COVID19 and What it means for the Community

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We are going to talk about the current crisis the world is facing and how it is affecting businesses. We discuss how the Corona Virus Disease (Covid19) and everybody is self-isolating to help flatten the curve and what it means for the Coworking community. And how everyone is trying their best to get through self-isolating order.


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Bernie J Mitchell  00:03:

Do you want to do the intro along?

Bernie J Mitchell 00:08

Is just that I don’t know what to say. So, don’t tell anyone I said that, but I think you’ll do a better intro.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 00:17

I’m already recording so everybody’s going to hear it. So, you know, that could be, actually, this is the intro. Do you want to do the intro? No, you do it.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 00:29:

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Zeljk Crnjakovic 01:06

Okay. Hi everybody and welcome to another coworking values podcast episode. And this is kind of a beginning of a series of new episodes produced by Bernie J Mitchell and me, Zeljk Crnjakovic from Serbia and Bernie’s in London. And talking about this whole new situation everybody’s dealing with. Hey Bernie.

Bernie J Mitchell  01:31:

Hello, Zeljko

Zeljk Crnjakovic 01:33

How are you doing? 

Bernie J Mitchell   01:26

I’ve just realized this is our, this is our first podcast together. We have all those other coworking values podcasts together, but this is the first time we’ve actually on a podcast together.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 01:45:

You never wanted me on a podcast. You  just sent me out and said, record, talk to people and you know, do interviews and now we’re in this kind of a special situation where those interviews are not that important right now rather than taking a look at the whole situation and what your part of the world is saying, what my birth world is saying and what, you know, everybody across the pond as thing.

Bernie J Mitchell  02:11:

Did, disaster has forced us together. So it is, it is a very, very weird time. It’s like being in a, it’s like being in Independence Day with will Smith or the Amiga man with Charlton Heston. So, it’s, it’s kind of like exciting and devastating simultaneously.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 02:31

I’m just waiting for, for the aliens. You know, 

Bernie J Mitchell 02:35

 It’s funny, you should mention that we were just done our London coworking assembly call and, and Janine effortlessly slipped in that she wouldn’t be surprised if aliens landed in in the town square and we won’t see them.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 02:47

Everybody’s self-isolating. So that’s gotten to the point. Maybe they are, maybe this is the reason we are self-isolating,.

Bernie J Mitchell 

There’s never been a better time to take control. So, what else is going on with you? I want to, you know, ungently draw attention in the Slack channel as we were making the show notes. You said there was a fire in a coworking space, is that right?

Zeljk Crnjakovic 03:09:

No. Actually, I said we’re going to talk about the earthquake and then you maybe red fire. So yeah. It’s not actually near me. It happened yesterday morning, so it’s it was on Sunday, the 22nd of March, mother earthquake hit very hard near Zagreb. Croatia. And how I know, especially, you know, apart from the news and everybody talking about it is, you know, in this world, one of the coworking spaces got the sadder end of it, and was a sustained some damage in that. So, we talked to or we just wrote each other messages with a coordinator and operator there. So, everybody was talking about, you know, amongst the  madness with Corona and Covid and the self-isolating thing and everybody’s business going down, you know, you just need another earthquake or a fire, tsunami or whatever to mess up your plans or your day.

Bernie J Mitchell  04:18:

If I was at coworking space, so I know I would be hard to believe what was happening because either, what is happening, you know, with the Corona virus or an earthquake that destroys your coworking space is a lot to take in at one time. But both in one week is something else.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 04:36:

Yeah, and the biggest issue of course with you and us and I think everybody across Europe right now is that business is going down. It’s not about, you know us being in need of closing or self-isolating or for a period of time, but the fact that we don’t know how long is this going to take and when is this going to end, is forcing everybody to, you know, take drastic measures, and see the situation from a very sad point of view.

Bernie J Mitchell  05:18:

It is like we have this daily call at midday in London and you know, we talk about the practicalities of it, but a lot of it, you know, frequently people talk about the mental strain and the stress and there is the uncertainty that fuels that because people are very competent business people. Usually their biggest stresses, like, how do I get more customers, get my business going, which is just the nature of running a business anyway. And you know, how profession you are doing that determines your level of stress to extent. But then not knowing what is going to happen suddenly I don’t know what’s going to happen next week or the month afterward. I suppose that, you know, and feel free to contradict or comment on this is at some point we will go to the new normal. So, they we will open a coworking space again and you know, start to run a business, but it might be in a, in a different kind of setup to what we have now. But you know, what do you,

Zeljk Crnjakovic 06:25:

So, somebody I know said that, this is another big crisis and it will pass, and if that’s one thing we’re sure off that it will pass. I’m going to chime in and say, yes, it will pass, but how is it going to leave us? Is very debatable. So, are we going to go back to normal? Is there going to be a new normal or is there going to be, you know, this whole situation it seems like to me that it could be, I’m not going to go into kind of predictions that it could be easily the change to some of the most basic things that we know on how we do business, how we communicate, how we gather, how we operate on a, on a daily level. So, I’m not, you know, wishing it, I’m not saying it will be, so I’m hoping it will pass in three weeks, six weeks, I don’t know, two months. But for sure if this is happening right now, I’m going to say don’t prepare that it’s going to last two weeks or four weeks or six weeks, prepare that it’s going to be like this for a much longer and then we’ll see how it goes.

Bernie J Mitchell  07:45:

Yeah, that’s what it was. Listen, there is a guy called Marcus who I have been following for a long time, and he runs a five o’clock swimming pool in Virginia, in America, and he, nearly lost his company in the 2008 crash. And he’s one of the people I’ve followed that very nearly lost their business. They were about to close and then, he got on my radar because he just started communicating and blogging and answer his customers questions about fiberglass swimming pools online. And he was one of the first people to use HubSpot and do really well out of it. And the HubSpot is piece of marketing software and you know , I still know him 10 years later and he’s been talking a lot about how, how he did what I just said when the recession hits and how he came out of it shining really well on a lot of people in his industry didn’t do anything and, they just stopped communicating.

Bernie J Mitchell  08:49:

They were, you know, overcome with devastation about a lot of things. And you know, all that is, is very, very, very real. But there’s, I don’t know what the answer is, but there’s something, some way to try and separate the anxiety and the stress. We’re doing and finding a way to keep going, and you know, it’s a bit different to say that as a freelancer like I am when I’m standing next to someone that owns seven coworking spaces and has spent the last 15 years building them. But you know,  this certainly can be looked at. Does that make sense?

Zeljk Crnjakovic 09:27:

Yeah, it does, because it is our job to adapt to any given situation and we will adapt to this and we can talk about how coworking spaces and operators can already adapt to even this situation, even in the most dire circumstances that there are. On the other hand, you know, when we take the whole global view that everybody’s  in this and this vires, you know, unless they find ,I don’t know, a vaccine or something that just stopped dead in his tracks. It’s not like, you have a recession in one part of the world and everybody else is operating the same as they did yesterday. Or you know that you need to change and adapt something to a given situation, the whole world will adapt, and what that change will be.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 10:24:

I don’t know in that sense. However, right now we need to deal with the situation at hand. So, you know, I’m all up for going cross what each, for example, coworking operator can do in this situation. Because, I just listened to Alex Hellman and he said one good thing that, it really rang with me,  this whole situation with Self isolation is going totally against everything that we do. The coworking world are, you know, set out to do, were set out to bring people together to get them in one space, to have educational events, to network, to basically collaborate with people and, and get them talking and, and, you know, knowing each other and, and handshaking and, and you know, doing events. And this whole situation is just, you know, a whole contradictory part of that.

Bernie J Mitchell  11:24:

So, yeah, I agree with what Alex says because I haven’t read the video, but you know, main yard where I’m based in London has spent since 2012 gathering people together. There’s like four sites and the whole thing is about the whole roof is about building a community together, working together, learning off each other. Every week we have this like 20 of us sit down in our coworking space and have lunch together. And one of the things that like really killed it for me, it has only been two weeks we missed it, but it really killed it. Not having lunch with that group of people at one o’clock on a Wednesday. So, we are kind of screwed where you just can’t get people together. So, what to do with the building? A lot of networking groups stopped working so well when the internet came along, and everyone started going onto LinkedIn and Facebook to connect and then they didn’t need breakfast meetups to go and meet each other.

Bernie J Mitchell  12:25:

The bit was lot, the sort of, the value of being the person, of getting people together and introducing to each other was just completely sabotaged by, by the internet. So when, as you know, both you and me like go around talking to people about coworking, one of the biggest worries is all our members are going to cancel their membership because they don’t realize, you know, cause they don’t need us. I have a membership and I don’t need a coworking space. I mean, I’m not going to leave, but like, you know, I, I’m questioning exactly why would you pay for it?

Zeljk Crnjakovic 13:07:

Basically, we are sitting at home sandflies elating so [inaudible] story, I’m not going to count. So probably the last person a message to my coworking space.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 13:18

Not to worry, but on the other hand we also saw many coworking spaces lose memberships or, see a drop in memberships, not just because of self-isolating, but because of this whole impact of the stop of the communication to the economy, and especially to the gig economy and to freelancers who are working from project to project because every business as you know, everybody’s thinking about if the next recession is going to hit, it has stopped everything, you know, stope projects, stop, you know, marketing promotions, and just waiting to see if they’re going to survive, if they need to put their money in self-preservation rather than  new projects with freelancers. And if I gather correctly about 80% freelancers saw some sort of a drop in business. Is that correct? Do you also have, I think you talked about that on the London call also?

Bernie J Mitchell  14:35:

 I mean I haven’t got an exact statistic cause I see 70 different things, but a lot of people just, as I’ve talked to people in my circle and there’s the freelance heroes group, which is a Facebook group for UK based  is that’s the mood. And yeah. I have no idea who I’m going to send an invoice to in the next few months, and I’m very lucky because probably for the first time in my whole life, I have a bit of money in the bank and a bit of runway, so I’m not about to go out and buy a Porsche and  well can’t take a holiday anyway. But I would be worried sick if my wife didn’t have a job and I didn’t have a little bit of money in the bank because no one is hiring marketing consultants at the moment.

Bernie J Mitchell  15:27:

And suddenly the excitement over an Instagram strategy has evaporated completely. So if people haven’t got a community it’s just one of the things that came up in the Freelance group is, what do you do if you haven’t got a community around you? And so why I introduced the community thing is because I’m talking to other people in the set, Oh, well, this is how I’m going to handle this. And I haven’t been able to in a few days where I haven’t just been able to think because of what is going on in the world? And then I go into the community and people say, Oh, this is what we think we could do. And so, Oh, I’ll do that then. So, you know what, while I’m trying to connect it to what we were talking about with the coworking space, so yeah, there was a need to have that community and that group of people to like run your business support and interact with, but you know. Exactly.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 16:27:

Okay. So basically, another thing that coworking operators can also think about, okay we don’t have the space anymore or people aren’t coming to the space anymore. So, let’s talk about community, but on the other hand, there is a big drop in the  profits and revenues. All of the people did that, that were members. So, they’re also trying to preserve money, and as you said, what would I need a coworking space for if I’m sitting at home and maybe even don’t have a job right now or I lost the, you know, 50% of my projects. So how to keep members and still give them value when they don’t have the benefits of coming to this space you know, socializing, ending everything that they would be doing even in order to get new projects.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 17:26:

So I think another way to really adapt coworking operators is to not only force them online, but force them to see what are the benefits that they are giving to their members apart from a chair and a desk and an internet and just run out into the field and socialize with everybody else, because they’re all here now. We have to work on it. Now we have to build that virtual community still be there for them while they are going through a hard time. Even though we’re also going through a hard time as operators ourselves but still be there for them through some virtual services, through some virtual community, though, you know, just preserving that sense of everything you know, support system, everything will be okay and, and wear a heal to help each other. You help us, we’ll help you and you know, we’ll all survive. Now is that time

Bernie J Mitchell  18:32:

That is the thing about I probably like for five years there’s been this conversation going around that people, coworking space owners think they are renting or, sorry, let me say it this way around. Yeah, they think people are buying a desk and a chair, but actually they’re buying all this intangible, invisible stuff, which is a community. And then if you try to market a community, it looks a bit, flaky and fresh, airy, but if it sounds a bit cheesy, but you know, people make the space and if you have a space where people are connected and there is that strong sense of community, like there’s communities we are part of, and I know we’ll keep paying the membership because I’ve seen the value over time and you know, I’m very dependent on some of those communities for you know, it’s not even access to, it’s like supporting the people that are running the community.

Bernie J Mitchell  19:32:

So, if we all stopped paying, that community would go away. And that’s the area that’s very uncharted for a lot of people. Okay. So, if you know coworking space X we want to keep supporting the business so it’s there for us even though we’re not quite sure what you’re paying for. And that is the, the magic bit. And there are coworking spaces that will we’ll be in that situation, and it’s an opportunity, which I think is what you were alluding to is for coworkers basis to realize that what people pay them for is not just a desk and a chair and some Wi-Fi. It’s all the other stuff.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 20:11:

Is that right? No, I believe that most of the coworking spaces, most of the kind of proper coworking spaces already know that now if you don’t, if you are a coworking operator and you don’t know that people are paying you for more than a chair under the desk and an internet, then you’re in kind of, a bit of a problem. But you know, you can still in a pull through what we’d a lot more work. So, most of the coworking spaces, I know they already know that the true value in coworking is in that community part and they did a lot or ready to build up their pot. Now the biggest kind of question for me, or that I’m thinking of is that, you know, you said members should keep paying in order to preserve that community part. Just, I don’t know what I’m paying for, but I’m just paying for it because I feel the value now for some coworking spaces that part may have been automatic up to now.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 21:18:

They did not have to do that much work to, build up that you know, sense. But in order for them to keep members, now they’re going to have to do a lot more effort, you know, virtually because right now you’re not there just to, you know, for them to see you smile, shake hands, and feel your energy, you’ll have to, build up that community feeling virtually. And that means implementing some new features may be virtual coffee, you know, virtual coffees on zoom. I don’t know a conference setting up conference calls virtual meetings, maybe drop off service, mail service, whatever it is, you’ll have to do a lot more than just to rely on, everything’s going to still work out because those members that don’t hear from you and don’t see that you’re active, they can just take the community part that they are in contact with. And just keep communicating with them, on free channels.

Bernie J Mitchell  22:39:

Now there’s an opportunity to listen here really hard because, when you say virtual coffee, it sounds a bit like, you know, we virtual coffee, Oh, do I want to go to a virtual coffee? If it’s you know who’s going to be at the virtual coffee and you have this and you’re excited to maintain the momentum with those people, which is a situation I’m in with a lot of people. You know, it sounds very different from like, is there’s so much more to it than just like opening a zoom room and, and having a talk together

Zeljk Crnjakovic 23:15:

Depending on the number of people. Of course. So, you know, you’re either going to have it that much more structured or just in small groups, let it play it out. But I know a lot of coworking spaces that just had that Monday breakfast for new members and people showed up just to meet other people. So, whether you’re going on a virtual coffee with people or you’re going on a virtual coffee because you are the host and you don’t know who’s coming. You know, maybe that’s kind of part of breaking that self-isolation circle we’re in right now.

Bernie J Mitchell  24:01:

It is that, the isolation thing is, you know, I’ve been self-isolated for like five days here, including   the weekend and ready. I’m missing the walk downstairs to get a glass of water and say hello to people and walk back up. What I’ve got here is like Lego and fortnight, you know, it’s terrible. So,what else can we touch on before we go?

Zeljk Crnjakovic 24:26:

Well basically I think we touched on kind of a lot of points for this week. You know, part of this and part of the new format for the podcast is to let both members and coworking operators know that it’s a shit situation for everybody from, Eastern to Western Europe from the South to the North. And whether you know, just self-isolating or thinking on how you’re going to keep the business open, you’re not alone in that. And the only thing that I would really ask people who are listening to this to consider, especially the coworking operators is closing down the whole business should be a last resort because there are so many things that you can try still virtually differently adapting. I know that  you’re playing with big rents and, and a staff and you know, I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy. I’m just say I’m just saying you can try some other things. And then if it comes through, yes, one of the options is to close down for a period of time. I don’t know if you agree,

Bernie J Mitchell  25:52:

I would hope that people find a way to keep going. And, and what I would urge people to do is, I mean been part of more than one group call between coworking spaces or coworking space owners and community managers sharing information and this people turn up to that call and someone says, Oh, there was this about business and we’ve done this with membership. So, we did this with the security of what building as a joke or you were in some of these calls and people were like, I had no idea about that. And when you’re, when you’re really stressed out about running something and you get to meet with other peers who share information, it will save you hours of trying to find out or hours or wondering what to do about it. And yeah, that’s part of the magic of the industry we’re in is there’s a lot of people willing to help out. In, you know, in our community in London, there’s people just saying, you know, there’s a lot of people are pretty much saying, I haven’t got any business at the moment because of the situation, but I’m willing to help you all because I’ve been part of this community for a long time. So, there might be some elaborate IT problem you need to solve, and you know, there’s someone there who can help you with that.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 27:08:

And actually, so basically you already have some of those or an example of that call with the exchange of experiences already set up in London, right?

Bernie J Mitchell  27:20:

Yeah, we just got off on about security. So there is this  security company work with coworking spaces and they just, and what we’re doing is like every day there’s as another industry expert spending half an hour on a call with us and people just say things and most they’re like, what is kind of almost like what is most personal is most common. So, people are like, what do I do if I have to close my space and no one’s here? How do I stand legally with that? What do we do with memberships? Is there anything else I need to do to the building that I wouldn’t normally do? And you just don’t think of it. You don’t need pretty neat to know these things very often and they’re not as exciting as making lunch every, every Wednesday for people.

Bernie J Mitchell 28:03

So, this, this is very uncharted territory for a lot of people. And we have in London, we have a Slack channel set up and we have an online membership and we send out an email every day saying, if you can join the call, join the call, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays, just a half hour get together. And then Thursday is a big longer meaty call, and in every country there’s statements from the government about, what the policy is at the moment and what people need people to do. And you know, how severe the self-isolating order is. So, there’s tons of communities out there.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 28:40:

Yeah, and. And of course, they can also follow the European coworking assembly which this podcast is a project off for all the news about, you know, picking up from, from different countries on, on current coworking say system.

Bernie J Mitchell  28:57:

Something to add in there is that as we speak, we’re scrambling to rebuild the website for the European coworking assembly which is stuff we had planned before all this kicked off. But we’re still going ahead with it. So, we’ll be stepping up. It’s actually kind of worked in our favour because now we have something to gather people around rather than just telling people about cowork. And it’s like the kind of podcast we’re doing here is what we’ll be doing in the emails, and other web content. So, this is how we met is there’s all the major coworking conferences around Europe that we will go to a meetup and we’re bringing in that community. So, the European coworking assembly website will become the coworking, the virtual coworking space for coworking space operators. And the only thing stopping us doing that is just how fast we can type to get up and running. But you know, by the next step  we’ll have that ready for you.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 30:03:

I’d like to also call up on everybody, whether you are a member or an operator, you know, just produce online content in this you know, it’s important at any time, but now especially whether you’re doing a podcast, whether you’re doing webinars, online events, zoom coffees, whatever it is, just produce online content and also consume online content because that’s how you not only keep up to date with everything that’s going around you, but also you can connect with people. You can write to us Bernie, where can they find us? If anybody wants to ask a question,

Bernie J Mitchell  30:46:

If you type Bernie J Mitchell into your nearest search engine and  that’s a really good question. Twitter’s probably the best place for Twitter or LinkedIn. Okay, and just hit me up there and say, I’ve listened. Mitchell, you lose. I’ve been listening to your podcast. Here’s my question. Yeah.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 31:07:

Or you can also find European coworking assembly, the Facebook profile and podcast is going to be shared just leave us a comment and we need to set up an email for the podcast. Bernie.

Bernie J Mitchell  31:20:

We will, I should, I should do that. Yeah, This week

Zeljk Crnjakovic 31:22:

Okay. Another thing to do in this time of the pandemic and sorting everything out online. So, anything that you want to leave the audience with Bernie for the end.

Bernie J Mitchell  31:38:

I’m just ready. I’m really grateful for everyone giving us their attention at this a moment in time. And it’s really nice to be able to be here for our community.

Zeljk Crnjakovic 31:49:

Cool. Okay guys, thank you very much for listening. Bernie and I will be here next week probably. Hopefully unless you know something worse happens. So, talk to you next time

Transcribed by Otter.

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