To say the least, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a lot of change into the lives of all Indians. The lockdowns were intimidating and made us take a fresh look at our relationships with our homes – and offices.
Once it took hold, the fear of infection was a serious deterrent to leaving home for any reason. Companies had to offer the work-from-home option, which took Indians quite a bit of time to get used to.
Over the course of 8-10 months, many Indian companies were surprised to find that WFH works better than expected. The acute phase of the pandemic lasted well over 18 months, and this was long enough to bring about profound changes in habits and perceptions. A lot of Indians became used to and quite comfortable with working from home.
When the time has finally come to go back to office work, some resistance is natural. By now, Indians’ relationships with their homes and workplaces have changed a lot. Many employees would prefer to continue to WFH. As a sort of compromise, some companies are offering the ‘hybrid’ model of working – working partly from home and partly from the office.
This is a huge change to take place in less than two years. Until the pandemic, Indians saw their homes and offices as distinctly separate places, each having its own functions and benefits. Nobody could have predicted that Indians could adapt so well to working from home.
Have Homes Displaced Offices?
Apart from consultants and freelancers, most Indians preferred working from offices before the Covid-19 pandemic. There were good reasons for this.
Corporate offices are socially vibrant, clean, organized, and well-equipped with everything we need to work properly. The normal middle-class Indian home did not have the right kind of equipment, and there are usually a lot of household activities going on which make it difficult to concentrate.
Offices have played a major role in maintaining productivity and motivation. But in less than two years, people all over the world re-engineered their homes to double as offices. For those fortunate to have enough space for a home office, all it took was a laptop and Internet connection, and a change in furniture layout and routine.
It is certainly remarkable that Indian companies could become comfortable with employees working from home. But we ourselves changed tremendously in the last 18 months.
From online shopping to e-schooling and video consultations with doctors to work meetings on Zoom and Teams, Indians up-skilled to be able to manage work and personal life without daily commuting to another part of the city and back.
Homes became so important that housing prices did not reduce even during the worst parts of the pandemic. Demand began rising as more and more Indians became aware of the need to own and control their living in spaces. Homebuying sentiment was growing even before the first wave was over and has remained on a high since then.
Rental rates initially dropped when offices closed during the first wave and people left for their hometowns. But today, housing rentals have normalized once more, especially after many large companies announced that they expect their employees to be in the office for at least a part of the week. This once again makes housing an interesting asset class for investors.
Temporary Changes, Or Permanent Ones?
According to a report by Australia-based research agency PaperGiant in November last year, approximately 83% of Indian employees were not comfortable with returning to the office when there were no vaccines available. A recent survey by LinkedIn indicates that 72% of Indians now want to return to the office.
A report in August 2021 by market research and public opinion agency Ipsos and the World Economic Forum found that at this stage, Indians currently expect to work from home for an average of 3.4 days per week.
So much has changed and continues to change. While some changes are temporary, others are most probably permanently.
For example, smaller configuration homes will steadily lose their previous appeal. Indians will look for larger homes that can accommodate home offices and e-schooling. Developers are now offering new size configurations such as 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5 BHKs.
From now on, all housing options will need a brand new ‘must-have’ feature – the ability to ‘multitask’ and work as both a residential and office setting.