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How to socially distance at work: coworking

Coworking spaces are proving to be a useful tool to keep businesses going while maintaining sufficient physical distancing.

This is especially the case where firms have limited space in their own premises and are not able to guarantee the minimum 4m2 per person the government states is required (not as a proportion of total floor space, but space actually available to the worker).

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Coworking: a sustainable solution

BNP Paribas bank in Ile-de-France says renting coworking space for some employees is a good solution, as opposed to keeping them working at home. The idea has also been promoted by American business magazine Forbes, which says coworking spaces can be ideal for firms seeking to “de-densify”. Forbes said: “After a couple of months of lockdown and working at home… millions will be eager to work from somewhere else, anywhere else.”

Coworking involves a number of workers from different firms sharing an office space and certain communal facilities. It is popular with the self-employed, and some enjoy the fact that it avoids the sense of isolation that can result from working at home. Other businesses can also make use of it for employees.

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Where did coworking come from?

Imported from the US at the start of the century, it has become increasingly popular in France and both start-ups and established firms make use of it. A 2019 study found there were 700 coworking spaces in France, including 250 in Ile-de-France. They are especially common in cities with strong service sectors, such as, outside the Paris area, Lyon and Bordeaux. A map of many of them can be found at coworking-carte.fr.

The typical arrangement is rental of space by the month, though some offer rental by the day. Open-plan working is most common, but some coworking spaces also offer closed office spaces of varying sizes. The spaces typically come ready-equipped with internet (often fibre optic, and also WiFi), mail collection, and meeting rooms, and are often accessible 24 hours a day. Storage space and parking are on offer at some. Most offer the option, if wanted, of using the premises as a firm’s official business address.

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