Co-Working Spaces Ready for a Positive Change
Titir Dey, Design Director, Space Matrix explains the shift in the co-working spaces that thrive on social interaction
How has Covid impacted the workspace segment?
In a matter of just a few weeks, there has been a drastic shift in how we work, communicate, and navigate daily life. The global spread of COVID-19 has forced businesses to rethink, reorganize, and rearrange their operations – not only to prevent the spread of the virus but also to prepare for the future of work. While some organizations and employees may choose to adopt work from home henceforth, majority will yearn social interaction after the prolonged isolation and lockdown.
The reasons the Co-working sector will continue to operate
The core idea of co-working spaces centers on establishing a synchronized community. It is a place where people from diverse backgrounds, industries, and cultures come together to operate in a shared environment. However, the pandemic has questioned the very basis of this concept. Isolation and social distancing have become the norm – and the situation is likely to stay this way for a long time to come.
Despite the inherent fear and anxiety, people are looking forward to coming back to their workspaces and interacting with friends and colleagues. People are missing the coffee point chats. Co-working space architects and owners will thus need to review designs and ensure that they provide a space where every member feels safe, secure, and valued. A strategic revamp is the need of the hour.
What are the design changes co-working operators will adopt?
Social distance would need to become a part and parcel of office design thinking and the focus will be on de-densification. This means more private spaces and distance between desks. For instance, a seating plan where people have more personal space around and conference rooms that fit lesser people will be the new normal.
The focus will be on creating more segregated and personalized workstations. Every configuration and floor plan will be assessed keeping in mind distancing and safety protocols. Less will be the new more. Shared spaces such as pathways, elevator areas, staircases, break out zones, flexible sitting areas, printing bays, and cafeterias will need modifications.
Change in operational norms like allowing lesser people in elevators & destination controlled elevators can be explored to ensure lesser touchpoints. The corridors might be widened or more controlled in terms of direction of movement to ensure that people can keep social distancing protocols intact. Similarly, cafeterias would no longer be crowded during mealtime. Lunch hours will need to be made longer with shorter, but more number of turns, to accommodate smaller groups of people.
The role of technology in maintain wellness at work
Technology will play a crucial role in ensuring that things function smoothly. Use of sensor based applications in washrooms & shared spaces, smart pantries with voice controlled appliances & smart switches for utilities will ensure touchless functionality. Also focus will be on incorporating appropriate technology to support agile & remote working for the teams.
From the facility standpoint, technology integration can be explored to improve indoor air quality by reducing airborne pathogens, ensuring overall thermal & user comfort & wellbeing. This will be further augmented by the integration of bilophila, air purifying plants and open spaces inside the buildings.
Co-working spaces are popular because of the shared amenities like hot desks , focus pods & team areas. While ensuring the hygiene of such spaces are crucial, integrating technology can help to automate the monitoring & control. For instance, once users finish their work and leave the space, housekeeping supervisors can get a digital notification to sanitize the space before it is made available to other users. A similar process could be followed in washrooms & other shared spaces.
The paradigm shift in the way we will collaborate at work going forward?
In the ‘new normal’, community interactions will become predominantly digital, and there will be limited informal gatherings. The post-COVID-19 business environment would be best served by a hybrid model that brings into play the dividers/distancing offered by a private office and collaborative support offered by a co-working arena.
From private workstations to digital events, chats, and video interactions, collaboration will have a new definition. We are already witnessing how companies are keeping their employees connected through virtual meetings. Similar practices will have to be adopted by co-working spaces to foster interaction among the users without breaching the social distancing norms.
Fortunately, in the case of co-working companies, their growing base of enterprise clients were already moving towards leasing whole sections, floors, and even buildings. In the case of those returning to work, offices are sure to look different and will be ready for a newer – and hopefully safer — future.