General view of a coworking office space (Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash)
India Inc. is accelerating the vaccination of its employees, aiming to gradually bring them back to the office as the second COVID-19 wave tapers off. Coworking companies are unruffled and expect their offerings to become more attractive as the hybrid model of working becomes the new normal, boosting their growth by up to 15 percent.
Infosys, India’s second-largest information technology company, expects 20-30 percent of its workforce to be back in the office over the next six months.
Rival Tata Consultancy Services said earlier this week it is hoping that its over 5 lakh employees return to the office by September, once they are vaccinated against the virus.
Recently, Flipkart said employees will return to office thrice a week from December 2021 as it looks to vaccinate all its staffers and move to a hybrid working model.
However, coworking companies say the reopening of offices is unlikely to reduce demand for their workspaces, which received a lot of traction during the COVID-19 outbreak. They are certain that a flexible and hybrid model of working will become the norm, making coworking spaces all the more attractive.
“Organisations today are increasingly opting for the hub-and-spoke model and are partnering with coworking players for a seamless remote work experience,” said Sumit Lakhani, chief marketing officer at Awfis Space Solutions in New Delhi. “Even in the future, companies will continue to put the needs of their employees first, therefore, more and more organisations will re-evaluate their workspace strategies and partner with coworking spaces, which will, in turn, fuel the demand for coworking spaces.”
Lakhani has a strong optimistic outlook and expects a 10-15 percent growth in the sector year-on-year. Lakhani noted that according to a survey conducted by Awfis to understand the work ecosystem on the back of second wave of the pandemic, 82 percent of the respondents said they are comfortable returning to the office premises with some level of flexibility, once they are vaccinated.
“Alongside, the hybrid model of working has emerged as the preferred mode of working by employees and employers alike, given the cost and time-saving benefits associated with it,” said Lakhani.
According to Sanjay Chatrath, managing partner of Gurgaon-based Incuspaze, flexibility in working will become the norm, with a hybrid model of working replacing the system of going to office regularly due to uncertainties associated with the virus.
Chatrath said companies are increasingly looking at booking coworking spaces because it is cost-effective, flexible in case of relocation and even downsizing, and employees prefer it as it would help save time.
He expects that with the adoption of the hybrid model of working, the coworking sector is slated for 12-15 percent growth in the next 12 months.
“With evolving business needs and hybrid work models gaining traction, businesses are increasingly interested in the maximum flexibility, scalability options, and entirely managed office spaces,” said Neetish Sarda, founder of Smartworks in Noida. “Cost savings, a high percentage of leases expiring in the next three years, and hybrid working/distributed office trends will all help to accelerate the growth of the flexible office space business.”
Commenting on the growth prospects, Sarda noted that the demand for for commercial office space has escalated.
"With a more distributed workspace model across cities and regional locations taking precedence, the flex space segment will continue to increase considerably in the coming years. Private players will allocate a higher amount of area to workplace flexibility solutions, moving anywhere from 25-50 % of their commercial real estate take up to a flexible workspace provider, Sarda said.
Rishi Das, founder of Bengaluru-based IndiQube, noted that the current pace of vaccination and workforces getting fully vaccinated will create a positive impetus for employees to return to office.
“Most of the companies are now moving away from long-term commitments and high capex investments for their workspace requirements. Flexibility has thus become a key value proposition and companies that traditionally were not looking at flexible workspace players like IndiQube would eventually choose to get onboard, thereby resulting in an increase in demand,” said Das.
The pandemic has made us realize that the office space, albeit in a different form & shape, will continue to remain an integral part of professional life and coworking spaces are at an inflection point to cater to the evolving needs of enterprises, Das noted.