Is India Inc. prepared to return to the office post-vaccination?

July 01, 2021 12:29 PM

Many firms have made it quite clear there is no substitute for their office space. While fears of the third wave and other uncertainties continue to prevail, on 'n' day, employees will surely see themselves getting back to pre-pandemic routines.

post covid 19 workplacesSafety of people and places is the predominant factor restricting a return to the physical workplace. (File photo: IE)

By Pradeep Lala,

With organisations taking a proactive approach to vaccinate their employees, and facility management personnel ensuring safety and hygiene of the workplace, the question arises, is India confident of a safe return to the physical workplace?

Many firms have made it quite clear there is no substitute for their office space. While fears of the third wave and other uncertainties continue to prevail, on ‘n’ day, employees will surely see themselves getting back to pre-pandemic routines. Office spaces might be redesigned to provide an approx. 30% increase in individual space requirements at 100% occupancy. Many SMEs might also look to make the space function as a flexible/shared workspace since it works out very economical with reduced overheads; Regardless, the commercial office space is here to stay, and a hybrid work culture (part office, part home) will be the future of workspaces.

Facility Managers bringing it back together:

Safety of people and places is the predominant factor restricting a return to the physical workplace. With vaccinations underway and facility management teams putting together a jigsaw of protocols that address air quality, sanitation, crowding, occupancy, visitor management, and health checks, there is certainly more action on ensuring safety and wellbeing in the physical workplace. From continuous sanitation and disinfection, AI-driven and cloud-integrated thermal screening devices, QR code-based attendance/visitor management systems, contactless elevators, to touchless food vending machines, the FMs have ensured a thorough recce of spaces for a safe and secure return.

Technologies like the cloud, IoT and sensors have bolstered efficient facility management. Security and surveillance norms have evolved to fit the needs of a post-pandemic era. We are approaching a point where manual intervention will be only for prescriptive stages. For example, we wouldn’t need to have people stationed to do manual checks for temperature screening, masks and social distancing. Using sensors and cameras, we can digitally survey the facility and its people. Of course, no matter the efficiency of these devices, manual intervention would be needed to resolve an issue. A big boon is this would avoid crowding and personal interaction between visitors and the security teams.

Another area of a facility that has been transformed using technology is the restroom. Through use of IoT based sensor technology, an FM team can digitally monitor occupancy levels, check gas presence levels, paper availability, dust bin capacity, etc. This in its depth allows for an efficient and predictive mode of restroom management.

It takes every one of us to revive the economy:

We are all in this together. That’s what it’s going to take to revive from such a downfall. Now that employers and the government are doing their duty by getting everyone inoculated, and the onus of safety and hygiene left to the precedence of the facility management, it is the mass population of the working class that need to shoulder responsibility too. We would eventually need to prepare ourselves to return to the office space for reasons beyond our individual self and comfort. While a hybrid work culture seems to be the best way forward, it would be interesting to see how efficiently they work across diverse industries.

Food for thought: There are over a zillion small shop owners, small businesses, transport service providers, mobile tea sellers, etc., solely dependent on an office-going population to earn a living. If the entire population decides to work from home forever, what happens to these businesses’ dependent on the nature of our work?

(The author is MD & CEO, Embassy Services Private Limited. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online)

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