Unlocking growth for co-working Spaces in a post-coronavirus world

Co-working spaces need to rethink and recalibrate to focus on the health and safety of the employees, and adapt to the changing times.
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With increasing focus on cost optimisation and effectiveness, co-working spaces have emerged as the new commercial juggernaut in the real estate sector and have been ruling the roost for the past few years. Driven by startups and the gig economy, this asset class has witnessed a steady and steep growth curve, year after year, in India and across other geographies.

According to Knight Frank’s The Indian Real Estate report, new projects in the office space markets shot up by 56 percent in 2019 alone, while the share of co-working spaces in the overall office space pie has jumped from a paltry 5 percent to 13 percent between 2017 and 2019. This, of course, had beckoned a positive outlook and a strong growth curve for the co-working sector industry as a whole.

In January 2020, an Anarock Property Consultant spokesperson was quoted envisaging that the co-working spaces in the country would double or even triple in the short term, testifying to the rapid strides of growth the sector has been clocking.

While the current scenario, replete with grim predictions and apprehensions might seem to throw up challenges for offices spaces altogether in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the post lockdown scenario could bring in a wave of new opportunities for the co-working players. It would, however, depend on the willingness to adapt, respond swiftly and reimagine growth through disruptive approaches that factor in the current needs and preferences of various audiences.

Plug & Play- a major gamechanger in the post-COVID world

Work from home (WFH) might look appealing as a concept initially. Yet, in due course, most of the challenges that employees often face when working from home, ranging from technology cankers, to large family setups and limited spaces at home, might pose as consistent difficulties and significantly affect operational efficiencies and productivity.

Besides, the mental health of employees might emerge as an area of concern as they struggle to balance deadlines with home duties. Add to that the lack of immediate psychological support with all peer groups limited to virtual networks. Not just that, exchanging ideas or coordinating tasks become way smoother and easier at the workspace and might become extremely challenging when working remotely. In a nutshell, work from home is often accompanied by challenges beyond comprehension.

As lockdowns lift and the professional world returns to normalcy, addressing this gap might become a major challenge for traditional office setups, with compulsory social distancing and uncluttering office spaces. On the other hand, with business challenges and liquidity shortage on the anvil, investing to expand office spaces would be next to impossible for most organisations. It is here that co-working spaces can rightly come in to fit the bill and address the gap with their unique offerings that bring about the right blend of safety, sustainability, and cost optimisation.

With their ability to increase physical distancing between seats, given their inherent flexibility and easy plug and play options, their easy-on-the pocket cost options and various other relevant amenities, co-working spaces can be the ideal solution to workplace woes in the post-COVID world.

In an attempt to make working from the office more comfortable and less susceptible to health hazards or infections, major businesses and corporations with densely populated offices will create less-crowded workspaces, moving a sizeable portion of their workforce to co-working facilities, thereby addressing the issue of remote working and creating a sparsely populated office space.

Co-working spaces also enable large organisations with a brilliant option to move beyond high expenses in the long term with easy entry and exit policies. This could pose as an ultimate game-changer for the co-working industry at large.

The need of the hour, therefore, is for co-working spaces to rapidly adapt, adopt best practices that can set a benchmark for safe and healthy working spaces across the country and attract the right audiences in the process to cultivate a sense of “for all well-being.”

Adapting to the new normal with best practices

Safely distanced workstations are set to be the new normal at co-working spaces, with frequent sanitisation checks and the highest precautionary measures being followed by the hour every single day. Wide-open spaces and dedicated zones for various activities need to be a mandate while cafeterias with culinary options that blend in good health and boost immunity, along with distanced seating, shall find favourability among the audiences.

Smarter and more dynamic co-working spaces could carve a niche and lead the office space transformation by leveraging IoT and integrating other technologies with sheer prudence. Smart, contactless biometrics to track entry and exits, smart temperature control systems and smart security systems along with synchronised calendars that could help employees choose a workstation from a visible dashboard would be in vogue, be it from a standpoint of convenience or optimal use of resources.

Similarly, sustainability and environment conservation coupled with best practices that cut out on health hazards shall need to be seriously factored in “for all well-being.” Co-working spaces shall need to reimagine office design and bring in innovative options such as retractable roofs that allow for natural lighting or facilities for treating fresh air coupled with the complete absence of air conditioning ducts and carpets that rule out the possibility of dust and pollution.

All of this can go a long way in giving a fillip to the overall well-being and safety of all employees. Another important area would be crisis preparedness to mitigate risks with a trained contingency team on-ground to address any sudden challenge or issue related to the health and safety of members.

Re-organise & Re-programme

The co-working space has come a long way, fuelled by the gig economy and a robust startup ecosystem. Now, in the post-COVID world, reimagining workspace dynamics, larger organisations too shall join the league and funnel the next growth story for the co-working space sector.

What shall also auger well is the industry’s inherent flexibility to adapt and adopt, and its enormous ability to bring people together and foster a strong collective conscious to drive a strong community spirit determined to win in these trying times.

Often called ‘millennial workspaces’, co-working spaces are all poised to be re-programmed in a post-COVID scenario with a prudent utilisation of space, resources, and technology. With a perfect amalgamation of green and smart, these millennial workplaces are poised to cater to young entrepreneurs and enterprises alike.

From offering flexibility, multi-location space to incentives and motivation for employees coupled with ease of doing business, co-working in India is sure to bounce back on track, tread a new path, and recalibrate the concept of office spaces to script a new normal “for all well-being.”

Edited by Kanishk Singh

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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