UPDATE: Status of Coworking Venues Throughout SoCal In Midst of Continuing Pandemic and Evolving Orders/Guidelines

After seeing news reports that the Riveter had shut down all its coworking spaces, including one in LA, OCSN decided to look into the state of coworking venues these days — in the midst of a pandemic, the ensuing recession and the guidelines and orders that change and evolve due to new info about the novel coronavirus. (The Riveter had several coworking venues for women around the country.)

Here’s what OCSN found. Many, not surprisingly, have seen reduced occupancy rates. Some are starting to see a small uptick. One has started a Go Fund Me crowdfunding campaign.

And, another challenge for the coworking companies that do still exist is that there haven’t been any specific guidelines just for this demographic.

So those that can, are staying open to support essential service teams and employees. But with Gov. Newsom’s recent rollback, coworking companies just assume that non-essential business owners and employees must go back to working from home for now, Linda Talamo, the owner/founder of Hera Hub Irvine told OCSN. (Hera Hub also caters to women, especially small, local, women-owned business.)

Several coworking companies declined to comment at all for this article, including

– Peter Polydor, owner of the Eureka Building in Irvine

– and Premier Workspaces, with HQ in Irvine

Others answered only a few of the questions that were sent to everyone.

The Irvine Company and Hera Hub answered all the questions.

The Irvine Company acknowledged that coworking occupancy has been reduced since the stay-at-home ordinances were first put in place.

But more recently, occupancy rates have been ticking up, and range from 25% to 50%, Steve Case, EVP of office properties, told OCSN.

He also said that coworking operators are experiencing new prospects for space recently, which they hadn’t seen since the stay-at-home orders were originally issued back in March.

The reports the Irvine Company has received from the Vine “are indicative of the broader market conditions for coworking companies,” Case said. (The Vine is a coworking space in University Research Park. It shares the downstairs space with the EvoNexus incubator in a building owned by the Irvine Company.)

Cast also pointed out other options the the Irvine Company provides, like Flex Workspace+, which it launched last year. This combines the flexibility of coworking with the amenities of private suites – all tailored to reflect a company’s branding and culture. See article about that here.

Flex Workspace+ suites are fully built out and can be furnished without the upfront capital costs and length of lease terms associated with a traditional lease .

The Irvine Company has also recently seen an increase in leasing activity for this flexible option, based upon a company or team’s preference to have private office space.

There is a sense of added safety by occupying a private suite,” combined with the Irvine Company’s safety protocols, Case said.

The safety protocols include frequent cleaning, air filtration and “optimal ventilation.”

There’s also social distancing signage and more work-life balance resources for emotional well being.

Hera Hub remains open in Irvine and has seen a few members return, Talamo said.

But progress toward a rebound has been a trickle when we need it to be flood,” she said. “Health and safety is everyone’s concern and highest priority, so we are doing everything we can to provide a healthy and safe environment for our members when they are able and comfortable to return.”

Occupancy rates are low, she acknowledged.

At this point there’s no way to envision the future of this year, she said.

Everything and everyone is very unpredictable, but the need for flexible workspace alternatives and the future for coworking is very optimistic — I do know that,” she said.

Because Hera Hub has been severely affected financially over the past few months since the pandemic started in the U.S., it started a crowdfunding campaign via the GoFundMe platform. You can donate here.

WeWork declined to provide any stats in terms of occupancy.

A WeWork spokeswoman said that over the past couple of months, its teams have been reviewing member feedback and working with industry partners across health and safety, cleaning, construction, and design to install enhancements.

WeWork has several locations throughout OC, as well as domestically and internationally.

The company’s plan for the future focuses on three key areas: professional distancing, cleanliness and behavioral signage.

WeWork has modified shared spaces with staggered seating and buffer zones, so teams can continue to operate in a shared space while still maintaining a healthy physical distance from colleagues and fellow members.

Similar to the Irvine Company, there’s increased sanitization, which means heightened cleaning measures, like disinfecting common areas more frequently and providing free sanitization products.

The company is also using consultants from industry-leading engineering partners, to get tips on its HVAC systems, so it can protect members with the “maximum achievable delivery of fresh, clean air into all its spaces.”

For both companies, face coverings are required to be worn in compliance with local and state orders.

The Irvine Company states in one of its guides that face coverings are required in the following areas: when entering and exiting buildings; hallways, stairways, elevators, restrooms, shared amenity spaces, parking facilities, and in all common areas, as well as when outdoors if a six-foot distance cannot be maintained.

Hana Haus, a coworking venue in Newport Beach, remains closed. It’s still hosting virtual events. But its signature Blue Bottle Coffee shop is still providing drinks and food through curbside pickup, via its app.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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