May 17, 2022

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India Inc Office: India Inc’s making offices as comfortable as homes

As corporates start to bring employees back to offices, many offices are sporting a new design, not just in terms of safety and hygiene to protect against Covid-19 but also in offering new facilities to, let’s say, make people feel at home.

The upgraded facilities include spaces for unscheduled catchups, recreational areas, gaming zones, and even swing chairs a as activities and comfort-based work has become a top preference post pandemic, interior designers and company executives said.

Information technology (IT) research and consultancy company Gartner, for example, has invested heavily on the interiors of its 300,000 sq ft office in DLF’s cyber park in Gurgaon where collaboration and social spaces are given great importance.

India Inc’s Making Offices as Comfortable as Homes

India Inc’s Making Offices as Comfortable as Homes

“Our new office, which is our biggest in the world, has been designed keeping the future need in mind,” said Anna Jacklin, vice-president, APAC, real estate operations, at Gartner. “Covid-19 has changed a lot, and employees now look for comfort in office. Within the office, we ensure we get natural lights and clean air beside having recreational facilities across the four floors,”
she said.

Rachel Serrao, head of design at Space Matrix that designed the Gartner office, said, “The office is high on experience – recreation is given serious thought and there are ample opportunities on each floor for employees to amuse and entertain themselves. Each level has a recreation zone – all featuring a different activity that people can enjoy.”

She said Space Matrix is receiving similar requests from other clients.

The pandemic has forced corporates to reimagine workplaces as their employees have been working from home without any dip in productivity for two years now. And, as they start to get employees back to offices, they want to make sure people are happy about that.

“To cater to ever-evolving user requirements, we focus on creating workspaces that are open and egalitarian, promote collaboration, and facilitate communication and knowledge exchange,” said Ravi Sarangan, founder and director at Edifice Consultants.

Most workspaces are now shifting from the paradigms of restrictive cubicles to open layouts that facilitate more interaction.

“In the new normal, workplace design grammar is conducive to productivity and reiterates work as a collaborative, constantly in-process interaction,” said Rachna Agarwal, founder and design ideator of architecture firm Studio IAAD. “With creativity and innovation, we can set up spaces that foster a collaborative environment.”

Covid-19 has increased importance of hygiene, crowd control, and population management. So, office designers are working to reduce densities at both human and urban scale commercial infrastructure.

In addition, a layout with compartmentalisation in some areas, wherein parts of the office are demarcated, enables downsizing or partial functioning in urgent, unprecedented times.

Easy-to-move mobile space dividers, walls being replaced by moveable screens and glass partitions that permit a small space to accommodate the need for privacy and separation in offices are being introduced.

“Predicating the design of spaces on employees’ health and wellbeing through courtyards, day-lit spill-outs and breakout zones such as terraces negates the need for retrofitting,” said Sidhartha Talwar, principal at Studio Lotus.

Simple design mechanisms, such as small seating clusters on shallow, efficient floor plates around large, open courtyards, help offices effectively deal with Covid-19 transmission and similar potential health emergencies, experts said.

Technology is also making significant strides towards ensuring a pandemic-proof workplace. Many offices are now equipped with occupancy sensors that monitor employee strength, disinfection robots that clean up spaces throughout the day, and automatic, touch-free doors for minimal surface contact.

With flexibility emerging as the predominant characteristic of workspace design, uniting physical and digital is crucial to drive this new paradigm of work.

According to international property consultant CBRE, offices are turning into centres of collaboration and workplace designs will be recalibrated accordingly.

“Additionally, in response to evolving working styles, occupiers are displaying stronger intentions to increase the ‘we’ space,” CBRE
said in a report. “A large portion of the occupier community is also expected to increase focus on an overall experience curation for various stakeholders interacting with the workplace. This could emerge as the single biggest differentiator for occupiers, impacting their long-term business aspirations, market perception, talent attraction and retention.”

Amenities that meet daily needs of employees, help them establish and maintain relationships, and offer experiences that represent the company’s brand and values will become important, experts said.