Fluidity and Flexibility in times of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the change in the office structure with unforeseen additions and alterations like physical distancing, sanitizing, and use of protective masks for complying with the orders of regulatory bodies to prevent the spread of infection. Employees are still fearful of returning to the workplace until the vaccine comes to the hands of the commoners. 

As the pandemic has hit up in an unprecedented way, there is a splurge of research and debate regarding the future of the office. Smart working, flexible hours, and cloud storage were considered the future of business principles across the world though they were not widely integrated within the office system, the pandemic has made it a compulsion all of a sudden. Though nothing can be said certainly about future trends, one thing is definite: the office in the near future is going to be completely different from the office that we had to leave during the lockdown.

Inevitable changes

There is rising importance to hygiene, tracing contacts, and contamination with a reduced number of employees as business organizations are staggering the work shifts. Though many people are eagerly awaiting their return to the workplace, again there will be a span of readjustment as working from home took a long time to be effective.

What’s more important to highlight here is that the corporate office should develop the working culture in such a way so that office becomes a place to work by choice rather than being an obligation to visit in a tight schedule. It should be able to extend across revisions for workplace services. This is where the role of facility managers becomes undeniable as they play a critical role in the reorganization of the workplace agenda. 

Safe flexibility is the greatest motto

According to the current trends, a large share of conventional office occupiers has shown an inclination towards remote working practices or work from home structure. As a result, most facility managers are expecting a fall in office density which would offer a chance to introspect where the companies should invest in online associated technologies. If this venture is deemed successful, they can easily seek improved flexibility along with greater space fluidity. 

In Indian offices, we can expect the consequence to appear more composite with reduced numbers of single desks as well as drop-in areas for supporting the maximum level of remote working. The future office would be an area of community engagement with employees and clients working together so that it turns out to be a multifunctional and multidimensional space with both permanent and temporary furnishing solutions.

Constraints to achieve flexibility

Though flexibility is the key term, it is not very easy to achieve for a developing nation like India. This is because the norms of physical distancing can stand in the way of office flexibility. The diversity of office space can meet the needs of various kinds of working requirements and offer a platform for informal interactions which are keys to boost the performance of the employees. 

There are a number of constraints that prevent companies to achieve the maximum potential of flexible working. This includes restrictions due to prevalent office layout, inefficient and ineffective building management, inflexible building regulations, and rigid planning system. 

These restrictions are not just practical but also psychological. This is because we all have a preconceived notion of how an office should be and that needs to be checked. The primary concern of many business organizations after the pandemic ends would be to bring about flexibility in terms of working environment and policies for fostering creativity as well as collaboration for keeping the productivity high. Adoption of technology on all levels can aid in monitoring the physical environment along with the psychological well-being of the employees. 

The ecosystem of the workplace

According to experts, the brick and mortar office will only be a part of the entire workplace ecosystem. Organizations are striving to work within a multifaceted system of work where fixed conventional lease based models that flow through different co-working and flexible options to expand the fluidity of distributed work while also improving the scope of virtual work structure. 

Before this pandemic, the central working station was considered the hub of productivity and no one questioned whether it’s safe or not. The commute was also safe for all. But with the coronavirus spreading like wildfire, working from home is perhaps the safest option. Many employees are showing an inclination towards a combination of working from both these spots. To get people back into their offices like it used to be, a reverse change management system should be brought up. Employees must have a clear notion regarding why they need to come to the office, how the whole system has been structured, and what precautions have been taken to keep the employees safe.

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