The confirmed number of people infected by coronavirus in Sweden has now reached 140 as of Saturday, March 7. Although there have not been any reports of serious illness so far, more than half of those infected are based in the Stockholm region. With the intense media coverage of COVID-19, it’s important to remember that all confirmed cases in Sweden have so far been contracted by those who have traveled to South Korea, Iran, China and Northern Italy, or have been in direct contact with a patient.
As a coworking space, we have a duty of care to our members who work from our shared office on a daily basis, to their visitors, and event guests. With up to 200 unique visitors entering our space on an average week, here are some best practices we’ve implemented that other coworking spaces can adopt to protect their guests against novel coronavirus, the common cold, and flu.
Hand Washing – Washing your hands thoroughly with soap is the most important thing everyone can do to prevent the virus from spreading. We make sure that soaps are refilled daily in the kitchen and in all five bathrooms so there’s never an excuse to go without proper hygiene. Brightly colored signs are taped to the mirrors to remind people to wash their hands properly and to go home if they feel sick. In case you’re wondering, there is a proper way to wash your hands.
Hand Disinfectant – Bottles of hand disinfectant with pump mechanisms are placed in the reception and kitchen areas, at the lunch tables, as well as all meeting rooms, so they are easily accessible by people at all times, whether they are entering, staying, or leaving.
Cleaning of Shared Spaces – We’ve upgraded our cleaning services to ensure that every desk, door handle, and light switch are wiped clean every day of the week. We might not be able to control what germs people bring in, but we can damn well make sure they are annihilated daily to prevent them from spreading. Cleaning spray containing alcohol is provided in meeting rooms as well so extra precautions can be taken in-between meetings.
Video Conferencing – High-quality video conferencing equipment is available so our members can continue doing business as usual with people based in high-risk areas, or if they prefer to avoid in-person meetings with frequent travelers for a while. We can definitely recommend prodoc for video conferencing equipment and installation. One of our members went out of his way to tell us how great the equipment is and how easy it was for him to use by simply connecting his laptop with a USB cable. Remember, if you want people to take alternative action, it has to be simple to use and easy to access. At Impact Hub Stockholm, our video conferencing equipment is permanently installed in a meeting room so if people want to use it, they can check out the booking calendar and plan accordingly.
Physical Distance – This can be the most challenging in a shared space where people may sit less than a meter away from friends, colleagues or team members. European Furniture Group (EFG) offers acoustic standalone table screens that can be unfolded and set up on any flat table surface. Not only do the screens create private zones and contribute to a better acoustic environment for increased focus and productivity, but they also provide a physical barrier against unexpected coughs or sneezes from people sitting around you.
Booking Cancellation Policy – For our Coworkers who use our office on a daily basis, we offer a very generous cancellation policy that allows them to cancel meeting room bookings at any time without limitation. People most often cancel bookings due to illness and what we don’t want to do is to foster a culture where people feel like they should turn up anyway since they have to pay for it. It’s better for everyone in our community if people who feel ill stay at home and away from shared public spaces. So far only huge events and international conferences with over 1000 guests have been advised to cancel. For event bookings, we allow cancellation up to 3 days beforehand without charge so people have plenty of time to consider the best course of action.
Caring Culture – At Impact Hub Stockholm, the purpose of our coworking space is to bring social innovators, entrepreneurs and changemakers together to build better networks and develop their impact. So it’s really important for us to get to know everyone on a personal level. The most important question we always ask each other is “How are you?” and by getting to know each individual, it becomes natural to tell people to go home and take care of themselves if they don’t look well. A disproportionate number of social entrepreneurs experience challenges related to their wellbeing due to the pressures and anxiety of being the “hero” so we temper that by arranging community-led sessions like yoga or fika to encourage people to slow down and take care of their whole self. While we encourage all coworking spaces to adopt this caring culture during difficult times, this is something that we foster day after day. Impact Hub’s global contribution to the development of The Wellbeing Project together with Ashoka, the Esalen Institute, Porticus, the Skoll Foundation, and the Synergos Institute is an indication of the importance that we place on developing caring policies, a strong community culture, and what we like to call our #impacthubfamily.
Cathy Xiao Chen is the Head of Operations at Impact Hub Stockholm. With a passion for supporting social impact, she advises and connects changemakers with collaborators to maximize impact.