While the world evolves and adapts to the style of work from home, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will surely not be a permanent solution for many professionals. Having an office and the need to be a part of a larger team will be crucial, and companies are taking a relook at different models and concepts to make it safer for their employees.
There is a need for de-densification and having stringent safety protocols for the employees, and corporates have started encouraging the trend of ‘walk from home’ or walk near home and business to invest in satellite offices. Walk from home or work near home will save on travel time, improve productivity, and ensure the safety of the workforce.
Ashima Bhat, Group Head, Business Finance and Strategy, Administration and Infrastructure – HDFC Bank, said, “Covid-19 has opened up working methods that were so far unexplored. Factors like business continuity, reduced public transport, social distancing norms, etc. are crucial to drive any business decision-making in the future. Not every profession can adjust to the work from home concept, and banking is one of them. In such cases, to ensure employees’ safety, we found the satellite offices to be beneficial.”
During the lockdown, the HDFC Palava office, for instance, faced no outages on business continuity, as a larger part of their workforce could walk to work as part of the township. Exceptional quality housekeeping, building sanitization protocols ensured that offices continued running without any challenges. Looking at the benefits of having a satellite office, HDFC Bank is considering additional space in the future.
She further added, “We have adopted the concept of ‘walk to work’ or ‘work near home’ that reduced travel costs and improved staff productivity during the lockdown. For example, the HDFC Bank Palava back office was able to continue seamless operations as employees walked to work from the nearest township, and HDFC Bank could ensure workforce safety.”
A recent survey conducted by Cushman & Wakefield on 40,000 working professionals suggested employees miss the bond while they work from home during the pandemic. The corporates would encourage 40% of the workforce to work remotely, but the rest of the 60% must report to work. For this 60%, corporates will look for bigger workspaces and move in mixed-use developments where employees can ‘work near home’.
Gautam Saraf, Managing Director, Cushman & Wakefield, said, “To mitigate the COVID-19 risks, offices will adjust to new routines like rotations and lower seat densities. In metro cities like Mumbai, where social distancing is impossible while commuting, employees will be at high risk of exposure. In such a situation, the satellite office model will work as a perfect solution. The integrated townships offer incredible value today by eliminating/reducing the need for the commute, the single biggest challenge in resuming work while managing COVID-19 in the workplace.”
As consumer behavior evolves, developers will soon look at designing smart complexes and townships with offices within walking distance. Buyers will opt for intelligent solutions and choose to be a part of a safer environment with everything available at one’s doorstep.
Gautam Saraf further states, “Fortunately, large developers are indeed ready with such integrated townships in peripheral Mumbai (Palava with its Walk-from-Home program) and Bengaluru (Bhartiya, Hinduja near the airport) offering solutions that are cost-effective to both employees and employers. Other than providing employees a walk-to-work program, such developments also offer a high quality of life to the employees at an affordable cost, thus making it a long-term viable proposition. Occupiers will also consider dispersed office models as part of their evolving real estate strategy and such integrated projects will be the likely gainers.”
The city of Bengaluru, Pune, and Hyderabad are the forerunners of the work near home cultural phenomenon in India.
Shaishav Dharia, CEO-Townships and Rental Assets, Lodha Group, said, “A work near home model with satellite offices across locations will ensure that several socio-economic and logistical advantages are addressed, which may not be replicable otherwise.”
Moreover, the culture of work near home will not only reduce the commute time but also aid mental and physical well-being by encouraging walking as an exercise, further promoting creativity and civic engagement. The commercial real estate business will de-densify, with office spaces within walking distance seeing an upsurge, further increasing the demand for satellite offices.