With India reeling from the second wave of COVID-19, organizations are once again re-evaluating their workspace strategy for the future. Experts are now excessively discussing distributed workspaces – a decentralized combination of WFH, WNH (work near home) from satellite coworking spaces, and head office occupancy – as a viable, new-age workplace framework. It can ensure employee safety and wellbeing while delivering on business continuity needs. This distributed model is an amalgamation of adaptability, efficiency, and resilience. These all are critical for businesses to pivot quickly in the current uncertain times.
The unprecedented pandemic period has proved that while remote working can be effective, the long-term future of work is more likely to mix remote and on-premise working formats.
Benefits of Distributed Workspace Strategy
Hybrid or distributed workspace strategies are emerging as a win-win solution for stakeholders on multiple counts, with specific advantages associated with each format:
- Savings on recurring real estate costs:
For a start, distributed workspaces do away with the need to incur enormous, recurring real estate costs for a large head office with thousands of staff. The cost of acquiring, developing, and maintaining such large campuses with well-appointed offices has significantly impacted profitability. Organizations also apply a sustainability lens when reconsidering large, under-utilized spaces or a one-size-fits-all strategy to workspace distribution.
- Tap the benefits of both remote and co-located work:
While a remote workforce can collaborate across geographical, physical, and organizational boundaries in innovative ways, this collaboration is often easier for team members who interact more frequently or are previously well-acquainted. The transition to a remote workforce has not significantly impacted big group projects already underway; however, all-virtual collaboration on new projects has proven more difficult. Moreover, a fully remote workforce often misses out on the ‘chance’ connections and engagements that depend on physical proximity and are critical for innovation and knowledge sharing within organizations. These findings further underscore the inherent advantages of a distributed workspace approach.
- Improved productivity:
With less time spent commuting, a distributed workforce can focus on collaborative tasks and achieve an improved work-life balance. Technology-enabled remote collaboration and training can also help reduce corporate travel and other operational expenses.
- ‘Softer’ benefits:
Social cohesion, collaboration, and culture-building are necessary for the sustained growth of organizations and are often best achieved through visual and sensory cues in physical settings.
- Employee retention:
A distributed workspace strategy means that employees can work from home, or close to home, and amongst peers or solo. This flexibility helps improve employee satisfaction, which in turn can reduce attrition rates and recruitment costs.
- Diversity of talent:
Distributed workspace strategies mean that organizations are not limited to specific geographies and can potentially tap into a wider base of diverse employees from varied professional and socio-cultural backgrounds.
The time to plan on how to combine the best aspects of remote and co-located work is now.
Why do organizations opt for it?
Leaders and decision-makers must consider the following key aspects while envisioning reinvented workspaces of the future for their organizations:
- Hygiene, safety, and security – When asked to work out of physical office spaces, employees will seek robust processes and systems for workplace hygiene, sanitization, and social distancing. Tech-enabled, ‘minimal touch’ features will remain critical drivers of workplace safety. Wellness checks and IoT-enabled tasks might also emerge as standard features of in-person workspaces.
- Flexibility in usage – Workspaces will need to support organizational nimbleness. Office configurations must be flexible enough to adapt to changing requirements – for example, whether a team or individuals is brainstorming, hosting a virtual workshop, or conducting daily meetings. Organizations will need to find ways to establish a sense of employee ownership of personal space or create a temporary sense of ownership through a reservation system. Seasonal changes in office space use depending on business cycles will also need to be factored in.
- The right mix – Working out of satellite offices and remote work-from-home are both here to stay. However, the nature of remote work is likely to change, especially when devised as a blend of co-located work and work-from-home. While employees have been working virtually for more than a year now, it is entirely possible that the full range of opportunities that remote work provides is yet to be discovered. However, rather than apportion a chunk of work processes to remote employees, each enterprise should deeply evaluate its unique practices and workflows to design customized, distributed workspace strategies that deliver specific business needs. Naturally, this process of workspace rationalization will vary with industries, geographies, and even organizational culture.
- Digital beyond virtual meetings and email – Digital rostering mechanisms with inbuilt recommendation features can optimize organizational knowledge flows. Managers will need to consider larger business goals when deciding how to use workplace collaboration tools to manage performance.
Future of work: Vision
In a new world order, the future of work will be defined by decentralized working spaces with optimally sized teams and inbuilt flexibility of space and time. Workforce density is likely to be both distributed and flattened. Many employees who have had to adapt to working from home will now be at ease with its inherent advantages. At the same time, well-planned physical working spaces will come to be synonymous with ideas, culture, connectedness, and agility. These workspaces will serve as hubs for mentoring, co-creation, and productivity.
India is one of the fastest-growing economies globally and is an attractive investment destination driven by economic reforms and a large consumption base. Against this backdrop, India’s Commercial Real Estate (CRE) ecosystem is fast evolving from being just providers of space to emerging holistic solutions providers. CRE leader Awfis has worked with 1500+ companies and 28,000+ professionals, ranging from India’s coolest start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, to develop customized workspace transition strategies and redefine how work gets done in the current business environment. Awfis provides fully integrated products for kinds of requirements, including Enterprise Workspace Solutions, Flex Workspaces, Design & Build Solutions (‘Awfis Transform’), Integrated Facility Management (‘Awfis Care’), Remote Working Solutions and Work From Home Solutions (‘Awfis@Home’).
The pandemic has led to paradigm shifts in both shared workspaces and work of the future. With its community-first approach, Awfis is establishing new benchmarks in India’s CRE industry every day. You can learn more about Awfis Enterprise Solutions here, or send in your queries at info@https://www.awfis.com/inspiration/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/shutterstock_3835072871.jpg.com.