The pandemic has challenged the decade-old traditional workspace setup and design decisions by calling into question the purpose of large centralized office locations. With many organizations continuing with work from home in the long run, many companies are deliberating to plan for a post pandemic workplace strategy by revisiting the actual need for a centralized office as their workforce has been able to work efficiently for months by working remotely. In order to find a middle ground, most organizations decided to adopt a more distributed model throughout locations and geographic regions to better support employee performance and organizational resiliency.
The hybrid model of working recently gained prominence as companies began looking to move away from a single centralized office space in favor of multiple, smaller satellite offices that are strategically located in new and emerging markets. This trend kick started when corporates realized that workspaces, as we know it, will not remain the same and a standard work environment will no longer suffice as one-size does not fit all. On one hand, while Spotify is looking at work from home for long-term, Salesforce has opted for hybrid model of working. These decisions were undertaken as every company experienced varied facets of a work from home setup.
Few challenges that employees and employers across industries witnessed during COVID and how decentralization can help tackle them include:
Lack of adequate infrastructure – Most Indian households are not equipped to support a smooth work from home as they do not have the required infrastructure to help make WFH a sustainable option. Lack of high bandwidth internet, ergonomic furniture and security concerns forced many corporates to look for alternatives. In addition to workspace and ergonomic furniture, coworking spaces also offer amenities like printers, fax machines, concierge service and spaces like conference rooms, phone booths, similar to what you would find in a typical office while also providing multi-cuisine restaurants and open collaboration areas that allow for face to face conversations while maintaining adequate social distancing.
Cost efficiency – With the disruption caused by Covid, many companies had to let go of their large office spaces to maneuver through the uncertainty. To optimize cost, limit capital expenditure, upsize/downsize and enjoy flexibility in rental contracts, organizations are shifting from typical CRE models to look for a workspace that provides a win-win situation for employers and employees alike. In this aspect, coworking spaces are an attractive option as enterprises can book seats daily, weekly, monthly or yearly at coworking spaces basis their changing requirements at centres across locations.
Social distancing – Initially, work from home looked like an attractive option as it was safe to work from home instead of working from a multistoried office full of people. Despite craving human connect and the hustle-bustle of an office environment, employees confined themselves to the walls of their homes due to safety concerns. Bearing in mind that safety is of utmost importance under the current circumstances, coworking spaces are operating all centres with full preparedness to ensure 100% safety. Many tech and design advancements have been made to provide a touchless experience while following proper social distancing norms.
Convenience – The work from home experience led employees to realize that they don’t want to spend time and money in commuting. Instead, that time can be utilized to strike a better work life balance. Coworking spaces provide the desired flexibility and productivity while offering Grade A infrastructure, all at a stone’s throw away. Employees no longer have to commute for long hours to reach their workplace which results in saving on time and money.
Collaboration and social interactions – Almost a year into the work from home regime, employees started experiencing the downsides of the work from home arrangement. What started as an initiative for work life balance soon led to fatigue and burnouts. Additionally, coffee breaks and gossips with colleagues could not be substituted by phone or video calls which led to reduced communication or loneliness. Collaboration being at the heart of shared workspaces provides an environment where people from all walks of life exchange ideas and promote a culture of growth.
In lieu of the above challenges, a decentralized model of working came forward as the ideal option for the workforce. The result? Employees have access to all of the facets that make remote work desirable. The adaption of a decentralized model has fueled the demand for coworking spaces as they are an exemplary model for what a distributed network of workspaces could look like. Apart from aesthetically pleasing interiors and designs to facilitate collaboration while keeping safety in mind, coworking spaces can also be fully furnished and designed in accordance with the business needs and requirements to offer privacy.
The modern workforce has different expectations as compared to what employees had a decade or two ago. Likewise, large corporations now better fathom the benefits of a more collaborative and innovative work environment that creates an atmosphere where employees learn critical skills faster, make deeper connections with coworkers and people within their network, and feel more engaged with their employer and team. In this sense, flexi spaces can help a company improve its culture with a more innovative and unified spirit, driving everything from productivity levels to retention rates and talent acquisition. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, one of the most attractive characteristics of flexible workspace for large enterprises is the ability to customize the space to a company’s unique culture and needs. Coworking space providers will work with an organization to provide custom buildouts that adhere to an enterprise’s particular demands and expectations for the space.
Shared workspaces are a tremendous asset to large corporations that allow an enterprise to pivot according to a highly dynamic marketplace. The office of the future will be a network of smaller, flexible and safety-driven places that benefit both the employees and the company while providing multifold benefits to both the parties.
(By Amit Ramani, Founder & CEO, Awfis)