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Co-working in the new normal


Who would’ve imagined that we would miss office? The soft buzz of co-workers going about their day, brainstorming sessions over unlimited cups of coffee, and the ability to meet and learn from each other’s presence is difficult to replicate on a screen, with Internet playing spoilsport. But running an office space is no mean feat. It means locking in a huge capital, daily maintenance although no one’s using it, and bearing the entire cost and headache of prepping for the pandemic alone even if only a fraction of the staff comes in. As Mumbai unlocks in various phases and companies try to stay afloat by cutting costs, co-working spaces are looking to cash in by shouldering this load, and offering flexible alternatives.

Eye on safety

Shyam Sundar Nagarajan 
Shyam Sundar Nagarajan 

Sanitation is the buzzword of our times. Regular antiviral sanitisation of the entire space, increased deep cleaning cycles, floor markings and friendly signage on dos and don’ts, automatic sanitisers at every corner, thermal checks, staggered work and lunch hours, restructuring desk layouts and focus on high touchpoints are some of the many measures shared workspaces are adopting. To help clients figure out if the office space is safety compliant at a glance, GoFloaters, a platform that helps you find work and meeting spaces instantly, has introduced safety badges on its app. “After in-person verification, we add a safety badge to spaces that have implemented all rules,” founder and CEO Shyam Sundar Nagarajan, tells us.

Robin Chhabra
Robin Chhabra 

Robin Chhabra, founder and CEO of the BKC-based Dextrus, shares that making workers feel safe also means ensuring they feel welcome. “This COVID-19 situation can be isolating and depressing. So, making people feel at home is also a part of our SOP. We’re training our own team, and have a doctor and healthcare facilities on standby to provide constant reassurance. We’re also focusing on the minute details like ensuring fresh air outlets for our AC systems,” he adds. Similarly, to lighten up the grim mood, Ministry of New in Fort that re-opened earlier this week, has used plants and decorative objects as distancing markers, explains founder and creative director Marlies Bloemendaal.

Marlies BloemendaalMarlies Bloemendaal

In the short term

Nagarajan of GoFloaters, which owns spaces in 12 cities, notes that in the past few months, companies have been hesitant to invest in spaces for a long term. “As most users are in a WFH combination, there’s a demand for one or two-day options. There’s also a clamour for meeting spaces as workers want a break from WFH. So, we’re offering offices on per day basis too,” he shares. Chhabra also agrees that there’s been an uptick in such inquiries.

Thermal checks are mandatoryThermal checks are mandatory

“The pandemic will be managed in a year or two, so there’s also the question that does it, then, call for drastic changes in space or flexible ones that shared offices offer. As most companies will continue with rotational shifts, or might need space for only meetings, we’re seeing a demand in pay-as-you go models,” he adds. Noting this trend, Ministry of New, has introduced day passes and shared team memberships. “As firms open up, redesigning of existing real estate poses a challenge. Co-working spaces can respond to that quickly,” Bloemendaal chips in.

Flexibility first

Ministry of New re-opened its doors earlier this week
Ministry of New re-opened its doors earlier this week

Although co-working spaces have seen a drop in occupancy, the founders feel it’s one of the most viable options right now. “Investment in an office space means that money is locked in for the long term. A shared office space lets you keep that money in your business,” Chhabra points out. He adds that with the numerous rules in place, prepping the office for the pandemic also becomes an energy and cost-intensive job for a company. That headache is taken care of by the co-working space entirely. Bloemendaal adds that another factor is the mental health effect of WFH. “It can lead to isolation and burnout, especially for those used to the pace of office life. Coworking spaces offer a sense of community,” she concludes.

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