BENGALURU|MUMBAI: The outbreak of Covid-19 and government-mandated social distancing norms will impact workspace requirements and designs in the near future as companies look at ways to protect the health of their employees.
Companies operating in commercial complexes are expected to maintain social distancing norms and remain prepared to face any unforeseen health issue.
Many companies, especially in information technology and IT-enabled services, which used to allot 70-80 sq. ft. per person, are now expected to allocate more space for each employee in the workplace. In some cases, the space for each employee was 60 sq. ft. against the standard of 125 sq. ft. as companies sought to save on expensive real estate.
While existing offices cannot be expanded, efficient planning and designing will offer a way out. Negotiations for new office spaces are expected to factor in revised space requirements.
“A lot of companies will be focusing on de-densification and splitting offices. Average office space per person will go back to the levels of 120-130 sq. ft. seen pre-Lehman crisis. It will be tricky as space utilisation levels will go down with this, while companies are also expected to control costs,” said Ramesh Nair, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle India.
According to Nair, smaller companies will find it challenging because large companies can afford more space per employee and also spend more on better air circulation and ventilation.
Realty developers said the space requirements of companies may go up and discussions for new transactions will be based on these calculations.
“One would go back to 120 sq. ft. from 80 sq. ft. average per person space requirement. Workstation space may or may not change as 5.5-feet by 2.5 feet desk size is good enough to keep the distance, but companies will have to increase the size of social engagement spaces,” said Vinod Rohira, CEO of Mindspace Business Parks owned by K Raheja Corp.
According to experts, companies will try ideas such as making batches of employees and allowing about 30% of the employees to work from home by rotation. This will ensure lower occupancy in offices and more space for all. However, it’s still too early to draw up any definitive or permanent solutions to social distancing norms.
“While occupiers will surely comply with the norms, they will further innovate and experiment with many ideas and ways. Based on the outcome of this, they will decide what suits their individual requirements and their medium-term strategy. It’s unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all scenario,” said Sriram Khattar, MD – Rental Business,DLF.
With the new challenges in terms of health, hygiene and productivity, companies are expected to consider decentralising their operations so that there is business continuity if one facility goes into containment.
Some companies may look at flexible workspaces but only after checking the space and hygiene factors.
It may take two to three quarters to control the situation on the ground and review existing office layouts for reconfiguration, but that will also result in additional costs for these companies.
April 20, 2020