While the world is getting back to (the new) normal, dealing with uncertainties, working around the pandemic, one thing is certain: The office space sector will see dramatic changes, rightfully so, sticking to their existing ways of function will lead them to extinction.
Coworking spaces were pushed to the limelight for the very reason that they redefined the meaning of the word ‘Community’. It no longer was only about coming together, it was about finding growth with the people surrounding you.
These spaces are known for their common areas and shared facilities. However, to keep the workspaces safe during the Pandemic Era, we may see the work stations being divided or in some cases occupants/Clients asking for private cabins. Regardless of the setback, Industry experts feel that Coworking/Shared spaces will be sought after now more than before.
Emerging Trends that we may see in the Indian Coworking sector amid the Pandemic –
1. Emphasis on Remote work– Remote work has been a lifesaver for most companies/Businesses during the pandemic. As a reason, Companies will start investing more in learning about remote work. Having a defined infrastructure ensures that companies would find it easier to deploy ‘work from home’ as an option and also to integrate independent workers to their teams.
2. Flexible Terms of Coworking– Signing a long term agreement with office space providers would entitle a company to pay an agreed/defined rent even if the space is not being utilized. Such was the case during this pandemic where companies struggled to pay rent with tangible setbacks and losses with their respective businesses.
Companies will look into taking advantage of the flexible terms of Coworking spaces (For Example – No Lock-in, No deposit, etc.) These unprecedented times have made us realize how flexible terms would help us.
3. An increase in BCP (BCRP) centers in India (Business Continuity and Recovery Planning)– India has been praised by everyone for the proactive approach taken against Coronavirus. Judging by this it wouldn’t be surprising to see companies from the US and UK shifting their BCP centers to India as soon as the late 2nd half of the year from Malaysia and Vietnam.
4. Increase in Virtual Offices– Since ‘Work from Home’ is being experimented on a larger scale than before coworking spaces would definitely plan to capitalize on the same by offering virtual offices as a service. Since virtual offices provide all the traditional services hassle-free from one’s home. These services include having a professional business address in multiple locations, receptionist services, etc. As a good majority of these are affordable alternatives, companies may prefer them if they were to retain ‘work from home’ as an option. This could lead to a sudden spike in the demand for virtual offices.
5. Employees opting-in for Remote work– Working remotely/or at the comfort of one’s home cuts down timings and the hassle of commuting resulting in employees being able to put in more time for productivity. In addition to this, Flexibility with the work schedule also ensures that employees can work without any specific time restrictions.
Why will coworking/Shared Spaces outshine traditional or Conventional office spaces?
- Flexible terms for rental Agreements– Traditional or conventional office space have rigid rental agreements. A company would have to pay for the space regardless of it being used or not, such was the case during lockdowns. Ideally, Companies would have to shift to a more flexible payment plan i.e. what coworking/shared spaces offer where-in they would be able to take advantage of it if the need arises.
- The Need for a workspace– Post Lockdowns, Employees will need an office space to back to. Working from home isn’t a sustainable solution as it comes with its own set of disadvantages. Distractions are very prevalent at home, flexibility in work hours may also lead to a significant drop in efficiency and productivity if continued for a longer duration of time. Having the right Infrastructure is also a challenge, in-availability of workspace and unreliable internet connections plague employees who are working from home.
With such challenges, employees will likely be called back in to work sooner or later depending on the severity of the pandemic. Hence Companies may prefer to opt for coworking spaces that are in close vicinity of the said employees to ensure commuting times are minimal and also work can be carried out with lesser distractions.
- Harnessing the power of ‘Community’– Businesses, startups and freelancers alike have had tangible setbacks due to the pandemic. The key to finding stable grounds can only be done through networks (Community) as coworking spaces were always known to fuel connections and drive businesses. A connection that you make at a coworking space could be your potential client.
Prioritizing Client relations – Maintaining a good client relations team is the key to ensuring a good occupancy rate. The client relations team will have to be involved and actively taking in all the pleas and requests from the tenants and ensure they are resolved. Traditional and conventional office setups commonly do not have client relations as a dedicated service and hence this will also contribute towards coworking having an edge over its competition.
Adaptation to the ‘new normal’ policies
- A complete makeover for workspaces – Workspaces will be redesigned to ensure proper safety measures are followed i.e. divided/private workspaces. Social distancing protocols would be followed which would ideally have these changes –
- Work schedules to be made in shifts to ensure coworking spaces aren’t packed to the maximum.
- Deferred cafeteria schedules to ensure common areas aren’t overcrowded.
- Suspension/regulation of lift facilities.
- Workspace Hygiene– Contactless features would be the future of coworking spaces. Sanitization spray tunnels, temperature checks, Sensor-based hand sanitizers, foot-operated doors, Workspaces separated by UV light, etc. are just some of the safety measures coworking spaces have started adopting recently.
Businesses have added the possibilities of lockdowns to their contingency plans and are working towards finding flexible terms for their rental agreements. This would ensure that if/when a similar situation arises, they would be able to cut down on costs by taking benefits of the said flexible terms.
On the other hand, Office space providers would have to bring in a lot of changes to their existing ways of functioning. Innovation would have to be at the forefront as office space owners would have to adapt to the ever-changing demands of their tenants to stay in business.