Braving leadership during Covid-19

When we heard the first announcement on Sunday 22 March by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews about the imminent shutdown of all non-essential services, Josephine and I got on a call immediately at 5pm to discuss what this means for our coworking business at Higher Spaces.

Making the hard decision

We made the decision by 7pm to shut down our coworking space temporarily and by 9pm we sent a comms email to notify all our members and inform them to move to working at home on the Monday.

By Tuesday 24 March, we officially shut our doors to members until further notice. In just 48 hours, we went from having our business stay ON as long as possible to shutting it DOWN immediately. We made this decision proactively, even though it was not clear if coworking was considered non-essential services and with no plans on how we could cope with the financial hit.

How did we make this heart-breaking decision so quickly and feel so right about it? We asked ourselves what we value most at Higher Spaces.

Since the inception of Higher Spaces two years ago, we have consistently made business decisions based on what we value. Our core value of a caring leadership at Higher Spaces is critical now more than ever, especially when we are faced with such an extremely tough decision. If we truly care about our members and the community, we need to do right by the people even though it means putting our cashflow at risk. We see that everyone is in this together, there is no point trying to win this longer and a caring leadership for people during this confusing and terrifying time is vital.

Also, during this moment, the words of Brene Brown came to mind “Daring greatly – the courage to be vulnerable”. Being caring without daring greatly would not have helped us make the right decision. Our courage was showing our financial vulnerability to our members and community with no solid plans on how we will manage our cash flow during the shutdown. Our courage was also braving the possible judgement by other coworking operators that we might have been too reactive and premature on the shutdown when no one we know has done it.

No matter how hard this is for us, we are extremely at peace with how we have role modelled braving leadership. We did this during a time of crisis and are proud to do our part in helping our community do the right thing – #stayathome to save lives.

Asking for help

Our immediate challenge after shutdown was to figure out how to stay afloat on cashflow, and significantly reduce our operating expenses ASAP.

We asked our landlord and major suppliers for help in a human rather than business-like way. We realised during this unprecedented time, we need to make extra-ordinary requests and get clear on the various government business support packages we can be eligible for.

It is a tricky situation to ask others for help when we know most businesses are impacted by the coronavirus including our suppliers. There is a belief of paying it forward during this time and we were hoping that we get some relief from our major suppliers because we have given relief to our members by not charging them membership fees during the shutdown.

This is humanity in business – spreading kindness across the business value chain, there are no losers and winners in this crisis.

Female Founders of Higher Spaces



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