How workspaces and workstyles are evolving to match the new reality: Varun Gopinath, WeWork India
The impact of working in isolation is seen as conversations around mental wellbeing have been getting louder and “Zoom fatigue” has become a common term to use writes Varun Gopinath, Chief Revenue Officer, WeWork India.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created long lasting impact across the world, including impact that might not be foreseen currently. Most businesses and industries have been affected, forcing recalibration of business strategies alongside swift changes in business models and decisions that impact the entire workforce. We are all currently in the midst of adapting to the ‘new normal’ and flexible workspaces are no different.
With health and safety being the priority going forward, risk mitigation measures shape workplace operation strategies. Design enhancements that facilitate adequate social distancing between two workstations and in common areas are implemented across all office spaces. Utilizing tech innovations in order to set up safe practices such as touch less access control, especially for lifts, doors etc. along with consistent monitoring of air quality are some of the practices that have now become the norm across our offices.
In a bid to adapt to the changes created by the current environment, there has been a shift in the workings of enterprises, big and small. Work Styles have evolved as distributed team members not working out of one office have managed to be productive, but the question remains- will this be a viable long term solution. The impact of working in isolation is seen as conversations around mental wellbeing have been getting louder and “Zoom fatigue” has become a common term to use. Keeping this in mind, the ideal long term solution seems to be remote working. This could potentially lead to decentralization of offices and distribution of the workforce across citywide office hubs which also enable easier, safer commutes close to home. In this unstable and unpredictable scenario, flexible workspaces come into the picture. With multiple office locations for convenience and necessary amenities like unwavering Wi-Fi connection, regular tea/coffee and amenities like game rooms, sleep rooms etc., flexible workspaces could provide answers to the future of the workspace.
Flexibility is key in the new workspace
What the pandemic has done is created a desire for asset light models which enable adaptability and agility. This has led to the intent of moving real estate costs to a variable expense as opposed to a fixed one, which would unlock significant cash in hand. In the current environment, cash is king and enterprises across industries would be actively prioritizing setting aside predictable long term savings that would give them the much needed advantage of adapting to business fluctuations in a swift and smoother manner. This has led to enterprises looking at flexible workspaces as an ideal solution as they provide the option of moving real estate to an agile asset, as opposed to a fixed one, within a company’s portfolio. With offerings like short term leases, easy upgrades or downgrades, bouncing back from the crisis becomes easier for businesses. This alongside the advantage of choosing the initial capital expenditure that goes into a space, provides companies the control on contraction and expansion plans to align and realign if needed, as per business needs. The ability to scale to space depending on their needs has led to growing trends amongst larger enterprises, where many are quickly innovating their real estate strategies and forging strong partnerships with flexible workspaces.
Furthermore, maintaining safety and hygiene at the workspace will be a priority and working out of multiple spaces, as opposed to one office, can mitigate the risk of infection. With flexible workspaces having an employee-first policy, the distributed options provided by them would open up multiple office options for employees to choose from, as they start to return to work.
Importance of belonging to a community
In times of crisis such as this one, stems the need to lean on your community for support and pearls of wisdom. Apart from work, what employees need today are activities that keep them productive and keep the work environment positive and upbeat. A healthy work culture is the pulse of every organization and is being tested during this time. A core competency of a flexible workspace is its unwavering focus on building a strong community. With community managers at every office, fostering seamless connections becomes easy. The office energy takes a positive turn as proximity with the community, transparency and cultural diversity ensure employees stay upbeat. What’s more is that people are overloaded with information which can be counterproductive when combating the spread of the virus. By having a community team working round-the-clock as an information filter, members can access reliable information. Furthermore, the atmosphere in a shared workspace creates synergies helping people achieve shared professional goals which is a great motivator. Collaborative spaces provide individuals a platform to observe and learn from a talented group of colleagues from within the same or different organization. An enriching work experience is provided in such setups as they encourage people to become collaborators, rather than just colleagues or competitor
A sense of belonging plays a big role in an individual’s overall wellbeing, especially during a crisis and being part of the workspace community can lead to people thriving at work.
Embracing the Digital transformation
With the world going digital, communication and engagement are being driven through virtual mediums. It is imperative to create meaningful conversations in order to ensure that the workforce community stays engaged and feels supported. Digital activities on a consistent basis that not only foster engagement but also aid in giving employees time away from work are done regularly at flexible workspaces. The need of the hour is to leverage the virtual medium to plan out sessions that add to the positive vibe of the office culture. Activities like wellness sessions, gaming activities, fitness and dance activities etc. go a long way in setting the right culture of an organization, making it sought after by the talented pool of employees out there.
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