With COVID-19 bringing the country to a near standstill, many sectors are being impacted – including the co-working sector. Most of the players from this stream are forced to close down their spaces temporarily.
Big corporates operating from a co-working space have already started negotiating their contracts and are looking for more flexible terms. A chunk of smaller companies, especially those that occupy fewer than 5 seats, are finding working from home a convenient option: they are either hesitant to renewing their contracts, or they have started limiting their total occupancy to 1–2 seats.
In this scenario, we expect to see the following 7 trends among co-working spaces:
1. More Hygienic Spaces
Hygiene is going to take precedence over most other factors including costs, appearance, and location convenience. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see co-working spaces diverting a whole of lot of their focus on cleanliness and sanitisation.
Regular cleaning of high frequency touch points and ensuring provision of masks and hand sanitisers are both going to be of prime importance. Supplementary but necessary actions would include securing walls with signs about safe distancing, about following hygiene practices when using common spaces, and so on.
Potential current and future customers are sure to hold hygiene and sanitisation on the top-most rung of requirements when choosing their next co-working space.
2. Moving Away from Conventional Leasing Offices
Co-working office share has been about 10% over the past three years. In the wake of coronavirus pandemic, offices currently on conventional leasing will rethink their strategy of extending or renewing their rental contracts. We would see most, if not all, offices shift their focus from conventional leasing to flexible spaces. Some might move into a smaller office and have the rest distributed among different locations pan-India into a flexible space.
Another point that favours the coworking office is the flexibility they offer which means one can downsize and upscale the employee headcount and pay only seat wise cost
3. Increase in BCP Centres in India
India is garnering all sorts of praises the world over for how it has responded and so far handled the coronavirus situation. It wouldn’t be wrong to predict companies from the US and UK move their BCP centres, as early as from the second half of the year, from countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia to India.
Big Indian corporates may also plan to de-cluster their Head Office and opt for few seats in Flexible offices at different locations which are convenient for employees and will automatically act as BCP centres.
4. More Collaboration/Activity Zones
Work from home option has proven a viable option for a lot of start-ups and SMEs. In view of this adoption and trend, office designs are, and will be seen, changing going forward. More focus will be given to activity-based working environment along with collaboration zones where start-ups could meet and brainstorm, activities which are not quite feasible through online meetings.
5. More Benefits to Customers
For a lot of co-working and serviced office providers, occupancy of their spaces will pose a huge challenge once the COVID-19 threat is over. Consequently, they will be led to make great offers such as waiving off deposits, coming up with novel schemes such as a generous one-month rent-free option, and so on. In the end, the customers are the ones who’ll benefit out of this
6. Increase in Virtual Offices
Today, the largest forced experiment in the world is work from home. As a result, the co-working players may see an opportunity to adapt themselves and start adopting virtual office solutions. Virtual offices enable companies to access their traditional range of services remotely and hassle-free from home. Conveniences include, and are not limited to, having a business address at prime location, in-house receptionist, and video conferencing. As most of these are cost-efficient solutions for any company, we may see a surge in the demand for virtual offices.
7. Specific Professional Offices
Another trend that could be seen is for offices catering to specific professionals. In addition to providing essential facilities such as furniture and Wi-Fi, some co-working players are creating offices that cater to specific segments like IT/ITeS. These offices provide profession-centric utilities such as software—diallers and CRM, hardware (desktop and laptop), dedicated PRI lines, clockwise cabling, and dedicate servers among others. One such emerging tech-driven player in this segment is Officebing, which provides offices specifically designed for different professionals.
The key for co-working providers is managing resources optimally and surviving the next few months. The landlords play a very important role here and need to support the coworking spaces in this hard time. In the long run, the co-working sector will be among the few industries that will see a V-shape recovery after the COVID-19 threat is over.
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