Attorney David Whiting worked from home for a few weeks during the COVID-19 shutdown in the spring of 2020, but with a house full of children and seven-day workweeks, he found himself back in his rented single-person office.
Whiting and over 100 members, from tech companies to remote workers, are part of Office Evolution at The Atrium at Worldgate (205 Van Buren St.), a four-story office building in Herndon.
“It’s turnkey,” said Whiting, who has had his law firm, Oak Hill Law Group, there for about two and a half years. “It’s just so damn convenient.”
Office Evolution – Herndon opened in March 2019 and expanded in April by taking over an empty space, extending its footprint to around 12,000 square feet.
“We added 35 offices,” said Martin Gruszka, the location’s owner, noting the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce has taken space in the new office suite.
Kim DeWitt, the location’s business center manager, noted that people are wanting to avoid entire workweeks in a typical office, so the coworking environment helps remote workers have both community and independence. It’s open 24/7.
Customers can have month-to-month memberships with customized leases that allow for shared meeting rooms and other amenities. Others simply just want a mailing address with no physical office space, said Gruszka. He’s seen contractors looking for a way to have a physical location to maintain their relationship with the government.
Gruszka says that its members have been especially interested in looking for focus, quiet and the routine of an office environment.
On the employer side, businesses are looking at underutilized commercial spaces amid teleworking boons.
“We’re seeing a lot more from companies that are paring down their office space,” Gruszka said. “They have a lease: Nobody’s using it anymore,” but companies may want to move a department to a smaller location.
But not all co-working models have been a success. In January, MakeOffices — another co-working space — announced plans to shutter its doors at Reston Town Center and other local locations.
Whiting, who rents a private office there for his law firm, says the formal, stodgy office is changing as businesses look for smaller spaces, and Office Evolution allows him to scale up or scale down depending on his needs.
Even though the world is seeking to recover from COVID-19, many businesses are still struggling. Of over 3,400 businesses surveyed from Oct. 30 to Nov. 9 by networking service Alignable, only 27% of businesses are currently reporting that they are at or above pre-coronavirus revenue levels, which is 8 percentage points worse than the 35% level of progress it reported in July.
Now, as companies advertise jobs, some are offering additional stipends for remote work expenses. Gruszka and DeWitt suggested that workers may want to address what telecommuting reimbursements they get, whether or not they’re in a coworking space.
Fairfax County could send over $24.4 million in federal money to small businesses recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic through its PIVOT grant program.
The money, which doesn’t have to be repaid, is intended to help economic recovery efforts. After an application period ran from June 23 to July 9, county officials gave updates on the program to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during an economic initiatives committee meeting this morning (Tuesday), stressing the timing and scope of the support.
“Our retail services and amusements businesses really did need this funding,” said Theresa Benincasa, economic mobility manager with the county’s Department of Economic Initiatives. “They stepped up and requested it in large numbers.”
Nearly 1,600 applicants for Fairfax County’s small business PIVOT grant program are eligible to get the money based on an initial eligibility check, while 921 applicants are ineligible, county staff reported.
During the meeting, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay asked if the county had flexibility on an eligibility requirement that a business have a commercial storefront. He said two businesses approached him about the issue, one of which was a catering business tied to a closed office building.
Benincasa said officials could work with him on that issue.
Most of the applicants that were ineligible didn’t meet the threshold for economic injury. Over 300 didn’t have a commercial storefront, and nearly 200 secured a Small Business Administration Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant, which provided $283,000 on average, according to the county.
Recipients had to have at least a 15% loss in annual revenue. Eligible applicants averaged a 46% reduction in revenue and 25% reduction in employees, according to county data.
Benincasa noted that applications are still moving through a three-step process to obtain the money. The first step involved using a web portal to determine initial eligibility, and the remaining steps could last from August to November.
The grants are being funded with $25 million that the county received from the American Rescue Plan Act. If demand surpassed that threshold, the county had prepared to prioritize funding to hotels and then create a lottery system for other applicants, but because it didn’t, that randomization element will be scrapped, the county said Tuesday.
The breakdown of awards is projected to be the following:
- $14.1 million to 1,178 applicants with an average of four employees in the areas of retail, services, and amusements
- $5.4 million to 309 applicants with an average of eight employees in the food service sector
- Nearly $4.5 million to 61 applicants with an average of 25 employees in the lodging sector
- $415,000 to 49 applicants with an average of four employees in the areas of arts organizations, museums, and historical sites.
The awards range from $1,500 to $18,000 per business, which all had to have 500 employees or fewer.
Hotels could receive $400 per room if they had 10 rooms or more. In January, the American Hotel and Lodging Association released a report on the “sharp and sustained” drop in travel due to COVID-19 in 2020 and projected that the travel industry won’t fully recover until 2024.
Benincasa said that most of the hotels in the county are getting PIVOT money, but that didn’t include all of them, possibly because of the 500-employee cap.
“The need is immediate,” said Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who chairs the economic initiatives committee, noting the county’s work isn’t finished in helping small businesses.
Photo via Machvee/Flickr