With start-ups and businesses across cities increasingly opting for co-working spaces, Nikhil Jayakrishnan, looks at how Chennai has responded to the shift. 
Published: 15th September 2022 10:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th September 2022 07:02 PM   |  A+A-
For representational purposes
CHENNAI: When you’re the owner of a start-up enterprise, there can be no better place to work than one where everything is set up for you — office space with furnishing. This is where hybrid workspaces or co-working spaces, as they’re commonly referred to, come into the picture, with managed office spaces that take care of everything from decor to maintenance.

While they have been around for a while, especially in the metropolises, the past two years have seen a paradigm shift, with co-working spaces increasingly becoming the go-to choice among businesses small and big.
Cashing in on the trend is Work Easy Space Solutions Private Limited (WorkEZ), a Chennai-headquartered co-working space provider, which announced the signing of three new buildings in the city — at Pallavaram, Guindy and Clubhouse Road. With this, WorkEZ has expanded its footprint to 6 lakh square feet and a capacity of over 12,000 seats.
And it’s not just start-ups. “We even have companies from the Fortune 500 list occupying space in our facilities, apart from other Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises,” said Sunil Reddy, co-founder and MD of WorkEZ.
It’s not just WorkEZ that’s witnessing this uptick. CoWrks, which has two offices at Perungudi and OMR, is also getting its spaces occupied at a rate not seen previously. Parul Thakur, senior vice-president, business head, CoWrks, explains, “Chennai is witnessing increased traction in the uptake of flex and managed office solutions. New business districts such as Guindy, pre and post-toll OMR contribute to a significant percentage of flex inventory in the city.”
Post-pandemic shift
So what explains the shift from conventional office spaces toward co-working spaces? Muneeb Rahman, managing director at Karya, a co-working space with branches in Mylapore and Nungambakkam, says, “Post pandemic, the need for office spaces that operate on a plug-and-play model has risen, and Chennai has seen a significant increase in the number of seats occupied at co-working spaces.”
With people weary of the work-from-home culture that COVID-19 imposed on them, Muneeb adds, many freelancers and start-ups have felt the need to have a separate workspace without the hassle of investing in a space, paying advance and maintenance and so on. “In a co-working space, an entrepreneur finds everything at their disposal — WiFi, cafeteria, conference rooms and lounges without having to invest in them separately. The convenience of the co-working model is what makes it appealing,” Muneeb adds.
Prathap Murali, WorkEZ’s Head of Business for India, says, “The popularity of co-working and managed office spaces has catapulted in the post-Covid era. According to a recent report by a leading International Property Consultant, co-working space providers across the top seven cities in India leased 28 lakh square feet in Q2 2022, the highest in 12 quarters. Likewise, the office market in Chennai is witnessing improving occupier momentum, with demand is driven by IT, ITes and BFSI firms.”
The pandemic has accelerated the idea of hybrid workspaces, Parul observes. “Employees are more focused on workspaces that not only make them feel safe and secure but also provide them with the flexibility to work from anywhere.” But she also warns against the risk of reduced collaboration and teamwork, which could end up endangering company culture.
It’s in the vibe
Part of the appeal of co-working spaces also lies in the way many of these spaces are designed. The WorkEZ property at Anna Salai opens into a lobby with a reception, lounge chairs and a snooker table. Cubicles of varying sizes accommodate companies big and small.
And then there are cubicles almost the size of telephone booths for anyone who wishes to make a conference call. When the stress gets too high and you want to shut off the noise, there are separate rooms with beds and soundproofing. At CoWrks, organisations can have their office spaces custom-made according to their design requirements. And Karya transforms from a co-working space during the day to a gaming zone at night, as well as a space for meetups and Pecha Kucha events.
This informal nature of co-working spaces adds to their allure. “The co-working trend is here to stay, and it will be for some time,” is how Muneeb foresees the future.
 
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