WeWork – the American co-working movement giant – announced its India expansion this October. Partnering with Embassy – a real-estate player – WeWork aims to target Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore in the first round.
This announcement brings along a leap in the exponentially expanding co-working culture that is challenging the workspace-norms globally. Along with WeWork, there has been a rise in number of companies – in both local and international market – that are working towards providing a structure for both collaborative & independent work environments for freelancers & start-ups in India. We also see many of the millennial entrepreneurs are highly influenced by the workspace trends of global business capitals like Silicon Valley or Paris.
Start-ups in turn, are shifting their conference rooms from coffee shops (with good ambiance, Wi-Fi and sometimes, good coffee) to these co-working and shared spaces, which offer work-friendly infrastructure and a more fulfilling experience than a café. With this evident change in the workspace expectations & behaviors – especially from young entrepreneurs, there have been strong indicators to translate these changes in the traditional offices of many multi-national Indian companies as well.
During a 3-month-long research that Turian Labs conducted, we observed an important mindset shift within the organizations from ‘client-centric thinking’ to ‘employee-centric thinking’. Traditionally, companies have always focused on creating spaces to impress the clients or guests who happen to visit the workspace, albeit rarely. In contrast, if you visit any of these offices now, you’ll find a dedicated team of employees providing inputs to the procurement team about the aspired workspace formats and experiences. The end-user gaining the powerful say in creating the workspace-strategy for the organization also clearly shows how Indian offices are adapting to the open-office culture and relaxing the strict hierarchical structures.
When it comes to factors like workspace navigation, experience, workstation layouts, selection of furniture, etc., global companies generally follow a global mandate while outfitting a new workspace. With the emergence of new millennial employees and their changed needs, however, these companies are now readily modifying the norms to focus on Indian sensibilities, expectations and employee behavior.
During the research, one of the major questions that team Turian came across was that of aligning the global trend of collaborative spaces with Indian work culture and work habits. A furniture designer from a start-up incubator in Delhi highlighted, “Foreigners can work in groups without having private spaces but we can’t. We as Indians are open to working in collaborative spaces but want a personal space too, as Indians are territorial.”
For Indian employees, the sense of belonging to a space is still important. The mindset and the work culture have not yet moved to the complete open-office system even though hierarchical thinking is on its way out. Also, in spite of the collaborative workspaces being the new evolving format in the Silicon Valley, the Indian context still requires ‘Hybrid Workspaces’ – a balanced mix of personal and collaborative spaces for both the old-school thinkers and the millennials. Employees are looking at collaborative spaces (which anyway are a new addition to the traditional offices) in the near vicinity with personal zones for focused working. After working in teams, the employees want to return to their ‘personal space’ for focused working. Irrespective of the company type – a start-up or a multinational global company, aligning the employee-centric thinking with the workspace solutions gives a stronger base from where to address young millennials.