When the pandemic first hit, many people had to work from home for the first time. Cue the lonely montage and isolation blues music. Working from home is, on the one hand, a privilege, and on the other, a challenge. After months, and months, and … months of solo-working and Zoom meetings (that could have been emails!), it can be tough to find the motivation to accomplish your professional goals, nonetheless remember how to socialize with others. 

While most coworking spaces closed their doors at the start of the pandemic, one Denver-based coworking space adapted to the times. Keeping the spirit of community and coworking alive during a pandemic is difficult, but ultimately, Galvanize knew that it was possible. 

TEDxMileHigh has been a proud member of Galvanize since 2015. We met with Hayley Rogers, Membership Manager at Galvanize to learn about how they adapted to the pandemic and succeeded in fostering a community environment despite the challenges. Learn more about why we at TEDxMileHigh choose Galvanize as our home base, and why community coworking is the future.

The TEDxMileHigh Headquarters: Galvanize

When you think of TEDxMileHigh, you might think of a large stage adorned with red curtains and a small circular red rug. You might think of bright, inquisitive audience members pondering the big ideas of entrepreneurs, experts, and professionals giving TEDx talks. What you might not think of is what takes place behind the scenes. The meetings, the conversations, and the planning. Where is TEDxMileHigh located? Well, in the Mile High City of course. But more specifically, since 2015, we have been headquartered at Galvanize.

We continue to choose Galvanize as our TEDxMileHigh headquarters because they share our belief in the intersection of education, community, and entrepreneurship. It’s been a wonderful collaboration for more than five years!”   – Jeremy Duhon, Founder and Curator of TEDxMileHigh.

Galvanize gives us the chance to collaborate, grow, and brainstorm with not only our team members, but the other companies who share the Galvanize space. Walk into Galvanize and we’ll be one of the first private offices you spot near the front desk. Keep reading to learn more about how Galvanize has succeeded in keeping its doors open during the pandemic.

A Conversation with Hayley Rogers

What’s Your Elevator Pitch for Galvanize? Go.

Galvanize is a tech education company and ecosystem. We were founded with the idea of having students and companies working side by side in the same space. We’ll have students working to get their degrees in data science working next to industry partners and companies like IBM. The beauty is when our companies hire our students or one of their employees uses our programs to upskill their workforce. That’s what sets Galvanize apart from other coworking spaces. We’re here to provide a full experience, plus unrivaled hospitality, to ensure you can make long-lasting connections that launch you into the next level of your career. It’s more than just a coworking space, it’s a community.

Let’s Talk Pandemic. What Was Galvanize’s Initial Experience And How Has It Changed? 

I think now, in retrospect, I’m very impressed with how we handled it. There are a lot of coworking spaces and large, corporate offices that are still closed today because they haven’t figured out how to safely bring people back. Meanwhile, we’ve been able to stay open and safe while also transparent with our members throughout the entire experience.

We acted really fast. We knew we couldn’t just close our doors on our members. They needed us in order to operate their businesses. 

Especially for mail. Many member companies rely on us to be there to accept their mail and packages. Much of that is essential for their business. Others needed to have access to our bandwidth for their systems to work.

We created a five-stage contingency plan to make sure that we can stay open safely. At every stage, there are different requirements for the staff and the members. Sometimes it means that our hours are more limited for staff, but no matter what, even at stage five, which is the highest level, members have access.

Being able to stay open really built trust with our members, whereas the spaces that closed right away out of fear of not knowing how to handle it relayed a message of caution, that they couldn’t continue working in that office space safely.

If Someone Were To Walk Into Galvanize Right Now, What’s the Vibe? How Does It Feel Being There?

It does feel quieter than before, and I know a lot of people like that. They appreciate that it’s not chaotic. It feels calm and productive. A lot of our members right now are remote workers, and that’s relatively new. For the most part, employees haven’t had the option to work remotely in the past, but now they have to. Remote workers really want to escape their house, their spouse, their dog, or their laundry pile. Sometimes it’s that their house is getting renovated, or you know, the Wi-Fi went down for the fourth time this week in their apartment. It’s kind of cool to see the change of who’s in the space. What do you think, Michael?

Introducing Michael Harris, Virtual Content and Event Manager at Galvanize in Denver, who was also on the call. Galvanize was always hustle-bustle. Like New York City. People going, coming, checking in, leaving, it was always busy. It’s definitely a lot quieter now. But there’s not a worried or unsafe vibe. It feels very secure. Honestly, for me, it’s been a really cool experience to get to know people. The new members that Hayley has brought in, the people that I’ve always passed by, but never stopped to talk to you because there were a gazillion other things that I had to do. It is a lot slower, but like Hayley said, it’s productive and even more so community-based than it was previously.

Why Is It So Important To Maintain a Sense of Community During the Pandemic? Why Shouldn’t We All Be in Our Homes All Day Alone?

I mean there are lots of studies saying you shouldn’t do that. (Laughs). I could go off on a lot of different lines of thought here. Obviously, there’s the mental health piece that comes to mind first. Working alone, especially when you don’t have roommates or housemates, you kind of go crazy. The number one thing I hear when people are looking for a space is that they’re sick of working from home alone. They want to talk to people. Even if it’s six feet apart with a mask on. They just feel more productive and motivated being around other people.

Another thing to consider is if you wake up every single day and you’re wearing pajamas, and you have your hair in a bun, you’re going to lose your professional edge. You don’t have that daily professional interaction with people anymore, where you’re having to interact with people in person, dressed, not behind a screen in your living room.

You’re not going to have as much luck building community from your couch or kitchen table. It’s just not as feasible. Being in a place where people have come for that exact same reason makes it a lot easier.

To be able to continue to grow your network or your company, you’ve got to be around people, you just have to. When you get a LinkedIn message from a recruiter, what do you do? Oh my god, again. But if someone walks up to you in a coworking space and says, “Hey, we’re hiring for this company and this position will be perfect for you,” you’re like, Okay, that sounds awesome. Let me hear more about it.” If you’re looking for opportunities, whether it be to grow your network or change your job, doing it from a coworking space live and in-person will prove to be more effective than trying to do it virtually from home.

Tech Professionals, Students, Who Else Should Use the Galvanize Space? 

Right now, we’re casting a wide net. If you think about the companies that initially went remote, they were tech companies. They already had the systems and tools in place to be able to easily migrate to a remote work environment. They almost already were remote, just working from an office with fancy snacks and ping pong tables. So, while that’s what we typically saw at Galvanize, we’ve opened our doors to all kinds of companies.

One industry that comes to mind is professional services. We’ve seen increased interest from these individuals like lawyers who still want to work in an office. One, just because of the way they are. They don’t want to work from home. I mean, between you and I, they don’t want to be around their kids all day. (Laughter). They work long hours and need a productive, dedicated space to do that work, but then also to meet with clients. So even when their entire company has chosen to close, they’re coming to us just on their own for a space to work.

Other industries are any kind of consultant looking for new business. And any kind of engineer or software engineer, or anyone working in graphic design that’s looking for high bandwidth to download and work with large files. That’s huge. And any kind of small business or start-up that’s looking to scale and needs to be integrated into the local business community is finding themselves much more productive from our space than from home.

What’s Next for Coworking Spaces?

Coworking is the future. It is. So if you don’t want to fall behind, get involved in a coworking space or a company that works from a coworking space. If a company is working from a coworking space, they’re being smart about their real estate decisions, they’re not building out a multimillion-dollar office that has since closed. They’re scaling smart and sustainably. And they’re putting the money back into their employees’ pockets and allowing employees to have that remote hybrid freedom to choose where and when they work.

The other reason is, after this crash, companies are fearful to sign any lease for longer than a year. Only one year. Rarely can you sign a one year lease in traditional real estate. Coworking is still projected to have 30% of the market share by 2030. It has about 5% right now. That’s huge growth. So even though you might see some coworking spaces closing, you’re going to see a lot of merging of companies over the next few years as the market is poised for growth. I also believe that there will be a ton of growth in the landlord coworking market. Landlords are going to be pivoting to offering coworking of their own with all of their vacant spaces. We’ll see if they’ll be able to provide the same community and hospitality that we provide at Galvanize, but nevertheless, they’re going to be converting vacant office space into coworking space and start selling memberships as soon as possible. It’s already happening.

Going Forward

What do you think? Ready to get off the couch? If you’re interested in joining Galvanize’s community and gaining access to their network of mentors, please reach out to them by clicking here. You’ll get one week of free coworking!

Check out the virtual tour of the Galvanize space here.