Understanding Workplace Operations Post-Pandemic

An innovative and performance-oriented leader with more than 15 years of experience, Vinit is the driving force behind the brand’s growth and success and offers deep insights and proficiency in handling large-scale, multi-business operations. He has a great risk-taking ability which motivated him to leave his cushy job to start AMs Projects Consultants Pvt. Ltd. when he was just 28 years old. A spiritual person at heart, he believes that discipline and hard work are key to success.

With lockdowns being lifted and people going back to their offices how would the workplaces be redesigned to support organizational priorities?
Before the pandemic, it was hard to imagine people working sans an office. However, it has now become a part and parcel of the new normal. The office today is just one of the places that people go to work. Even with the lockdowns easing in, ‘work from home’ will continue to be a part of the work culture. There will be more hybrid models that the organisations will be looking at and technology will continue to play a big part in enabling people to collaborate for work.
The focus will remain on de-cluttering the office space. It will also mean that only essential people will be called to the office. The aspect of hygiene has taken centre stage in popularity in the post-pandemic phase and will continue to be an important element. Workplaces will have to ensure the highest level of hygiene at the entry, exit, and every possible touchpoint.
Organisations have also become more flexible in terms of design. Convenience is another aspect that is being given a lot more importance. Critical changes in workstation design have to be incorporated to make sure that the workplaces are safe and productive.

While organisations are thinking of ways how they can limit the number of people in the office, they also have a big challenge in planning how the workspace should look like. What are some of the cost-effective things that organisations are contemplating and what trends do you see for the future?
Organisations will have to rethink space optimisation and cost optimisation in this new normal. Technology will play a central role in enabling employees to return to office buildings and to work safely. Some companies have already started to experiment with the hybrid model of working and it will continue to be a part of our work life. Organisations are also exploring open offices that are more flexible. Rather than making fundamental changes that are irreversible, companies are looking for temporary provisions.
In the pre-COVID time, organisations had the same design philosophy across the office. However, now they are looking for a different approach based on the need of the business on each floor or unit. It is an evolving space at the moment and newer trends are emerging every day.

What would be the changes that the workplaces have to make in regard to the material used inside the office to better suit this post-pandemic time?
In this new normal, maintaining hygiene has become the most important aspect of design. Keeping this in mind, organisations are adopting antimicrobial surfaces and material that is easy to sanitize, clean, and maintain on a regular basis. Materials that are used in hospitals may now also be used in office spaces. Organisations are striving to have a “Pandemic compliance office space” which is easy to maintain and can provide a safe environment for work. To give an example, one earlier saw Soft Fabrics being used extensively in office space. However, one may have to do away completely with these as they are not easy to clean.

Central air conditioning had become a standard in most large-sized offices. How would they ensure better circulation in these spaces? Will it be possible to do this with a minimum overhaul?
Even without the pandemic, the idea of maintaining Indoor Air Quality was gaining traction. It has now become the need of the hour. HEPA filters are being installed along with air conditioning to purify the air coming in. Initially, only hospitals and Pharma companies laid emphasis on indoor air quality but with the growing air pollution concerns a lot more organisations have started adopting this.
We have recently completed a project where our learning of working closely with the healthcare sector had come in handy. There is also an emphasis on using paint that is low on VOC to have better indoor air quality.
Organisations today are looking to add UV filters, and HEPA filters and even switch to localised controlling. They are rethinking a lot of aspects and are also mindful of the cost.
There are many different approaches that the companies can take and yes it can be done with minimum overhauling. However, to ensure the same one would have to plan everything in advance.

How would companies work toward ensuring better hygiene in offices?
There are multiple aspects that are being explored in this regard. In the time that we are in, hygiene needs to be maintained across the board. It is also essential to maintain it at every touchpoint. So every appliance, every entry/ exit, and every workstation needs to be cleaned and sanitized at regular intervals. Employers are also working towards raising awareness in regard to the best practices and how to maintain hygiene in the workplace. There are structured routes being mapped in some places to map the movement of people. So rather than taking any particular way to the workstation or zigzagging across the office, people will be required to follow a particular circular route. Under this, employees will enter from one way and exit from another.
In the coming time, we may also see far more automation in workplaces. For example, one may enter the office building without having to touch any surface. Similarly, we could have vending machines and taps that work on sensors rather than touch.

Co-working spaces had gained popularity in the last couple of years. In this new normal, would people still opt for this? What do you think will be the trend?
There are unprecedented times and organisations are not very sure of where things are headed. At this juncture, it makes practical sense to opt for co-working spaces. These setups help fulfill the temporary requirement rather than locking in space for the long term. Not only do they help save rent or ownership costs but allow businesses the flexibility to ascertain where they are heading.
The co-working spaces of today can be seen more as fully serviced offices that offer a range of facilities that include periodic cleaning, maintenance, and ensuring a safe working environment for all.

How have AMs been functioning in the post-pandemic world? Any significant achievements that you would like to share?
While these are challenging times, every challenge also provides an opportunity. At AMs, we have seized every opportunity that has come our way, and that has helped us in strengthening our portfolio. In FY20-21 AMs recorded double-digit growth.
We have been able to press the refresh button during the pandemic. Our healthcare portfolio has been performing very well in the last year. We have also been able to change with the changing time and our fusion solutions have enabled us to expand our client network.
Given the times that we are in, we have also hired doctors as consultants to advise us on the design elements and ensure that we are able to offer the best in class solutions to all our clients.