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Co-working spaces were introduced in India nearly six years ago, in 2014. Restaurants sub-leased small sections of their outlets, to people who were largely working as ‘freelancers’ or people who did not have set working hours. Eventually, co-working centres in itself became a commercial establishment. These spaces primarily benefited the millennial workforce. In India alone, approximately 13 million people were working out of co-working centers. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, these centers have been severely affected. With work-from-home becoming more prevalent, owing to the pandemic, these businesses had to be shut overnight, to restrict gatherings in public spaces.
Safety in co-working spaces post-COVID-19
However, not everyone is enjoying the continued work-from-home strategy, as it is often difficult to separate home and office spaces and this directly impacts productivity. Hence, it is anticipated that people would go back to these co-working spaces, as soon as things are near normal. However, as these are shared spaces, the health security risk cannot be ignored and should be addressed immediately. Co-working spaces can adopt both, physical and health security measures, which will help them get people back to work, reassuring them at the same time. India is now the second-largest market for flexible working spaces in the Asia-Pacific region after China with over 1,000 co-working spaces. The cumulative area under co-working spaces in India, currently stands at 6.9 million sq ft. This culture has also seen a paradigm shift from traditional working space to managed working spaces even in smaller cities. Hence, it becomes important for co-working space owners to ensure absolute safety of the people working out of these centers, post the COVID-19 lockdown.
To help reboot the entire sector, two key factors that play important roles – ensuring the health safety and security of people who are sub-leasing or renting spaces in these centers. Here are some methods by which co-working outlets can optimise their surveillance and security:
Adopting contactless technologies
One of the key points to keep in mind while reopening businesses and commercial establishments, is to minimise human touch points at all junctions. This can be done, by adopting new technologies of surveillance and sanitisation. Commercial establishment owners and co-working centers can use a turnstile hand sanitiser dispenser, along with a thermal scanner for body temperature, in place of manual tracking. This will help to streamline entry and access into any particular centre and ensure that all visitors sanitise their hands before entering the premises.
Upon checks at the entry point, these centers will have to keep a constant check on people, without causing hindrance during work hours. A tactful way to do so, is by deploying surveillance cameras at various points that enables the owner or supervisor to survey the premise and ensure that people are practicing social distancing within the premises and maintaining distance at places like the printing table, charging tables, coffee booth, etc.
Optimising structure and design
Most co-working spaces are designed to accommodate the maximum number of people for a designated number of hours. These centres also have conference rooms and other stations for recreation, assembly and dining/snacks. Following the lockdown, these centres should undergo design changes, in such a way that it allows people to comfortably work from here but at the same time ensure that not many people have to gather at a particular area for a long time and also maintain a six-ft distance, while accessing the various facilities.
Sanitisation of self and surfaces
Deploying a turnstile sanitiser is an easy way to ensure that the people in these spaces are constantly sanitising their hands. At the same time, it is of utmost importance to use sanitised objects/equipment, to avoid the spread of diseases from surfaces and objects. Many people working out of co-working spaces often rent a space and prefer to keep their work belongings in lockers or drawers in the allotted space. However, post-pandemic, to be extra cautious, these centres can adopt UV technology, which can be used to sanitise any object that is brought from outside, such as phones, masks, wallets, etc.
While scientists across the world are working on vaccines to help us fight this pandemic, we need to ensure our own safety. This is critical for everyone to adhere to guidelines and businesses should help people return to work, without being constantly paranoid. All commercial establishments and other spaces will have to indulge in one-time investments that reassures their customers, helps the business to get back to normalcy and lastly, helps the economy to revive from the slump. Adopting these few techniques, will go a long way in ensuring a stable and linear growth for the co-working spaces segment.
(The writer is vice-president, Godrej Security Solutions)