According to a research study by the Gensler Research Institute in the United States, a large number of people preferred to go to office instead of working from home. This was so because they found themselves to be more productive at the workplace.

However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working has turned into a norm. Meetings are now being organised on video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Skype or Microsoft Teams, as against being physically present and dressed in formal attire.

While virtual meetings help save time and money that goes into travelling, they need a stable internet connection and a distraction-free environment.

Setting up distinct yet attached spaces

With a view to tackle this, many individuals are putting in efforts to transform residential spaces. One of these is to do with setting up a flexible ‘lock-off unit’, a block which is segregated yet attached to the primary dwelling unit.

An example "lock-off" unit with a shared entry that can function as a home office, study, guest bedroom, or accessory apartment. (Image credit: Gensler Research Institute)

This setup is particularly popular in Singapore and South-east Asia, where the lock-off unit functions as an office space, study room, guest area and also as an accessory apartment. Not only is it helping office-goers stay focused, but also enabling them to meet with clients and colleagues without having to enter the house. The simplicity of this concept, allows it to be adopted by anyone anywhere across the world.

Innovating with in-built workspaces

Another transformation that has been contrived is to do with the modification of existing spaces. As per Anarock, one of India’s leading property consultants, a key trend in the residential space, is the rise in demand for larger and flexible homes. Their report titled, A different world post COVID-19, reads, “There is a rising need for functional and flexible homes with an ability to convert rooms into workspaces.” This implies that the general dwelling units may be redesigned as per future requirements.  

Habitable spaces within living rooms are also being modified to accommodate workplaces. For example, in many cases, a small working chamber is carved out from the living room. Instead of having a walled chamber, a partition is being placed to serve the purpose. This layout is specifically viable in smaller apartments like 1BHKs or 2BHKs where setting up an additional room altogether is not feasible. Nevertheless, this has a few downsides to it. Since the entrance to the chamber is the same as the rest of the apartment, privacy is compromised and interruptions might be rife.  

An example of a home office setup, carved out from a living room, having the same entrance, functions as a home office or a study room,but lacking a separate toilet. (Image credit: Home designing)

In certain flats, where the height of the floor is considerably high, the office space is erected on a loft. In this case, a prefabricated steel mezzanine is considered the best option since they are both strong and rust-proof. The biggest advantage here is that this new level does not take up any additional room on the floor.

Examples of home office setups in a loft or mezzanine type space, without taking any additional space from the habitable floor space. (Image credit: Architecture Digest)

What the future holds

With the second wave of COVID-19 hitting the country, it is evident that remote working is here to stay even in 2021.

A recent KPMG report states, “While 68 percent of the organisations said that they are prepared to continue working remotely, in reality, only 48 percent of them are supporting employees by providing laptops with secured connections.” Companies like Tata Steel, Ceat, Zensar are attempting to work from home permanently.

Infosys on the other hand has launched the return to workplace initiative, which focuses on the idea of a hybrid model of working, with flexibility to work from both home and office. As part of this move, the IT company is also working on identifying technologies to ensure the health and wellness of employees.

When it comes to service sector establishments, the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, is proposing to introduce some regulations specific to flexible work timings and provision of remote working options.
Booths or chambered working spaces in offices, may be the new normal, whenever the offices resume again in a post-pandemic world. (Image credit: Office Snapshots)

In the near future, while some companies might continue with the same interiors, others might set up cubicles or closed booths to ensure safety and privacy. Well, despite the pandemic causing a lot of inconveniences, it has given rise to a slew of innovations in terms of communication channels and work spaces.

Edited by Roshni Shroff

Some resources and links to help you learn more about remote workspaces:

Future of jobs: What lies ahead for the water-cooler conversations?
As the future of work changes, we will see the future of meetings change dramatically too. The Zoom mania will die down as people start using tools that measure their productivity.
OECD Future of Work - OECD
What is future of work and how can we shape policies that bring increased opportunities for everyone, not more inequalities? Find the latest OECD analysis and data