Office spaces: The new shift

Here are insights from a panel discussion on how new styles of corporate functioning are impacting the realty market. By Liffy Thomas

A few years ago, offices functioning from totally unrelated retail units at malls was a cause for wonder. Not anymore. In the West, co-working spaces carved out of retail units is common. In India, it is becoming common.

This is one of the interesting observations made at a panel discussion on ‘How new ways of working are changing the real estate game?’, organised by Worktech in Bengaluru recently.

The discussion was centred around how rising employee expectations, emerging technologies and new ways of working are challenging traditional real estate models.

Moderated by Shashidhar Sharma, business development, Cushman & Wakefield, the panel comprised Juggy Marwah, executive managing director, Jones Lang LaSalle Property Consultants; Santosh Martin, chief marketing officer, Bagmane Developers; Shobha R., founder, Build Ed; and Sudhakar Pai, founder, SPA.

The future workplace is all about the people, and they would play a key role in its location and what they want in it – was one of the major insights one got from the exercise. Corporate real estate and facilities management will have to collaborate with employees to understand their needs, which are changing in tandem with the structure of the corporate workforce.

Juggy Marwah was of the opinion that remote working is on the wane. “Eight years ago, companies did encourage people to work from home. Now, they see that such an option hinders collaboration.”

Unconventional spaces such as garage, terrace and shopping centres are getting converted into offices, he said. An example: in Gurugram, WeWork converted a 200,000 sq. ft shopping centre into a co-working space. “Today, 2,500 people work out of that space,” said Marwah. “Look at some of the Cafe Coffee Day outlets, they have added a conference room to allow people to work.”

Designing work environments that provide employees autonomy is the key to a happy workplace, and real estate has to adapt to the needs of the millennial generation. “Any building that has natural light and which is efficient in design can be converted into an office space.”

Marwah said that human resources would drive real estate in India. “HR, business leaders will collaborate with corporate real estate executives to give inputs on the kind of office space they want. That will be a big game changer,” he added.

Employee involvement

Shobha R. said involving employees in the planning of alternative workplace strategies will be the key to an engaged and motivated workforce. “From green to net-zero buildings, your workforce will start giving you solutions on what they need at the workplace.”

Santosh Martin spoke about the challenges in ensuring that on-site amenities in technology parks are well utilised.

“Only 10% of the workforce use amenities like gym and recreational centres. As a developer, we have to constantly nudge HR to ensure employees use these amenities adequately,” said Martin.

Sudhakar Pai said the focus should be on factoring in both the social and technological needs of the workforce and striking a balance between the two.

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