Remote working has altogether altered employees’ expectations from work as well as their priorities. Nowadays, everyone wants to work at their own pace, from their preferred location, and on projects they like.
Unprecedented in scale, the spread of the novel coronavirus forced drastic reordering of modern-day life.
While some aspects, such as going to a movie theatre or a restaurant, may go back to the pre-pandemic normal in future, many will not. This includes the workspace!
The current restrictions imposed due to speculated third wave forced employees to revert to working from home. Not traditionally a part of Indian corporate culture, the recurring restrictions imposed over the last 2 years have made this change sweeping and sudden.
As a result, companies in order to retain talent, boost productivity and ensure employee well-being are reimagining the workspace and the role of offices.
Every company will evolve its respective workspace to suit its specific needs. But, underpinned by people-centricity, the metamorphosis of the Indian workspace will broadly take on the following shape.
Work from anywhere
The pandemic gave rise to the work from anywhere culture. Most companies are headquartered in crowded, bustling cities. No longer needing to go to work and seeking to get away, many employees opted to leave the cities they were based in. Others moved back to their hometowns. While a majority of those who relocated amidst the pandemic miss collaborating and socializing with their colleagues - essentially their work family - they are at the same time reluctant to give up their newfound way of life completely.
Companies as a result will have to adapt. A survey of company leaders conducted by Godrej Interio found that over 70 percent were considering incorporating flexible work to a much greater extent into their company cultures. More than half actually planned to make the changes necessary to embrace hybrid work.
Role of the office
This, however, does not mean the era of the office is at an end. But, yes, the office as we know it will change. For starters, companies embracing the work from anywhere culture are likely to set up smaller satellite offices. Upfront, this may represent a significant financial investment but in the long run will result in greater savings as they can scale down the size of their headquarters and major offices.
They won’t need that space anyway because offices will evolve into collaborative spaces, where employees will meet, engage and ideate rather than work at a desk. They will become hotbeds of innovation and collaboration instead of cubicle farms crowded with desks.
They will feature clusters of meeting spaces that can be repurposed as desired to serve as areas of relaxation or conference hubs. Specialized furniture to facilitate safe and healthy collaboration and working will become pivotal to the office of the future.
They will also get smarter.
The digitization of telecommunication threw a lifeline to companies amid the pandemic, allowing them to conduct business as close to usual as possible. Virtual collaboration was the only means of communication. A return to office in the future, while boosting face-to-face collaboration will not necessarily spell the end of digital communication. Several offices for safety reasons will conduct large meetings virtually. However, video conferencing has become an indispensable collaboration tool. According to a recent study “Metamorphosis of the Indian Workspace”, more than 60 percent of the organisations said they would increase their spend on virtual collaboration tools. As a result, these tools will become far more inclusive and intuitive, so that even those attending remotely feel as much a part of the meeting.
Offices will also incorporate voice assistants, smart analytics, sensors and touchscreens to make workspace functioning smoother than ever before. One unexpected benefit of the pandemic was the savings companies made on costs like utilities. They will not want to give these up and smart technology will help them operate their offices more efficiently.
Probably the biggest difference between the pre and post-pandemic workspace will be the focus companies place on employee well-being.
Several companies either instituted or ramped up their well-being programmes to help employees cope with the stresses of the pandemic. Going a step further, companies will design offices in a way that boosts employee well-being. This includes the development of biophilic workspaces, more outdoor areas, furniture designed to encourage movement and cut down the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).
Change is the only constant
If COVID-19 has taught us anything as a society, it’s that change is the only constant. The pandemic has accelerated change to the extent that our lives will never be the same again. In fact, they may have changed for the better. This is certainly true of offices, with the ongoing-COVID situation, workspace evolution is necessary and in a way that puts the interests of employees first.