Flexible workspaces focus more on tier two cities to accommodate SMEs, MSMEs through adaptable lease choices
As the world begins to pull itself upright, businesses are looking for ways to operate and innovate within the new normal. In some parts of the world, shops and offices are reopening and a portion of non-key workers are starting to commute again. However, the future looks ever more uncertain. This pandemic has pressed a reset button for a lot of businesses, times are tough and multiple aspects across organisations need to be relooked at in order to successfully float through the sea of uncertainty.
The span of 12 months has radically affected the way organisations operate. Even though the disruption caused by the pandemic was significant on the flexible and co-working sectors, 2020 was also the year in which this sector took a massive leap forward. Companies across the world discovered first-hand that their workforces could be highly engaged and productive while utilising the ‘hybrid’ way of working: at home, in a local office, and occasionally at the corporate headquarter.
In 2021, the flexible office market is undergoing a period of transformation because of the current climate that we find ourselves in. Businesses are looking for ways to operate and innovate within the new normal. We’re already seeing more firms moving to a more decentralised structure and operate with a ‘hub and spoke’ model. On the other hand, customers’ requirements are evolving, their basic office requirements, too, will be subject to frequent transformation as advances in technology and policies take place. Terms like agility and flexibility are instrumental for working professionals now.
Once people are actually at work, companies will need to ensure they are safe. Some of the obvious precautions include the widespread introduction of hygiene facilities and regular deep cleaning. Clutter that creates multiple possible touchpoints will need to be kept to a minimum. Workplaces may need to be re-thought and re-designed with a greater emphasis on spacing, desk barriers, and crowd control measures. This is likely to be an ongoing process, with regulations and recommendations changing over time. Businesses with operations in more than one country will have multiple sets of regulations to contend with. On an almost philosophical note, it will mean revisiting how a business’s office serves it.
Companies will also need to think about what happens if there are further waves, lockdowns, or, indeed, other unrelated crises. Their business continuity will depend on it. Gartner published a survey in March that showed that only 12 per cent of businesses were well prepared for Covid-19. On the positive side, many businesses are now much readier to cope with external crises, although they may be in the unenviable position of having to prepare for the next crisis while coping with this one
Flexible workspaces are providing customers with everything they need to work in the way that suits them, from convenient locations to incorporating industry-leading technology so that teams can collaborate better and more seamlessly, and even offering shorter lease commitments, thereby, allowing for the ultimate flexibility as circumstances change. However, we are under no illusions that challenges lie ahead in the near term. The return to the office will be staggered as the pandemic continues to throw up challenges and the slow process of vaccination drive could stall the back to workplace momentum.
Looking ahead, we can safely say that there are going to be two major disruptions in the sector. First, big enterprises will turn to flexible workspaces and adopt a hybrid working model. Second, flexible workspaces will put more focus on tier two cities to cater to SMEs and MSMEs by devising more flexible leasing options.
On an almost philosophical note, it will mean revisiting how a business’s office serves it. Companies need to take time to plan their new layouts to ensure they work for both staff and company goals and take this moment as an opportunity to refresh and revitalise their workspace.
The author is Country Manager India, VP Sales, IWG plc
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