Work-from-home culture could drive lower demand for office space in 2020

Companies may still want larger offices to facilitate social distancing

Office Representational image | File

It is quite evident that work-from-home (WFH) is here to stay for most corporates, as a majority of their employees are observing it amid the nationwide lockdown over COVID-19.

Subsequently, experts anticipate a contraction in demand for conventional office spaces post-lockdown, though conventional office spaces will still be required.

“The current situation is largely seen as bearing a short-to-medium-term impact on the office space demand in India. With corporates expected to defer their decisions on fresh offtake of commercial spaces by at least a quarter or two, office demand is likely to see contraction during 2020, leading major corporates to continue to opt for WFH for their business continuity. At the same time, the cost-effectiveness and productivity of employees will be closely monitored over the next few quarters, based on which employers will take a conscious call on whether employees continue to work from home or office,” remarked Shrinivas Rao, CEO-APAC, Vestian.

Conventional offices are expected to continue albeit with social distancing measures coming to the forefront.

"Tenants will recalibrate their space requirements, and the effective average monthly per-desk rentals at Grade A office spaces in some of the major business cities will be a central consideration. While India Inc obviously hopes for things to ‘go back to normal’ again, there are no precedents to the COVID-19 situation. The instinct to restart the engine obviously exists, but there is as yet no certainty about the process of doing so. Conventional offices will pick up with a lower workforce practising social distancing,” remarked Anuj Puri, Chairman, ANAROCK Property Consultants.

Anurag Mathur, CEO, Savills India, feels that a requirement for larger office spaces could also grow.

“Despite WFH, office spaces will continue to remain dominant for various reasons such as collaborations, closed-door meetings, data or information protection, speed in brainstorming, and multiple other managerial and operations issues, However, we anticipate a substantial rethinking in office layouts, space ratios, code of behaviour, break areas utilisation norms, building services planning, etc. Unlike the last decade when compact planning took currency, there could be requirements of larger office spaces for the same number of occupants,” he said

WFH is bound to create a definite impact on the demand of conventional office spaces.

At the same time, it is expected that co-working spaces may see a revival as post-COVID-19 time, many businesses will look to restart in these flexible workspaces. It is being believed that co-working spaces are not only the most cost-effective, but also offer flexibility in terms of time period of rental agreements as they can be rented on a monthly, day-to-day and even an hourly basis.

“India’s co-working scene will pick up on the fundamentals that make it work for in other Asian countries: Cash conservation, the need to redeploy business operations carefully and remaining agile in a completely unfathomed environment which has no precedents,” remarked Puri.

At the same time, there may be a demand for more spacious office spaces with automation for practising social distancing norms post Covid-19. “Following social distancing norms in traditional office spaces would be difficult to achieve and developers would be focusing on providing modern and spacious areas with automated technologies for inmates’ well being to minimize contagion,” said Ashish Bhutani, CEO, Bhutani Infra.