay Ridgeway is one these people. Ridgeway, channel sales manager for Karbon, a Bay Area-based computer software company with an office inside the Hive, lives in Reno and shares a spacious office with Stuart McLeod, the company’s CEO.
“Home is home — you can only do so much,” Ridgeway shrugs. “It’s a fine line of being a parent and then being a productive business owner or employee. I love my wife and I love my daughter, but you need to get away.”
McLeod agrees as he jokes about napping in their office sleeping bag, splashed with sunlight, or zonking out in Reno Hive’s meditation pod.
“We have a 2-year-old and it’s hard to work from home,” says McLeod, who lives in Incline Village. “And I hate (office) leases. They’re terrible. Imagine having a lease for three years during COVID? You’d just be spewing money.”
‘LIKE A GYM MEMBERSHIP’
To that end, Schneider and Reno Hive co-founder Fred Turnier feel the COVID-19 crisis is going to make a lot of companies rethink “spending between $5,000 to $10,000 a month on office spaces with five-to-10-year leases.”
“We’re that flexible place for people to go to,” Turnier said. “Think of it more as a gym membership — based on the membership you purchase, those are the amenities you get. I think the flexibility has really helped businesses, from the entrepreneur to the established businesses.”
Added Schneider: “I think coworking is the way of the future for office space, I really do.”
To cater to even more remote workers, Reno Hive is planning to roll out a new $50 membership for people to use the space five times a month from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. She said that lower level of access could be beneficial to teachers who need to do Zoom calls, for example, or people who need to take a proctored exam.
Schneider and Turnier also pointed to the collaboration and creativity that coworking spaces can evoke — one of the primary reasons Jon James, founder and managing partner of Ignited Results, has an office at the Hive.
“The thought I always carry about this place is people actually do collaborate,” James said with a smile. “If that happens at coworking spaces more, it’s good for everyone’s business.”
Business-wise for Reno Hive, prior to the pandemic, the coworking space was doubling its revenue each month since opening in October 2019, Schneider said. After initially losing a handful of memberships due to pandemic impacts, the coworking space is steadily filling its expansive space back up.
“We’re probably back at about 75% of where we were at financially before COVID hit,” said Schneider, noting Reno Hive is still accepting new members. “When the (case) numbers start to creep up like they are, I’m worried that the calls are going to start slacking off again.
“But, so far, that has not been the case.”
SWITCHING IT UP
Reno Collective, a coworking space set in a Victorian-style building in Reno’s midtown, is fielding its share of calls, as well, says Rachel Kingham, community manager.
However, because of the COVID crisis, the 6,000-square-foot space is not giving tours or accepting any new memberships — at least for now.
“We’re keeping a list of everyone,” said Kingham, noting Reno Collective currently has 90 members, with about 10 coming in on a regular basis. “Right now, we’re just not ready yet to open the door. We’re not marketing for new memberships.
“We have an established community that we want to keep safe.”
With that in mind, Reno Collective also decided to limit its hours to reduce contact and increase time for cleaning and disinfecting. The coworking space went from allowing access to members all day, every day to standard business hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday.
“That 24/7 (access) was just not something that we were going to be able to handle,” Kingham explained, “as far as cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and monitoring who’s coming and going.”
To make up for limited hours, Reno Collective has adjusted services and resources it offers members, including an increase in online programming and workshops, as well as opportunities for member communications and collaboration, Kingham said.
Like many businesses during the shutdown this spring, Reno Collective also took the opportunity to tackle some planned remodeling.
“We got rid of some hallways and opened them up to be larger spaces,” Kingham said. “That’s to our benefit now because we have more spacing for social distancing. The people who are working in the open plan areas, they feel better about it.”
Though Reno Collective offered its members to “pay what they could” amid COVID, Kingham said most members have maintained their regular monthly payments. All the while, a handful of members have left due to job loss or relocations, she added.
AGE OF ADAPTING
Meanwhile, the University of Nevada, Reno Innevation Center, home to many tech startups and entrepreneurs, has experienced about a 20% drop in membership since the pandemic swept in, Grace Chou said in an email to the NNBW.
Chou said the center — a 25,000-square-foot building in downtown Reno — had its capacity for coworking and meeting rooms reduced after rearranging its workspaces and offices to accommodate social distancing.
To adapt, Chou said the Innevation Center is moving more of its member services online, including a series of virtual speaker forums, enabling the center to cast a wide net for speakers and participants.
“The online forum has created the opportunity of being able to invite both speakers and attendees from outside the Reno area,” she added.
Another opportunity, Chou said, is that members are using the center’s conference facility, where its audio/visual equipment and big screen provide a “much more professional experience” for large virtual events.
Chou said the Innevation Center is still accepting new members, and inquiries have picked up in the last month.
She doesn’t see that changing.
“Companies are offering remote work opportunities across many of their divisions,” Chou said. “I think this trend will continue during pandemic recovery and into the future as companies look to reduce office density and prepare for future disruptions.
“Not all remote employees want to work from home forever. Coworking spaces provide not only office spaces for remote workers but a sense of community.”
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