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India’s future workplace: Re-thinking real estate strategies

People have moved, but will workplaces follow? As Indian businesses start returning to the office, we look at the impact of hybrid work on future corporate real estate needs.

The growth of India’s major economic hubs over the past two decades has been astonishing.

Workers from across the country have flocked to bustling urban centres such as Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad, causing the population to double in each city.

But while this trend has been a boon for business, it has also caused some issues for employees.

“There are more than 60 cities across the country with a population of more than one million, many of which offer a better standard of living for workers,” says Abi Roni Mattom, Country Director for India at Unispace.

“It will be interesting to see whether more corporates choose to expand into these areas and tap into local workforces in the post-Covid world. A distributed footprint of smaller, bespoke offices in these mid-scale cities could prove much more economical.”

This trend is particularly intriguing given the number of workers who have left India’s largest cities during the pandemic to be closer to their families. It’s by no means guaranteed that all of these employees will be willing to return to big-city life post-lockdown.

Growth has been a barrier to change

As India’s economic base has shifted from business process outsourcing to knowledge work, there has been increasing demand for flexible working environments capable of supporting a more diverse range of business needs.

However, the sheer pace of organizational growth has been a massive obstacle to incorporating bespoke designs into real-estate decision-making.

Companies have found themselves unable to prioritise culture, collaboration and socialisation due to the constant need to accommodate more people within the workplace.

“Too many firms have been stuck within a cycle of reactive, tactic real-estate decisions – taking ‘cookie cutter’ office spaces with endless rows of workstations to keep up with project timeframes,” says Abi.

“Now, however, even the fastest-growing firms realise that new team members can be onboarded as part of a hybrid working model with no immediate impact on occupancy levels. It’s allowing them to rethink their approach to how and where they locate.”

Prioritizing employee experience 

Many companies are using the return to the office as an opportunity to rethink their corporate real estate strategy, and potentially reduce costs.

“The homeworking revolution has created a unique moment for companies to rethink their real-estate strategies and embrace hybrid working,” explains Abi Roni Mattom, Country Director, India at Unispace.

“Rather than looking to scale back their footprints, many of the organizations we’re speaking to are focused on ways in which they can improve the quality of their current workspaces to create a better employee experience and maximise the impact and value of time spent in the office.”

A strategic approach to post-lockdown real-estate planning

Unispace has developed a new framework for hybrid work called The Propeller Workplace, which serves as the vital starting point for devising and delivering corporate real-estate strategies in the post-Covid world.

Rather than relinquishing space, many organizations are investing in significantly enhanced environments for employees and visitors, helping them get the most from their time spent together. Others are investing in smart technology to unify the experience for in-person and remote workers. Some are even reconfiguring their real-estate footprints entirely to get closer to their employees and access untapped local workforces.

Following all the disruption and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, we are now entering a new era of commercial real estate in India – one in which the old norms no longer apply, and the future looks all the more exciting for it.

Looking to reconfigure your office in response to new ways of working? Download our Propeller Workplace Guide here or get in touch for a consultation.