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Vistasp Bhagwagar, Architect Vistasp & Associates (AVA) - Covid impact on workspaces

Vistasp Bhagwagar, Architect Vistasp & Associates (AVA) - Covid impact on workspaces

Covid-19 has been a game-changer; the game and its rules have changed to create what we all now call "The New Normal." There is no plan as there is no clarity yet on the rules of this new game; there is only the spirit of surviving through and getting through this period where most projects have come to a grinding halt and many others aborted. The immediate future is uncertain and there are a wait and watch approach.

In these times, organisations are opting for prevention over cure and ensuring an extension of the WFH experiment to continue for a few more months, mostly till the end of the year. Going forward the very ideological debate of what do we need in an office; who is needed to come to the office and what should an office be like, is being hotly discussed. Some are already speaking of decentralising offices, a far cry from the moves towards consolidation and centralisation in the last decade. There are talks about the return of the "Hub and Spoke" model -- that has smaller central offices and many satellite neighbourhood offices. Space utilisation indexes are changing. Notions of safety are determining the transitions back to offices, but we are still far away from a vaccine and far away from normalisation.

Many companies have yet to open their offices again. Those, who have opened up, are on a minimal staff operation mode, to keep the systems running and carry health and safety audits of the premises. Mostly there are attempts to ensure either de-densification or distancing, so either chairs are being removed or are being spread across to ensure behavioural change. Sanitising dispensers, exaggerated signages, thermo scannings are part and parcel of the new operations vocabulary in every office.

The whole world has been coerced to try out WFH and have realised that it’s not impossible. The hero has been technology and connectivity. Face-to-face physical meetings are being replaced with virtual connectivity.

Workspace interiors is relying more on apps and technologies that allow for touch-free access and booking of meeting rooms and even work stations. UVc light systems allow disinfection of spaces in minutes and fumigation tunnels and solutions are being suggested. There is more and more technology at play at every step of the way.

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