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Shared workspace operations are witnessing a rise in demand with companies signing new lease agreements following the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in India.

Physical occupancy remains low at offices and co-working centres compared to pre-Covid levels. However, as a future strategy, most companies are expected to adopt the hybrid model comprising flexible and upgradable workspaces, as well as traditional offices, while a section of employees could continue working from home.

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“There has been a surge in queries in the last couple of weeks owing to the vaccine, and we expect that 70-75% companies, mainly enterprises, will operate from offices soon. We believe when they return to offices, 40-45% of them will opt for flexible workspaces partially. The current occupancy in our centres has risen to 30-35% from 10-15% in recent months," said Neetish Sarda, founder of Smartworks, which has co-working centres in nine cities.

Smartworks has recently closed a lease deal with a software firm, where the latter has taken up 1,300 seats in its centre in Noida. Sarda didn’t disclose the name of the firm due to confidentiality but said the company is relocating its existing office to its co-working centre.

Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management, which recently bought a part of RMZ Corp’s office portfolio, including its shared workplace business CoWrks, will offer flexible workspace solutions to its tenants across its portfolio of 45 million sq ft in India, said a person familiar with the company’s plans.

Amit Ramani, founder and CEO of Awfis Space Solutions Pvt Ltd expects most Indian companies to return to workplaces from March and multi-national companies (MNCs) from June.

Average occupancy levels have increased steadily in Awfis’s centres post-Diwali, with the highest in Kolkata at nearly 70-75%, followed by Bengaluru and Hyderabad at 30-35% and Delhi and Mumbai still at sub-20%.

“SMEs and local companies have taken a call that some functions can’t work from home. New customers signing in have 50-60% of their employee base coming in to work.

"With the vaccine in place, we are fairly bullish post-March and have signed close to 15,000 seats in recent months. We have 35,000 seats operational live and new seats, which will increase to 50,000 by March and touch 60,000-65,000 seats by September," said Ramani.

Awfis is currently present in 11 cities and may add Indore and Kochi this year.

Interestingly, Tesla has taken up a single seat in Awfis’ centre in Bengaluru’s Lavelle Road, registering its first office in India, said a person familiar with the development.

Ramani declined to comment on the Tesla deal.

Property consultancy Savills India last week launched its online aggregating platform for co-working spaces ‘Workthere’, which Upon launch, which will showcase flexible office spaces from over 40 brands with over 70,000 seats spanning across six cities. .

Anurag Mathur, CEO, Savills India said that co-working has become sizeable and is growing and with workplaces transforming in the wake of the pandemic, co-working will play an important role in how occupiers occupy offices.

“Co-working will pick up momentum because it provides the basic flexibility which occupiers need in a hybrid model. It also doesn’t need any infrastructure or capex and offers multiple options closer to a company’s talent base. Workspaces are also turning into meeting grounds so this kind of plug-and-play work options are an advantage," said Viral Desai, national director, occupier services, Knight Frank India.

Karan Virwani, CEO, WeWork India said companies are looking to bringing back employees to the office in a controlled and precautionary manner.

“The evolving workplace model has been witnessing demands for new working styles that include flexible rosters and work hours. They are also looking at branched out office space options that reduce employee commute, minimizing risks of exposure," Virwani said.

WeWork’s new ‘On Demand’ offering allows members to buy daily passes, book conference rooms and work out of any of its 35 locations and the majority of the members availing this are from large enterprises as compared to freelancers.

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