The communal workspace model popularized by the tech industry in the 2000s, which first hit Delaware in 2010 with the now-defunct CoIN Loft in Wilmington, was not designed for social distancing.
Workers — often self-employed, freelancers and remote employees — share the same space and sometimes the same common workstation. Coworking is about being in closer proximity with others for the purpose of networking, collaboration and plain old social interaction.
The good news for most community members of coworking spaces who use the shared spaces is that they can work from home. It may not be ideal compared to going in to a coworking space, but it can be done.
We reached out to folks from Wilmington’s coworking spaces — The Mill, 1313 Innovation, WIN Factory, The Idea Loft, The Hub and biotech incubator the Delaware Innovation Space — to check the status of each during the COVID-19 State of Emergency (as of the week ending March 20):
“We currently are taking any conference room bookings from non-members and we are ensuring that folks understand the current situation with gatherings of 10 more,” said Rebecca Parsons, director of operations for The Mills’ two locations in downtown and North Wilmington, via email. “The event space is not bookable by anyone. We have canceled all events and are not permitting any new bookings for the time being.
“We understand that during this time of uncertainty there are large number of folks that work alone and have a dedicated desk or office and we are trying our best not to take that away from them,” she said. “We have seen a sharp decline in the number of community members that come through our doors.”
The site remains open for those who need it, but members have been encouraged to follow government guidelines re: biz operations, according to SummerCollab, a 1313 Innovation member that is currently all virtual. Additional cleaning practices have been put in place, too, “including use of high level disinfectant,” per an email from management.
“At the WIN Factory, our members still have access to the space,” said cofounder Tamara Varella. “We are making sure we have the proper prevention measures as far as cleaning and soaps while encouraging social distancing within the space. Members are collaborating via Zoom and telephone. We moved our weekly Masterminds to Zoom starting [this week] and the results were awesome.”
In addition: “On Monday, we are launching several platforms to get information and access to resources to help them during this time both for their businesses and families out to the Wilmington community-at-large,” she said.
The Idea Loft
“At the moment we are open,” said Todd Breck of Breckstone Architecture and the Idea Loft. “Based on the craziness we’ll make the decisions going forward week by week.”
Gayle Dillman, cofounder of Gable Music Ventures and an Idea Loft tenant, said: “We are all working remotely. We are scheduling calls to catch up and keep things moving. But we have lost all of our booking business as of right now. No one has cancelled any summer series or any large event, which is good. Right now, we do not have plans to touch Ladybug [Festival]. But of course, if restrictions remain, well … we will figure it out. It is tough to monetize virtual events when so many have no extra cash. We have been kicking around some ideas, but nothing definite yet.”
According to Stratfi futurist Jim Lee, who has a private office down the hall from the coworking space, The Hub has been deserted this week.
Delaware Innovation Space
“The Innovation Space in close collaboration with our clients and foundational partners has shifted as of Monday, March 16, to limited, essential only, operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” emailed Bill Provine, president and CEO of DIS. “We will remain closed to visitors during this timeframe and all on-site events are canceled until further notice.
“Most of the critical work that is continuing is being conducted on a part-time basis in our labs under alternating timeframes and we are reinforcing as a community social distancing and hand-washing protocols while in and out of the labs and all desk/office related work is being done at home for the near term,” he said. “As such, on any particular day, we have only 10-20% of our normal workforce in the building at any one time but the rest of our innovation community is working on a variety of projects and concepts virtually in preparation for the next great round of innovations.”
If you are a member of any of these spaces, check to make sure they are open before going, as status changes are frequent. You can keep up with the current State guidelines at Delaware.gov’s coronavirus page.-30-