The industry has definitely got impacted due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. The initial hope that the pandemic will peak and taper by June end is no longer there. The occupiers are no longer in a hurry to occupy workplaces. Organisations that were waiting till end of Q2 are now forced to take decisions keeping in mind the new reality. The entire real estate business in India is expected to go through a contraction phase before it rebounds back.
Organisations are considering the following factors while planning the transition back to the office. They are primarily
a) Design changes
b) Technology injections
c) Communication and Navigation
d) Employee behaviour and
e) Hygiene and Cleaning.
SOPs and protocols are being established under each category so that the workplace is safe and clean to the maximum extent possible. The design changes for the future will be based on a low-density workplace with a touch less environment.
Safety measures are being taken by occupiers and landlords in equal measure. Visitor management has been upgraded and tweaked to the new reality through thermal checks, sanitizer points and signages to maintain social distancing. Inside the workplace, the number of people working has been reduced drastically. Wireless technology is being adopted quickly. Regular fumigation and sanitisation is now part of the office maintenance routine.
Changes in workplace that are happening as immediate fallout of the pandemic include:
a) Achieving a low density
b) Maintaining distancing in meeting rooms
c) Using materials which can be easily sanitised and
d) Designing touchless fixtures
It is important that we do not forget the purpose of a workplace and find creative and innovative design solutions that can motivate people to be the most productive when they are at their workplaces. The future of collaborative spaces will decide the future of work.
Video meeting software has helped organisations immensely during this period. Features in them are being upgraded or added regularly now. A contactless access control system through face recognition will be the norm soon. The mechanical, electrical and plumbing fixtures inside an office will soon be controlled by strategically placed sensors. Wireless networking of the office space is going to be a new reality.
The future of work is “work from anywhere”. However, that “anywhere” still needs to be equipped with basic work-related infrastructure and privacy.
Public commute remains a critical challenge post COVID. This is in addition to the inadequacy of our health care infrastructure. The post-COVID city needs to address both these issues to make work safe. A possible solution to the first challenge can be the multiple small work cafes across the city which people can use.
The second challenge is important to address as it helps to reduce fear in the mind of the common people. While the physical part of the infrastructure can be upgraded and upscaled by public and private initiatives it is also important to connect the healthcare facilities on an easily accessible online network.
Productive work happens when the individual is free from physical and mental discomfort. The future employer needs to find different means to achieve that objective. It may not be limited only to the physical environment of the office.