Servcorp China & Southeast Asia General Manager Anna Chavez on reopening office spaces and returning to work safely in mainland China.
All eyes have been on China since late December when the first cases of this strange new respiratory disease started to make the news. The world watched as China fought to drastically stop the spread of what we all know now as COVID-19, while it rapidly transitioned into a pandemic affecting each and everyone of us as businesses began to shut and people retreated to their homes.
As we continue to look to China for a glimpse of what the future might hold once restrictions are lifted and people start to go back to work, there is most definitely a light at the end of the tunnel. For the coworking industry this is true as well. Many offices and workspaces have already welcomed back a percentage of their members as cities like Beijing and Shanghai are getting back to business as usual with the exception of international visitors.
We sat down with the General Manager of Servcorp China & Southeast Asia, Anna Chavez, who shared their approach to the reopening of their many spaces in Mainland China and what their day to day processes look like to ensure their members are safe as they return to work.
Anna explained that though customer conversion rates were still low, sales have begun again, while members are returning to the Servcorp offices. Though typically this time of year does see a large drop off in sales, even without the Coronavirus, and that is primarily due to the Chinese New Year. So, although the sales are low, the true loss of revenue due to the virus won’t really be able to be calculated for another few months.
She went on to give the status of several other locations across Southeast Asia, explaining Singapore to be as advanced as China in their response to the crisis, with Malaysia and Thailand to still be lagging behind with partial shutdowns that are on par with many European countries.
Of course having many locations across these regions has its limitations in a time where travel is not permitting. Anna discussed that restriction on travel has made it difficult to train new staff, as more experienced staff typically travel to the various locations to ensure that the Servcorp standard of service is being reflected by all of its employees.
When we discussed the cities that were furthest along in their post-quarantine recovery Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan were all on the list, however very strict measures remain in place to ensure the spread does not continue. Anna discussed that after reopening one of the Servcorp locations, that they had to shut down again until they were able to submit the appropriate signed paperwork ensuring they were upholding the regulations put in place by the local government. Although certain international visa holders or non-permanent residents are currently not allowed back in China at this time, the local population, specifically in Shanghai has been getting back to normal and people are feeling safe in getting back to their routines.
With regards to community management they use a platform similar to LinkedIn that allows for internal companies that have their offices at Servcorp to stay in touch with the community, while being updated on local and international information in real-time. They have found that people are using that platform as a way to promote themselves internally, while interacting with the 60,000+ international members, where they may not have had the time or focus before the ramifications of the virus.
When Anna spoke about the duties of her staff have been hyper-focused on their clients with the daily distractions of operations being taken out of the equation they can focus more on finding ways to improve their services, or address particular issues that can sometimes fall through the cracks in such a large international corporation, all while ensuring these companies have access to resources that can help them stay afloat with cash flow is currently hindered.
“And with the team that are on house arrest at the moment, they do have more time because they’re not physically running around after clients. So this is the perfect time for them to actually get on the phone and talk to the customers and the community and reintroduce that stuff and find out what they’re challenged by and make the most of the time.”
When Anna discussed the future of coworking and what impacts are to be seen after we get back to a relatively normal state she explained that coworking and flexible offices will come back even stronger than before, but with some clear changes to how offices are structures. Gone are the days of squishing people into confined spaces in order to capitalize on square footage. The new norm of 1.5 meters apart will affect how spaces are structured in the future, which may change how revenue models continue.
Anna left us with a great piece of advice moving forward that being as proactive as possible and even over-reacting with precautions is the best way to ensure your community is safe. The restrictions won’t be going anywhere for a while so getting on board will only speed the process along to getting the world back to where it needs to be. And of course, focus on your community in every way possible.
“I think just finding out what you can do to help your community, like genuinely help them through this because without our members, there’s no business for anyone at the end of the day.”
Watch the full interview with Anna Chavez:
Looking for ways to bring people back to your space? Learn about the Spaces for Recovery program.