A safe return to coworking in Sheffield

How are the city’s coworking spaces making people feel safe and at home as they reopen?

Sheffield’s coworking spaces fuel creativity in the city. The many freelancers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, micro-companies and generally excellent and creative people of Sheffield can be found collaborating, concentrating and creating in spaces like Sheffield Technology Parks, Kollider and Union Street. Co-working spaces provide a vital service to people working alone, without an ‘office’ to speak of. That’s why we were extremely happy to see coworking spaces reopen their doors after the COVID-19 lockdown. We heard from some of the spaces that are now open about how they are providing a safe, socially distanced working environment.

Sheffield Technology Parks

Sheffield Technology Parks was keen to safely reopen its coworking space – The Cooper Lounge – as soon as possible since closing in March. Chief Executive, Tom Wolfenden, comments:

“Many of our coworkers live and work alone, and the lockdown restrictions had started to take their toll on productivity and mood.”

Tom and his team had the entire building to work through, making sure they adhered to the guidelines and ensuring everyone’s safety whilst using the Cooper Buildings. Visitors will now see lots of signs throughout the building as well as several restrictions that have a small impact but still allow the overall use to continue.

Meeting rooms posed the biggest challenge at the Technology Parks, and as a result they have reduced permitted numbers by at least half in these spaces. Phone pods were closed until last week, but given the low use and the fact that everyone working at the Technology Parks is well known to the team, they have reopened the pods, providing antiviral wipes to clean before and after use.

Coworking has been reduced in the Cooper Lounge from 16 to eight spaces.

Coworking has been reduced in the Lounge from 16 to eight spaces, bookable before arrival (which you can do here) to ensure there is space. Other coworking spaces in the building have been expanded to accommodate more demand if needed.

The Technology Parks has also introduced compostable, disposable items for refreshments including single serve coffee bags, tea bags, wooden utensils and paper cups, to reduce the risk of cross-contamination in the kitchen areas. Tom continues:

“Having people back working in the Cooper Buildings has brought a welcome sense of normality for a lot of people. We’re safely getting back to normal, and expect to see far more people around the building from September onward.”

Kollider Eagle Lab

To help all members use the building safely, Kollider has provided a guidance booklet which they advise is also given to any external visitors in advance. The guidance covers all social distancing and hygiene measures that are in place and states what users must do to comply. The booklet also details Track and Trace requirements and outlines the steps that must be taken if a case of COVID-19 is suspected in the building.

Kollider has implemented a one-way flow system around the building, which asks users to move in an anti-clockwise direction around the co-working space. People are encouraged to use the stairs and must do so in single file, sticking to the right of the stairwell. In doorways where it isn’t possible to stay 2m apart, ‘pause points’ are marked, so that people can stop and wait at a safe distance if anyone is coming from the opposite direction.

‘Pause points’ are marked, so that people can stop and wait at a safe distance at Kollider.

To reduce the risk of contamination from door handles, doors will be propped open wherever possible and regular touch points, such as bathroom door handles and taps, will be cleaned regularly throughout the day.

In the co-working space, Flexi and Dedicated members will be allocated their own desk, and Flexi members will also be given a locker to store their belongings in when they aren’t using the space. Kollider has adopted a ‘leave no trace rule’, which applies to desks, kitchen areas and meeting rooms and asks users to wipe down all areas and equipment that they have used before leaving the space. Tissues, antibacterial wipes and bins are located in all of these spaces.

Whilst meeting rooms are available, Kollider is asking people to use video-conferencing whenever possible to reduce the number of external visitors in the building. When meetings do take place, the 2m social distancing guidance must be applied and all visitors will be asked to complete a Track and Trace form.

Use of the kitchen is limited and whilst prepared lunches can be brought in and food can be heated in the microwave (using your own container), lunches cannot be prepared in the kitchen. Kollider is asking all users to ‘own a mug’, using just this and keeping it at your desk or in your locker when you aren’t in.

32 Eyre Street (Wizu Workspace)

Wizu Workspace has implemented a range of new protocols and processes that will enable members to safely access, use and operate from 32 Eyre Street in Sheffield.

From the implementation of online screening tests for visitors, to a significant increase in cleaning procedures and a review of furniture layouts, the team has taken extra precautions to ensure members can return to a clean, safe and sanitised environment in which social distancing measures can be adhered to.

Natasha Babar Evans, COO at Wizu Workspace said: “We were really keen to ensure that our members felt safe when the government eased the lockdown restrictions and we introduced a really robust COVID-19 return to work programme outlining all the changes we have made to our workspace to keep our members safe.” (You can read all of the measures Wizu Workspace has taken on its website.)

Members can return to a clean, safe and sanitised environment in which social distancing measures can be adhered to at 32 Eyre Street.

Natasha continues,

“The health and well-being of our team and members is our top priority and so we implemented this framework as quickly as possible during lockdown and some of our amazing Wizu team have been back supporting all our members.

“What we have really noticed since opening our co-working space on 15 June 2020 is that our members love our flexible approach. This flexibility has been really important as businesses adjust to a new way of working.”

Cutlery Workspace

Cutlery Workspace launched early in 2020, just before the beginning of lockdown. It has since re-launched in mid-July and offers the same level of flexibility with no commitment, but with a few adjustments to ensure co-workers feel safe in the space. All ordering of food and drinks (which isn’t obligatory to use the space) has to be done through The Milestone Group App, which is free to download and use.

Cutlery Workspace has expanded its pre-lockdown work area from five tables to 10 to allow more space whilst working. They have also added plastic screens on tables to maintain social distancing and hygiene measures.

Cutlery Workspace has fitted plastic screens on tables to maintain social distancing and hygiene measures (Photo credit: Doug Banks)

General hygiene and safety measures apply to all guests using the workspace or dining at Cutlery Works. These include a one way system for movement around the building and all customers are greeted by a host and shown to a table where they can order directly to their table via the app, rather than ordering at a counter.

All staff and vendors are wearing face masks and hand sanitiser points are placed at frequent points around the venue. All tables are spaced at least 1m apart, with ‘zones’ marked around tables on the floor to help customers maintain their distance from other parties.

Find a coworking space

The spaces we have featured in this post are all listed on our Digital Ecosystem map, showing where they are in the city. You’ll find several other coworking spaces listed on there too and a quick visit to their website should tell you if they have reopened.

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