Q&A: Davide Dattoli of Talent Garden on Coworking and COVID-19 Safety in Italy

Davide Dattoli discusses Italian coworking giant Talent Garden’s new COVID-19 safety changes, including temperature checks, mask mandates, and new spacial configurations.

From their founding in 2011, Davide Dattoli and his Talent Garden team have unquestionably been at the forefront of the coworking movement. They have since seen rapid expansion with over 28 locations across Europe, creating a strong network of tech talents and regular educational and community programming. But what happens when a global pandemic suddenly finds 15 of their locations at what will come to be known as the new epicenter of a global pandemic?

Davide and I got together to speak about how an industry built on bringing people together creates community at a time where traditional, physical gatherings are no longer possible. Despite the uncertainty, Davide maintains his positive and innovative spirit, focusing his energy on the learning opportunity of constant adjustments and proactive response. Through the trickling progression of the worldwide outbreak, Davide has had a first-row seat at observing various countries’ response and regulations and how companies can adapt their business model to our new, temporary normal.

As of February 20th, Talent Garden has had to restrict access to their Italy locations to members of the defined “essential” industries of food and pharma, merely 5-7% of their campus’ capacity. In the spirit of community, Davide and his team responded immediately by calling each member personally to gauge their response and current situation in uncertain times. An open dialogue that was both appreciated by the members and helpful for the team in moving forward.

Adapting to a time where physical presence is no longer possible, the priority first and foremost was to keep their members online. Migrating educational and community events to a digital platform, even offering online yoga sessions – just some of the ways that Davide and his team are working towards maintaining connectivity and routine for the Talent Garden community. “This moment is when social connection is really key. Show them that you are with them, that you are not alone at home.”

One of the challenges for coworking spaces and their members alike has been monitoring the very much varying local regulations of individual countries. To best support their members, Talent Garden has tasked a community response team with tracking the weekly, sometimes daily updates on restrictions and stimulus packages in their regions. This has become an incredibly useful tool for small companies, otherwise struggling to navigate the flow of information.

As the situation in Italy is slowly giving way to the light at the end of the tunnel, Davide and his team look to China to take note on how they can prepare for a potential reopening. The team continues to work proactively on various precautions to ensure the health and safety of their members. Actions such as temperature checks, face masks and potential adjustments to the space’s layout may seem drastic at first but as Davide rightly noted, so did many of our current social restrictions.

“It is better to overreact than to wait… The companies that survive this will not necessarily be the strongest, but the ones that were able to adapt.”

Looking towards the future, Davide feels that the economic impact will likely be stronger than the impact of the virus itself but remains hopeful for coworking culture. As a result of forcing us into the unknown territory of social distancing and rapid changes to how we do business, many will have learned how valuable flexibility is and how quickly we can, in fact, adapt to structural adjustments. Now more than ever, having space to come together in a social setting is of the essence. Something he and I very much agree on. While safety will likely be a key-term of our future, so will community.

Watch the full interview with Davide Dattoli: