Gurjot Bhatia, MD, CBRE

Gurjot Bhatia, MD, CBRE

India’s real estate market has grown tremendously in the past decade. Robust occupier interest, the rise of organised real estate developers, and the entry of institutional capital have acted as catalysts for the growth. Owning to the current situation and fluidity of COVID-19, the way we will live and work in the future is likely to undergo unprecedented transformation. However, this could be viewed as an opportunity to influence the future—and undergo focused innovation.

We are confident that once the Covid-19 situation normalises, the market dynamics will change. The global impact could potentially result into delayed decision-making, curtailed capital expenditures, thereby slowing down portfolio decisions in the short term. From a long-term perspective, we expect the market dynamics to remain stable and positive. The world economy is bound to bounce back, and real estate and infrastructure industry will have a key role to play in the evolving new normal.

Due to Covid-19, there will a noticeable shift in the way occupational health and safety are addressed at workplaces. In the short run, sanitization protocols and safety measures will change the office space, however in the longer-term, sustainability will be considered while redesigning and restructuring the workplace environment. With decentralisation of workforce and a tech-driven future, upskilling and reskilling of the workforce will take place for a better and holistic approach within the organisation. This will further augment insourcing, leading to lesser dependence on third parties and evolution of the workplace

While the commercial real estate market in India is evolving and the dynamics of the industry are changing rapidly, there is a need for corporate occupiers to plan for the future. Reopening of commercial spaces will require a clear focus on ensuring that both people and commercial establishment are in safe and hygienic condition.

Most occupiers will settle on a balanced approach and focus on building greater resilience by introducing a combination of physical and virtual solutions based on business needs with the help of advance technologies. With workplace hygiene and employees’ wellness taking the centre stage, companies will be experimenting with flexible workplace options and policies in future. Their focus would be on the distribution of core and flexible spaces in their premises and some might even want satellite offices or use a temporary hub, aiming to lower their capex and improve agility.

Offices and commercial establishment across the world are strictly following the guidelines issued by health authorities and government bodies. These guidelines have been prepared keeping in mind the practical aspects of running an establishment and provides for strict adherence to all the safety norms. Some important measures which have been initiated to ensure safety of people are:

o Measures to ensure social distancing norms as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO)
o Implementing sanitization protocols such as cleaning and disinfecting the areas used by people on regular basis
o Staggered entry and exits to rule out over-crowding at any particular time or place and installing body temperature measuring equipment
o Phased reopening, rotational workforce, plotting commuting routes in offices etc
o Use of PPE kits by staff responsible for maintaining cleanliness and hygiene at the workplace.

A lot of these measures will become the future of workplace and proper training world be required for their efficient usage. We also need to prepare our built environment to address the health and safety concerns.

Technology has emerged as the key enabler during these times. Besides offering solutions to ensure that business continues as usual, it has also created a lot of new opportunities for all of us. Technology truly has helped us in being more resilient, maintain stability and ensure business continuity in many sectors. The positive impact of technology in various segments are as below:
o In the office sector, cloud-based working tools and video-conference systems have facilitated working from remote locations
o Virtual reality has helped the commercial real estate to conduct site visits and close deals without compromising the safety norms
o The lockdown restrictions have also propelled the use of automation and robotics, digitize operations and promote adoption of touchless technologies
o Workplaces are experimenting with technologies which will eliminate touch points for things like doors, lifts, windows, screens etc. Besides, the use of automated technologies to book seats, order foods etc. are also expected to rise. 
o Parallelly, artificial intelligence-enabled people-flow controls, cleaning-maintenance technologies and ventilation and filtration systems will be put to use to further mitigate the situation

The Covid-19 situation has brought both challenges and opportunities that will define how businesses need to align and adapt to the changing times. The recent lockdown to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 has impacted the real estate industry to a certain extent. However, the phased resumption of industry activities and reopening of workplaces is instilling a sense of confidence in the industry.

The major challenge that workplaces today face, is the fact that employees in the current situation could be reluctant to come back to the office space due to health and safety concerns. Therefore, employers have to take measures that will not only motivate them to come back to work and but also ensure their safety.

Studies have shown that working from home could not be the solution for many and a mechanism needs to be evolved to instil an employee’s confidence in the workplace. While some very stringent guidelines have already been put in place, companies are also making the required change to fill the last mile gaps.

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