BENGALURU: Once considered game changers, co-working and co-living spaces have been badly hit due to the pandemic. Work from home, online classes or people moving back to their home towns have been a huge step back for these two sectors. FF21, a co-living space that has been operating for the last year-and-a-half, has seen a huge drop in new sign ups too. While the initial lockdowns were not too bad for them, now, the business is beginning to bear the brunt of residents not wanting to continue paying rent. “New signups have also been impacted. Currently, we have only 64 per cent occupancy,” says co-founder Rahul Baliga.
Grexter Living, a co-living space with branches across the city, also saw a drop (from 80 per cent to 50 per cent) in their spaces closer to various IT hubs. “With companies giving work from home for almost a year, many have returned home,” explains Radha Deodhar, brand and community manager. She, however, adds they are doing everything for the safety and comfort of people who decided to stay. “We are taking extra precautions with sanitation and have installed coffee and snack vending machines in 20 of our branches to minimise the need to step out,” says Deodhar.
Co-working spaces too are finding ways to sustain themselves. Some like Wolfpack are confident people will eventually return. Karan Maher, founder, divides the customer into two categories – freelancers and enterprises – as he explains, “Most who have left us are freelancers, we still have different enterprises that need an office space to work from. They have their servers set in our offices so they have to continue renting the space,” says Maher.
Some, however, have it easier. As part of safety measures, companies are allowing 30 per cent of staffers to work from office. Even though the same number of people are not present, companies have not reduced the seats they have taken. “We are operational with 97 per cent occupancy across centres. But considering the scenerio, 40 per cent to 50 percent of our clients have come back to the work space with a standard operating system in place,” says Manas Mehrotra, chairman, 315Work Avenue, which is situated in Koramangala, HSR Layout, Infantry Road, Marathahalli, Whitefield, Manyata Tech Park etc. Once the novelty wore off, many seemed to realise that working from home could lead to productivity issues.
“Productivity is dependent on the aptitude of the individual and the environment at home,” explains Mehrotra, who believes this could make co-working spaces appealing right now. Agrees Akhila Srinivas, founder, The Courtyard, which recently turned into a co-working space. The artist community centre had to shift gears due to the pandemic. But why turn into a co-working space at a time when most are indoors? “People need a breather from work from home as well. A change in space and atmosphere could be better for ideation,” says Srinivas.