Many employees find ease in our offices – A location where groups of workers and teams can meet, think, develop, and share ideas. As each business scuffles to deal with the long-lasting impacts of the global Covid-19 pandemic, working methods have changed significantly over the past couple of years. The ongoing success of many organizations depends on their ability to adapt to these extraordinary circumstances, and the emergence of the new norm has provided the potential to investigate flexible working arrangements.
Over the last two years, occupiers have learned to deal with the vagueness of various kinds related to adapting to different workstyles, workforce management, employees returning to offices, etc., while ensuring continuity of work consistently. Amidst this, some have started preferring flex spaces for the sheer flexibility that such spaces offer. This could be in terms of the lease period, lock-in period, redefining space as per requirements, or even due to low capital expenditure led by uncertainty in the environment.
Several consulting and technology organizations are ramping up workforce aggressively and are looking towards flex space wherein they can increase or cut down space faster. Employees today are looking to experience an improved work/life balance. And employers have realized that flexibility should no longer be viewed as a privilege but be made available to all workers.
In India, companies have welcomed employees back to work relatively easily. They wanted to get people back to offices in a hybrid model where they visit the office only a few days a week, but there is still some pushback to this idea. Some organizations are moving towards offering flexible work where employees can work from anywhere permanently and make office visits only on certain occasions. This also broadens the talent pool for hiring. But standard complaint companies have is that it makes it harder for them to maintain and reinforce their company culture. At the same time, attracting talent is difficult when companies don’t offer flexibility.
One of the Unicorn companies employs just over 2,500 people. 45% of them were onboarded during the pandemic, and nearly half of this group had not experienced a physical work environment. Yet the company hasn’t seen an infrequent attrition rate among them. Employees are also encouraged to speak openly about the stress of working remotely. It may seem like a challenge, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But employers have to be mindful of the changed expectations of their workers so they can enhance their experience as flexible work is here to take over for some more time.
The flex space market in India is evolving. Flex space operators need to differentiate themselves in this competitive space. Technological intervention through data and automated maintenance, incorporating wellness and safety is pivotal to improving user experience. Pandemic has reiterated the importance of offices for collaboration, and flex space operators are striving to provide this vital aspect through events, hangout spaces, ideating corners, and gaming zones.
Customization is key, and operators catering to occupiers’ changing needs of a next-gen workplace will do well. To summarize, flex space is slowly becoming prominent in the commercial office market. Across the top 6 cities, we expect flex space stock to be at about 53 million sq ft by 2023 from the current 40 million sq ft, driven by curated, experiential spaces as desired by occupiers. As a result, demand from large enterprises and start-ups will keep up the momentum in flex space and spur expansion.
(By Arpit Mehrotra, Head of Flex, India MD, Bengaluru & Office Services, South India, Colliers)