The new coronavirus (COVID-19) has been an unprecedented disruptive force, especially for global trade and commerce. The pandemic has spread beyond borders and seas, bringing life and business to a standstill. Airline traffic has slowed down, cities and countries are under lockdown while people are still being tested positive for Coronavirus. The true magnitude and possibly enduring effect of this planetary threat are only slowly being revealed before us.
While all of this is happening simultaneously, the commercial real estate industry is also witnessing the implications of this global pandemic. As per the Economic Times, the shared workspaces across India have seen a dip of about 50% in the footfalls. Organisations across the country have facilitated their employees to work from home for their health and safety concerns.
There is an overall slowdown in the marketplace and the onboarding of new clients to occupy shared workspaces in the near future poses to be a challenge. Property owners and
serviced office providers are in for a total spin as occupiers everywhere have, at least for the time being, suspended all major leasing decisions and long-term commitments. It goes without saying that the workspaces will also undergo a transformation in terms of space utilisation and design when the situation gets better.
To cope up with this, the workspace providers have already started working on contingency plans while strategizing for the upcoming quarters. The commercial real estate industry is preparing itself to embrace newer and safer ways of space occupancy post the COVID-19 impact.
Optimally Utilised Spaces
The science of workspace design will evolve and move towards a progressive change in the way spaces are utilized. According to Colliers, the size of new flexible workspaces have seen a 4.9x increase than earlier during the period of 2014-19. Post coronavirus, the usage of space is likely to modify in due to the need to maintain comfortable density to limit the transmission of diseases.
Earlier, budding startups would easily opt for co-working spaces which seemed to be cost-effective to them. But now, they are likely to be more concerned regarding the use of shared spaces keeping in mind the proximity of people working from that space. The shift towards custom-built private workspaces is expected to rise as organisations put greater emphasis on the safety and well-being of their employees. The agile workspaces will cater to this need of occupants and be designed with preferred space utilization.
Re-thinking Densification of Workspaces
The offices of the near future having possibly survived the virus aftermath will lay greater emphasis on employee well-being and sustainability. The largely unknown nature and speculations concerning coronavirus have challenged the managed workspace providers to formulate and incorporate new techniques and trends in the post-virus agile workspaces.
One such transformation will be seen in the densification of workspaces. Standards are likely to improve wherein the unit space acquired by individuals may go up to 100 to 120 sq. ft. from the current (60-70 sq. ft.). Hence, the workspace designs will embody comfortable density (as opposed to high density) to maintain appropriate distance and cleanliness. Robust sanitisation and adequate distancing in offices, in turn, improve the internal health and safety of the building as well as the end-users.
A rise in the demand of private offices as compared to coworking is highly probable, given the
consciousness towards close proximity between people. Distancing between cubicles and workstations will also be more than earlier.
This global pandemic has been a major stress-test for people as well as industries on a large scale. However, the outcome and impact of it will enable all businesses and service providers, including the real estate segment to gear up for the change and plan their operations better, keeping in mind the health of the occupier and safety standards. There emanates an encouraging glimmer of hope that what appears to be an enormous hurdle to businesses is in fact an opportunity to grow, learn and evolve.