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Flexible Workspaces: Changing the Rules For Work In 2022 The workspace of 2022 hinges on the flexibility, health, and well-being of the workforce and is a key component of business continuity

By Karan Virwani

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Much has been spoken about the tremendous changes our work life saw in the last two years, steered by a paramount concern for health and safety. As we step into the New Year, the pandemic continues to remain a part of our life; but it's safe to say that most of us have learnt or adapted to behaviors that our work or jobs now demand from us. There is a certain amount of flexibility now, in terms of choosing when and where to work, and this has allowed each one of us an opportunity to balance between work and home.

While there has been enough speculation about how work and offices will pan out in the New Year, there is also enough evidence about the shift from large office spaces to more satellite, decentralized offices, or flexible workspaces. The shift to a "hybrid workplace' is not a buzzword anymore and will have more impact on our daily lives for the time to come. With technology also giving us newer avenues of working, the relationship we have with our workplaces is slowly being redefined. So, the question now is, what does the workspace for 2022 look like?

A Hybrid Workplace

Perhaps one of the biggest dilemma organizations are facing is addressing "where we work'. There is a clear shift in the relationship most companies have with a centralized workspace. While there may continue to remain an office location that serves as headquarters, workplaces have become location agnostic. By allowing employees the flexibility to work from locations closer to their home, "work near home' has emerged as a key trend largely accelerated by flexible workspaces. With a distributed network across key locations in different cities, flexible workspaces have emerged as a partner in choice for small and large businesses alike. By offering long-term and short-term leasing options, hassle-free, ready to move-in arrangements, efficient solutions for legal, IT and other requirements, high standards of sanitization and social-distancing norms, flexible workspaces are economically feasible, allowing businesses to allocate their operational costs to research, development, addressing employee needs and scaling up and down as required. Moreover, state-of-the-art and tech-integrated customizable workspaces, ergonomically designed workstations and other recreational facilities make them an attractive offering for retaining existing talent, especially for enterprises/MNCs for whom business continuity and cash conservation is imperative. This has fueled the growth of what is known as "corporate coworking'. In fact, a recent report by Colliers suggests that flexible workspace stock is expected to cross 60 million sq. ft in tier 1 and tier 2 cities by 2023, as businesses prioritize their growth through flexibility in a time of extreme volatility.

An Employee-Driven Workspace

Traditional offices are largely characterized by inflexible spaces and tightly-packed cubicles where employees could spend a dedicated 8-9 hours every day. However, through the pandemic, employees have also recognized the need to find greater flexibility in "when to work' and "how to work'. Maintaining a positive work-life balance has emerged as vital to avoid burnout, increase productivity and support overall well-being. Thus, flexi work hours, rostered shifts and timings, and offering a space that is dynamic and allows for an unhindered exchange of ideas in the way it is designed and set-up is key to meet the demands of the workforce that is prepared to return to work. Flexible workspaces accommodate these changing habits in a forward-thinking way. They are more adaptable and elastic in providing individuals and teams with a workspace that can be customized to suit the way they work, through a mix of flexible and fixed desks, comfortable conference rooms, sleek private offices, built-in day beds, art-filled lounges, cafes, pantries as well as wellness rooms or creches to support parental needs. Furthermore, by working from spaces near home, employees can save up on time and money spent on community, allowing them to achieve a healthier balance between work and life.

A Social Workspace

Collaboration, learning and the need to belong to a community and connect with others is now more evident than before, especially for the new generation of workers, which includes startups, entrepreneurs, freelancers and millennials. The need for the office to serve as a hub that inspires an exchange of ideas and supports innovation with learning, bonding and culturally diverse connections is essentially a result of the increased isolation during pandemic and work-from-home. Through community building initiatives, flexible workspaces foster opportunities for such individuals to socialize and network with professionals from different industries either in-person or through virtual initiatives to maximize their offer. Weekly events and workshops for learning and development, keeping in mind member health, safety and social distancing norms, encourage a culture that is vibrant and attractive and stimulates greater interaction between employees. As a result, businesses and startups can better leverage these spaces to increase employee satisfaction and productivity.

The workspace of 2022 hinges on the flexibility, health, and well-being of the workforce and is a key component of business continuity. Flexible workspaces reinterpret the traditional office space to a more dynamic, cultural hub that helps organizations achieve these goals in a cost-effective, efficient and hassle-free manner. Furthermore, growth of the gig economy and the expanding startup ecosystem in tier 1 and tier 2 cities, as well as MNCs looking for hybrid solutions have increased the merits and opportunities for flexible workspaces, establishing them as the most viable partner for long-term growth plans.

Karan Virwani

CEO, WeWork India

Karan Virwani, CEO, WeWork India is a young and dynamic entrepreneur who paved the way for the entrance of WeWork, in 2017.  Under the aegis of Karan Virwani, WeWork has experienced tremendous success in India. In over two years, the brand has grown to be the leading provider of collaborative workspaces in India. With Karan at the helm of navigating WeWork’s course in India, the company has paved the way in new cities while doubling the total leased area in the country, and operations in the existing cities.

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