We talked to Natasha Mohan of WorkSocial about the coworking industry and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Natasha Mohan: Our family has had to adjust to this new normal. We are following the CDC rules at home, at work, and keeping safe.
Our daughter is in college (mostly remote classes), our son is in high school (hybrid structure), and my husband is working from home and taking care of our new puppy. We have had to sit down and figure out everyone’s workspace, schedules, and how to maintain some sanity by taking evening walks as a family.
Mental health for ourselves, as well as our children, is something that we take seriously. So making sure we have planned exercise, solitude, and familial support. We were deliberate about creating laughing time daily.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded WorkSocial.
Natasha Mohan: After 30 years of experience in real estate, hospitality, and an artist, the idea of coworking was only the next natural step. I saw how companies failed to include human experience at work. My goal was to create a space where we created daily moments that mattered. Small daily deliberate steps of amazing, creating a tsunami of happiness. Happy people do good work. This idea took fruition when I founded WorkSocial in August of 2015, and we opened our doors in February 2016.
How does WorkSocial innovate?
Natasha Mohan: We follow Larry Keeley’s handbook using the 10 types of innovation. We look at our clients’ value chain and create offerings that make it enormously profitable for them to use our office space. We absorb several costs other than rent and share it across some 200 clients.
Innovation means responding to changing environments and executing fast in a changing environment. Our main objective as a business is how to create a space for companies where people can be productive, creative, and healthy. We are constantly changing needs even before our clients anticipate them.
We have used work and brain science to design the atmosphere our clients work in. For instance, lighting, colors, and placement of furniture are all designed to keep our clients productive and happy. We had strategically deployed several UV lights in our workspaces (long before COVID was a thing) to ensure a healthy environment.
Little did we know that this would need to become the norm in a post-pandemic world. There is not a coworking space that does more in terms of “Air and Surface decontamination.”
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Natasha Mohan: Like many businesses, we were affected. In January, all signals pointed to an exponential growth year. By the time we were in lockdown in March, this changed dramatically now it is 10X what we expected`. Fortunately, we have clients who had full faith in what we were doing in response to the pandemic, they renewed contracts, and their employees started to come back to work. While we did have to end some relationships, our doors remained open.
Working in a pandemic:
We provide healthy snacks such as fruits, vegetables, and immunity shots to make sure that our clients give their bodies the nutrients they need to boost their immune system in fighting against any disease and stress.
Before the pandemic, we were making sure their workspace was cleaned weekly, hand sanitizers were available, and after the pandemic, we have increased our daily cleaning level.
We hired 2 new employees because our workspace had increased by 7,000 sq ft since last year. We are doing great now and looking to the future and make sure we are always planning ahead for anything.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Natasha Mohan: The most difficult choice was to keep producing an excellent product experience despite the uncertain economic environment. We had to understand our potential clients’ fears and worries about navigating the pandemic. Based on that, we changed our messaging to assure our clients how we care about their health and not just the bottom line.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and WorkSocial in the future?
Natasha Mohan: Though we stressed during the day as a company on making sure our clients are keeping in good health, how to set up the office space, what will make the space safe, and figuring out cleaning schedules. At the end of the day, when it was safe to go out, we made sure we went out as a family with our masks on for evening walks and reconnected. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is key. Our efforts have paid off, as a company, we have grown, and we are looking at the new growth in the future.
I took up Paint By Numbers during the lockdown, a hobby that I learned from my daughter. It really helped to concentrate on something else and disconnected from the stress. This also helped me refresh my thinking paradigms and wake up fresh every day to handle the tasks at hand. I believe in personal growth professionally and personally and have been working with coaches to work on my public speaking skills and certification at Seton Hall. It’s important for my company and me to keep growing.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Natasha Mohan: I don’t think of others in our industry as competition. We all bring a different level and skill of service to the table. The question is which service appeals to the client? Where do they see themselves being the most productive OR having the most success in growing their team and their company? What level of support do they require?
I would not think of this as one game; in a game, you have to learn the written rules and see who wins. There are no set rules in this industry; it’s how each individual company decides to create its own rules and defines its own game. And we are trying to find the right players.
Your final thoughts?
Natasha Mohan: There are so many different types of coworking spaces out there, clients have to see what is the right fit for them, and if they are not at WorkSocial already and don’t end up having a great experience, then they need to call WorkSocial! I’d like to leave you with a quote by Henry Ford, “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
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