Design, density and disaster management to define the new ‘conscious workplace’

Despite a prolonged work from home, workplaces when they reopen will have to re-imagined as social hubs and redesigned work areas will be required to provide infrastructure for collaboration among split teams of remote and on-site staff

February 11, 2021 / 12:15 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

The prevailing COVID-19 pandemic has opened the frontiers for bold workplaces. To be fair, there were changes in the realty sector over the years that have resulted in large airy workspaces, open offices and bright interiors in India even before the outbreak of the global pandemic. But the pandemic stymied further progress and emptied out offices as employees were forced to telecommute or Work from Home (WFH) which has become the new normal.

Our recent report Home and Away: The New Hybrid workplace? revealed that when the pandemic struck, around 66 percent of employees in India shifted to the new work culture of WFH. It is interesting to note the observations of employees who had to adjust to this new normal. The report highlights that around 30 percent of the working population felt the lockdown had given them an enhanced opportunity to balance their work and life, whereas a whopping 41 percent said they miss the professional work environment that is prevalent in organisations.

One positive outcome of the pandemic is that it has fast-tracked the agenda of sustainability, technology and employee engagement for solutions from a business continuity point of view. The investment in safety and hygiene must be accelerated even further from earlier accepted levels. We are seeing a change in design of workspaces to accommodate different needs of employees. This will lead to organizations focusing on ‘more conscious’ or what we would call humane centric workspaces. With social distancing being practiced for one’s own and others safety as well, the psychological safety of employees has taken centre stage.

Changes in the workplace will get a boost when the hardware in offices gets transformed. Think touchless technology. The focus is expected to be on the three ‘Ds’- Design, Density and Disaster management. The element of design will focus on touchless technology and wellness in buildings. Densification will be focused on space per person, while disaster management will be about preparedness to manage pandemic-like circumstances.

With a prolonged work from home, many have started questioning whether offices will continue to exist. Even though businesses now realize that few roles can continue to work from home, in a knowledge centric economy, a workplace stands for much more – a hub of collaboration, innovation and culture which is hard to replicate in a remote working environment.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Office is here to stay however, workplaces will have to be re-imagined as social hubs repurposed or redesigned work areas will be required to provide infrastructure for collaboration among the split teams of remote and on-site staff.

Corporate real estate facilitators, who earlier were more active on the operational side, have now become strategic decision-making partners concerned with safe spaces and hygiene requirements made mandatory by the global pandemic.

As and when organizations open and slowly ease employees back into the office, the main concern for everyone would be health and safety. Office design, in addition to functionality and aesthetics, will have to consider the third critical element—physical and psychological safe spaces for all.
Ajit Kumar
first published: Feb 11, 2021 12:15 pm

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