Preferred Office Network’s Member of the Month for April is BLANKSPACES – an innovative coworking community of entrepreneurs and freelancers based in Southern California, who share space, collaborate and network together.
With two locations just east of Los Angeles – in Culver City and Santa Monica, with a third soon opening in Long Beach – BLANKSPACES is putting its own inventive spin on coworking as it navigates through the challenges that COVID-19 has presented.
As remote work becomes the norm as we flatten the curve, BLANKSPACES was determined to keep its clients in continued communication and collaboration – while they are away from their coworking spaces.
Heading up this effort is Jerome Chang, founder of BLANKSPACES and a still-practicing licensed architect. As a member of the coworking community since the early days of its inception, Jerome believes that this group of individuals, companies and teams have shown their support for each other during a difficult time.
“The coworking community has really come together well in this crisis,” he said. “As one of the coworking “OGs,” I am a part of many networks of space operators such as the League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces, the Global Workspace Association, the Global Coworking Unconference Conference, and newer organizations like Women Who Cowork, and Proximity Connect. They’ve all had very helpful conference calls for brainstorming and discussions about how we all will get through this.”
One of the methods that Jerome and his team have devised to help their clients navigate through COVID-19 is the implementation of a virtual front desk service. This service is open for members weekdays from 12 PM – 1 PM, in a lunch hour format, with happy hours and other events held throughout the week to supplement.
The virtual front desk serves as a first point of contact for clients to drop in and update BLANKSPACES on how business operations are proceeding.
Not only can clients communicate directly with BLANKSPACES staff, they can utilize the virtual front desk to drop in and talk to others who they may usually see in their office spaces during lunch or downtime.
“The virtual front desk has helped both our own staff and our member community keep in touch,” said Jerome. “We’ve had people pop in with mail requests, questions about their accounts, and just to say hello.”
“Since I started BLANKSPACES in 2008, our slogan has been ‘work for yourself, not by yourself,’ and these new virtual community opportunities allow that to continue even during this pandemic.”
The virtual front desk has even allowed clients of BLANKSPACES to expand their networks, outside of the typical coworking locations that they frequent. Hosting virtual happy hours with clients has even opened the door for new connections to be made from other BLANKSPACES locations.
“The more concentrated Virtual Happy Hours are fun and allow people to catch up and even meet new friends from another location,” added Jerome.
And while it’s a completely different atmosphere to work in, BLANKSPACES virtual front desk has been a source of happiness and even laughter for its team members and staff.
“Some memorable moments have included people’s pets and children making guest appearances,” he said. “They’re certainly always welcome and bring a smile to everyone’s face. Just checking in, saying hello, and having someone who really cares about the answer, ask, ‘how are you?” is good for the morale and mental health of staff and members alike.”
With BLANKSPACES member pool consisting primarily of freelancers, entrepreneurs and small businesses and with the implications of COVID-19 hurting these groups of people, Jerome and his team have had to be creative and resilient in their efforts to support each other.
“Our members are resilient freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses, so although working from home isn’t their first choice, they can adapt quickly,” said Jerome. “Just like us, they are going virtual to meet with clients and thinking of new and innovative ways to keep going.”
“One member who just had a major contract put on hold due to the virus is using her newly freed time to start a giving initiative to help others,” he added.
While COVID-19 has – and continues to be – truly ill-timed and grim, Jerome is optimistic that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for BLANKSPACES and many in the coworking industry to emerge even stronger.
“I am hopeful that there will be a coworking boom as soon as the quarantine is over. We’ve already had a few leads contacting us hoping to grab space in advance.”
In response to the increase in remote work, coworking companies are also now making the shift to offering clients the benefits of different virtual packages which can include a business mailing address, phone number and even call and mail handling.
“We are also able to continue offering our virtual packages (mailing address, phone numbers),” said Jerome.
Adding to BLANKSPACES continued innovation and support of its members throughout COVID-19, the company is, “…introducing a new Healthcare Collective Membership that allows members to have access to quality healthcare at discounted group rates directly through us,” Jerome explained.
“With many being laid off and the high amount of people who will need to treatment for COVID-19, it’s more important than ever.”
To learn more about BLANKSPACES, click here.