Few if any operators had contingency plans for what we're facing now, but they are adapting while trying to do their part to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The very reason coworking spaces grew in popularity—offering isolated freelancers and gig economy workers the opportunity to enjoy human interaction—is proving to be a tough sell amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Few if any operators had contingency plans for a scenario in which public health officials discourage gatherings of 10 or more people, but they are adapting while trying to do their part to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Some Central Ohio coworking spaces have stepped up sanitation procedures, restricted operating hours and limited access to members. Others are temporarily closing. And several are getting creative to continue to serve members. 

Hopewell, based in downtown Columbus, is planning to host remote work sessions with music provided by live DJs. CEO Brian Zuercher hopes to help those who are isolated at home set aside dedicated space to work. 

“People are realizing the idea of creating mental and physical space is a challenge,” he said. “If you design it like a fitness class, people can put this on their calendars. People can say, I’m going to create the space and the time for a work session, and let their family know they’re working.” 

It is also a way to support the local music community while they are unable to put on shows. 

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Zuercher said the effort aligns with Hopewell’s mission to go beyond the traditional coworking concept of providing physical space to workers.  

“The cool thing we’re trying to do is learn and understand the work experience overall,” he said. 

Cova Cowork, located at Gravity in Franklinton, is inviting anyone to join its virtual community of daily professional and social activities including workouts and yoga. 

“As a small business, this is a scary and challenging time. Our founder’s motto has always been ‘stronger together,’ what better time to put those words into action?,” the company posted on Instagram. “As we collectively take things day by day, we want to help our community to the best of our abilities. That’s why we’re launching a virtual version of @covacowork.” 

Cova says it is asking for $5 per week from users but that it does not want money “to be the reason a business or individual doesn’t join our community.”

COhatch, which has Central Ohio offices in Delaware, Worthington, Upper Arlington and Polaris, announced on Instagram the launch of COhatch Delivers. 

The company will make deliveries of groceries or supplies to anyone in need, encouraging people to call 614-502-7000 or email help@cohatch.com.

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“Send a random act of kindness to someone you know who needs uplifted. A hot meal made by a volunteer, an encouraging letter from kids... balloons in the front yard,” the company wrote on Instagram.

It also is offering to pair people with a COhatch member who specializes in a service such as finance or leadership.

As the region’s coworking spaces make changes on the fly, Zuercher says he appreciates the response from the state’s public health officials.

“We’ve been fortunate to be in a state where they’re proactive and clear on the guidelines they’re recommending,” he said.

Evan Weese is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO.