Given that a growing number of people in the workforce now prefer a flexible remote working option, companies will have to decide how they are willing to function without having to change their structure again.
Fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, the changing work ecosystem has given rise to an extremely crucial debate: The future of workspaces. This conversation, however, will prove to be instrumental in transforming our relationship with office spaces and corporate jobs. Now that around 75% of India’s eligible adult population has received their first dose of COVID vaccine, most of the corporate workforce are fully vaccinated and cases seem to be on the low, companies have begun the process of calling employees back to their offices. The dynamics, however, have changed. Employees have changed their expectations and demands while employers have changed their priorities.
In a report on the Indian office market for the first half of 2021, property consultant Cushman and Wakefield found that the usage and leasing of flexible office and managed working spaces had increased by 73% to 31,538 seats. The report predicted that the total seats leased could cross 50,000 by the end of 2021.
This shift in consumption from traditional office spaces is a consequence of enterprises wanting to use their CAPEX efficiently. When the pandemic first hit, corporations from across industries reassessed their real estate holdings in the short and long term. With budgets reduced and earnings impacted by the pandemic, organizations have prioritized growth through flexibility in their daily operations. What was initially seen as a short-term contingency plan has evolved into a long-term business approach to ensure business continuity and diversify risk.
The pandemic had helped demonstrate that enterprises which embrace adaptability, and an agile philosophy will more likely survive over the years. For enterprises, the goal was to go capital-light and focus on recovering from the setbacks they procured during the lockdown period through asset management. And for that, the solution would be for them to find a space that would give them an option to leave at any point in time, allow growth in numbers without too big of an investment and not incur extra costs such as on infrastructure. By allowing businesses scale up and down easily without sacrificing on scheduling and work culture, flexible workspaces were embraced as the solution.
For the organization, health and wellness have become a priority more than it was before. This means that the expectation as providing value added services such as user-centric apps for health & safety offerings, hygiene checks, and required infrastructure for a safe workspace will increase multi-fold. They will also expect a certain amount of flexibility in traveling to their offices and maybe even a more casual stress-free environment to mimic their space at home.
Given that a growing number of people in the workforce now prefer a flexible remote working option, and that the costs of converting original offices into a COVID protocol sanctioned space are not effective, companies will have to decide how they are willing to function without having to change their structure again. 77% of respondents (representing their companies) in a survey said they are planning on including flexible office spaces in their portfolio in the next 2 years. This signals the consensus that the paradigm on what office spaces are supposed to look like and offer is evolving and companies that have recognized it are on their way to moving with the times.
Even as co-working and managed working spaces were once seen as the hub for start-ups only, the benefits they hold compared to the traditional working spaces have brought them back into consideration for every organization. Flexible workspaces can provide organizations the encouragement needed to bring the workforce back into the offices while ensuring business not only survives, but thrives.
(By Nidhi Marwah, Group Managing Director, The Executive Centre)