The recent pandemic and the associated lockdown across the country have challenged the operations of corporates as the primary expectations of mobility and availability of the workforce were compromised. It’s fair to say that almost every industry in the world will change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The extent of the change is obviously impossible to predict, but this hasn’t stopped industry leaders from speculating about how consumer preferences will change and what the future will hold.
Work from Home (WFH) was inevitably the first option made available to ensure business continuity even as employee safety took priority. Even as the lockdown has been lifted in Bengaluru and companies have resumed onsite work with the legally permissible critical workforce, immense efforts are being made by employers to ensure availability, safety and traceability of employees while maintaining overall productivity protection, adherence to SLA and customer experience.
In hindsight, there were several challenges being faced by migratory workforce in the city when an overnight WFH regime was called for. Many people who come into the city for work live in PGs and hostels that are not equipped adequately to compensate for a typical work pod that can ensure desired output and maintain productivity levels. This was surmounted by other factors such as need to cook, clean and fend for oneself through the lockdown limitations. This compelled many to return to their native places where they were met with a different set of challenges like availability of stable internet connectivity, 24/7 power supply, availability of personal computers etc. Others who were staying with families in the cities were faced with a different set of problems like lack of adequate work space, lack of noise free environment etc., leaving corporates to work their way through these various challenges ensuring a seamless WFH process while also taking cognizance of.
With the lockdown restrictions now eased, gradually businesses are now permitted to be operational with some necessary limitations. However, with the fear of the pandemic being so high, many offices are still not fully operational leaving employees in a tight spot. If now one has to encourage these critical talent to return to their cities of work, it is imperative that employers help them identify accommodation that is both safe and secure.
The absence of adequate Rental Housing Policy has led to the unbridled and sporadic growth of urban slums. This further triggered the mushrooming of PGs, run by un-organised players, being the only affordable option for the migrant youth. These facilities are generally run in illegal buildings, that do not conform to basic building and safety norms, are densely populated, having an unhealthy living environment due to lack of adequate sunlight / ventilation with little to no arrangements for security. This has led to the exploitation of the young migrant workforce, taking a toll on the physical and mental well-being of the migrant youth.
This brings us to the unresolved point – The living conditions of our migrant youth, the pride of our nation. India is in a phase of experiencing demographic dividend, with 65% of its population under the age of 35, at the current rapid rate of migration, we expect the migrant urban youth to be a substantially large number, close to 10.5 crores and this population needs rental housing solutions that cater to their needs, as these digital nomads, do not prefer to tie themselves down to buy houses.
Over the last 5 years, co-living companies have started turning this highly fragmented, unorganised sector into a more functional organised sector, driven by the multiple mega trends like – Urbanization, Demographic Evolution, Women in Work Force, Digital Nomads, Aspirational Consumption, aiding the rapid transformation of this sector.
Given these growing concerns, the co-living sector is one such segment that is equipped to offer an ecosystem with a focus on enabling business continuity along with creating an environment that promotes healthy and safe living to corporates and their talent. A hybrid of Work & Home (W&H) where employees stay, work, live, learn and socialize- all in the same managed contained environment with access to workspaces that are completely tailored to suit the need of each corporate can enable business continuity, while protecting the health of employees. In fact, this could work out to be a good risk mitigation strategy from potential liabilities while ensuring seamless client experience during national emergencies.
This blended model enables employees to connect with others and build social capital while working from the safety of their ‘home’ without compromising on their security and health. This near equivalent to an office environment is a long-term solution to most challenges associated with working from home such as, lack of sufficient work spaces, lack of customer permission, data privacy issues, client concerns, lack of stable internet connectivity, damaging of mental health, people struggling emotionally etc., and ensures that there is no business disruption, protects employee interest, at all times.
The unorganised nature of India’s home rental market provides great scope for disruption in the form of purpose built living spaces. It is believed that co-living companies will embed a higher amount of social and environmental value in their business models. The demand for more impact driven and sustainable business models and consumer products is coming from investors, consumers and employees throughout all different sectors. This will require an embedded approach and operators will have to look into new metrics of success for their businesses, identifying indicators that look into measuring building sustainability, resident wellbeing and the strength of their communities.
(By Sriram Chitturi, Founder, Guesture)