With coronavirus spreading panic and fear, governments are looking to screen more people, companies have enabled work from home for employees and stakeholders across the country are focussed on prevention, while the cure is the burden of the healthcare ecosystem in the country.
Stock markets have continued to crash globally, but businesses continue to run on limited resources and supply. As the new-age business hubs, coworking spaces are also caught in the coronavirus crossfire. Currently, 10% of office spaces are occupied by coworking and are expected to rise to approximately 25% in the next few years. As per a report by real estate consultancy firm CBRE, in Q1 2019, the coworking segment witnessed a 277% an upsurge in leasing to nearly 3 Mn sq ft. The sector grew by 70% every quarter.
While corporates are also moving into coworking spaces, occupancy is dominated by startups. Coworking spaces feel an additional responsibility to ensure safe and hygienic work environment as many startups may not have the resources to do this themselves. Talking to Inc42, several coworking spaces emphasised on the hygiene and preventive care systems put in place across their centres amid coronavirus outbreak.
For instance, OYO Workspaces manages over 30 WorkFlo, Innov8 & Powerstation coworking centres with over 20,000 seats across 10 cities. The company spokesperson told Inc42, “At this time, business operations are not impacted and services continue as usual across all coworking spaces in India. As an organisation, we have installed necessary coronavirus prevention care items in all our locations as well as instituted safety and preventive care mechanisms.”
Coworking startup Awfis, which currently has 63 centres and over 30K seats across nine cities, has reached out to members about personal hygiene which is key to checking the spread of the disease.
Amit Ramani, CEO and founder, Awfis told Inc42 that its properties are working to maintain the required hygiene levels for coronavirus prevention. “We recommend the community members to frequently wash their hands till their wrists and sanitise them thoroughly. Multiple bottles of hand sanitisers have been placed at easily accessible common areas for usage throughout the day at all our centres. In case of any travel plans, we have requested community members to keep us informed as this will help us take proper preventive measures,” he added.
More than 1.18 Mn people work in around 35,000 coworking spaces globally. According to reports, India alone had approximately 1000 coworking locations as of September 2019. Currently, India is also the second-largest market for the coworking industry after China.
Prashant Garg, country manager, Garage Society India told Inc42 that an e-mailer has been sent to all its members regarding all the preventive measures that one can take to ensure that they are safe from the virus. “All our workspaces have been disinfected thoroughly and this process will continue every week to maintain utmost hygiene standards. Full-size sanitizer bottles have been placed almost at every corner so that our members can use them wherever and whenever required,” he added.
Paras Arora, CEO and founder, Qdesq told us that outbreaks such as coronavirus mean corporates are looking for contingency office space to ensure uninterrupted workflow. Arora expects coworking adoption to grow if the virus outbreak is not contained as working for home is not an option in the long run. Present in 50 cities, Qdesq has approximately 2,800 centres and lists over 500K desks. Arora said that the company has taken measures like advising sick individuals to rest at home, tie-up with hospitals, making sanitisers etc available across the office and more.
Further, CoFynd with its presence in Gurugram, Delhi and Noida is also enabling similar hygiene measures. Atul Gupta, founder and CEO, CoFynd said that the company has taken steps like circulated state 24/7 helpline number, observing good personal hygiene etc.
Qdesq’s Arora said all team members have been advised to visit a doctor in case even one employee is unwell due to a common cold, headache or displays flu-like symptoms amid coronavirus outbreak.