“We are going to sail through this storm, because we are all together on this boat and we want to stay afloat.” –Javier García Iza of IOS Offices
At the time of my interview with Javier, Mexico was just starting to feel the effects of the global pandemic, a delayed effect of what has been seen in Asia, Europe and North America thus far. With over 35 offices and 10,000 members across Mexico, IOS Offices has been leading the coworking movement for the country and internationally. After our conversation, I think it is safe to say that they are also leading the response efforts for companies and individuals alike in these uncertain times.
If there ever was a situation, in which being late to the game is of benefit, the COVID-19 outbreak is certainly it. While officials have yet to put together coherent regulations in Mexico, the IOS team were proactive from an early stage. They kept a careful eye on the steps that companies across the globe are taking and the regulations put in place to gage what they can expect for the upcoming months and which precautions they can take to enhance safety and peace of mind for their employees and members.
Javier notes that Mexico is in a weakened position of handling such a crisis, given the limited resources and population density. It is for this reason that reactions should be quick, maybe even “radical”. A disaster relief team of six individuals was put together to implement a strategy for all of the IOS Offices to take on. Of the six, IOS is fortunate to have a team member trained in pandemic response. With this intel, and the guidance of friends across the globe a hygiene campaign, financial plan and a total of 50 initiatives were put together for their members in a very short timeframe.
The efforts of IOS go well beyond their own office spaces, however. With over half of their members now working from home, they have taken to delivering medical supplies for people who are no longer working and to medical workers, who are on the frontline and in need of increased safety measures. This is only one example of the feeling of joint responsibility that Javier so clearly identifies with. They have also found ways of allowing their employees to work in a safe way, to make sure that they remain available for all of their members and partners and can receive important deliveries, being the legal address for countless companies.
As for their members, Javier and his team are ensuring that their workspace, whether in their offices or at home, is made as comfortable as possible. For those who are choosing not to come in, the IOS team is delivering phones, even chairs to their home, so that they are set up for the same productivity they are accustomed to. Likewise, Lifesize accounts have been arranged for their members as needed.
Javier recalls the word of the year at the IOS annual employee retreat: Persistence. Looking back, this motto seems all the more fitting as the team straps up to tackle what is expected to be a lengthy battle. This is probably one cause for Javier’s unwavering optimism and positive spirit. He says he has learned that coworking is an essential business and responsible for leading the way for many companies, who look to them for guidance and availability in situations such as this. He also feels that many people are starting to realize the beauty in flexibility and how diverse our workspace can be. While working remotely might increasingly become an option for companies, working from home does not necessarily need to be the solution. Access to privacy and a lack of distraction all play into an effective working culture.
Like many others, Javier believes that “this is our new normal” and we will learn to adapt accordingly. His advice for others would be to “reinvent yourself” and support your staff, ensuring that everyone around you feels safe and that there is room for anyone to step up with their own ideas.
Watch the full interview with Javier García Iza: