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As we navigate the covid-19 pandemic, the future of work has been widely debated and speculated. The 9-to-5 corporate routine of working from a designated office space has been overturned because of work-from-home, further blurring the boundaries between work and play. The progress of vaccinations, however, has given us hope of returning to a pre-covid world where employees can banter over a cup of coffee and collaborate in-person; in fact, according to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index 2021, 73% of employees in India said they craved in-person meetings with colleagues.

While the camaraderie of the office is indeed missed, increased time spent indoors has highlighted the importance of a steady work-life balance, flexibility, the need to be part of a community and a strong work culture. Flexible workspaces have aided this transition to the ‘new normal’ by providing businesses and employees the agility they require to keep operations going.

According to the Cushman and Wakefield India Office Report for Q1 2021, there has been a 57.8% increase in the number of flexi seats leased by enterprises in Q1 2021 compared to Q4 2020.

Let’s understand how flexible workspaces are redefining the traditional office.

Work-life balance: Covid-19 has undoubtedly taken a toll on everyone’s personal and professional lives and the most glaring was the worsening of employees’ mental health and the inability to compartmentalize life. Employees have said that work-from-home has made them less productive because of domestic distractions and inadequate resources.

While a hybrid model strikes a balance between remote and in-person arrangements, workspaces that prioritize holistic well-being offer support structures like flexi work hours, mental health resources, wellness initiatives and a culture that employees can come back to are the need of the hour.

Flexible workspaces allow for this balance to thrive and companies can scale up based on requirements.

Flexibility is non-negotiable: Flexibility has emerged as a key requirement for talent; according to the MS Work Trend Index, 74% of Indian workers want more flexible working options. Millennials too are looking at redefined working styles with condensed work hours and rostered shifts to prioritize their work-life balance.

Flexible workspaces allow companies to experiment with newer models such as work from spaces closer to homes from locations across cities with membership options like one-day passes. This saves time and cost spent on commuting, provides an office-like environment and more time to spend with loved ones.

Many businesses have rethought their strategies to embrace flexible workspaces as a means of retaining diverse talent with location no longer a constraint and they are now a key facilitator of the ‘work from anywhere’ movement.

Efficient and hassle-free: Flexible workspaces are also an attractive and efficient means to carry out business operations with flexible membership options, ready to move-in arrangements, virtual office tours and ergonomic designs. This allows businesses to scale and expand presence in newer markets without setting up a permanent base. They are also a one-stop solution for legal and IT requirements that are an added pressure when setting up, allowing companies to redirect these budgets to hiring and innovation. With health and safety taking precedence, many flexible workspace providers have also implemented a stringent set of measures such as sanitization and socially distanced seating.

Collaborative hubs: With the influx of millennials, spaces that adapt to hybrid models and provide customized solutions are a preferred choice. Flexible workspaces are aesthetically designed and serve as a retreat from home; with a vast number of amenities like wellness rooms, gyms, game zones and breakout areas that offer comfort, they also have the best-in-class technological innovations that foster greater engagement and interaction.

Another plus point is that they are always brimming with diverse people from different backgrounds and industries, thus becoming a hub of talent and networking. This helps employees to engage with new people, whether they are entrepreneurs, startup employees or freelancers, thereby creating a culture that keeps them motivated.

While hybrid models offer employees the choice to work remotely, the office continues to hold relevance in fostering a culture based on collaboration that can only be achieved in-person, and flexible workspaces serve as the ideal answer to the office woes of employers and employees alike.

Karan Virwani is the chief executive officer of WeWork India.

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