Business parks are among the most vulnerable to the spread of a contagion. Nevertheless, proactive resolution of problems and well-organised risk management processes can ensure reasonable well-being of all in this community. By PRADEEP LALA
The workplace is a constantly evolving entity with people adapting to it. Business park management is a niche concept in the world of real estate, but it is rarely known what goes into managing these facilities housing multiple firms. Like any business that mostly revolves around customer centricity, park management is alike but with more accountability and challenges due to the number of stakeholders associated with these large-sized facilities. Further, these business parks also come with variations ranging from an information technology (IT) and information technology-enabled services (ITES) park to special economic zones (SEZs) or even a multi-use park. These properties can either be a cluster of independent buildings with common amenities or a combination of smaller sub-clusters with multiple occupants.
As we reconsider the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic on the regular functioning of businesses and their facilities, business parks are among the most vulnerable to the spread of a contagion. This is a very sensitive situation as it involves the presence of multiple stakeholders in the system at various levels with a diverse range of interests and expectations during a crisis. Nevertheless, proactive resolution of problems and well-organised risk management processes can ensure the reasonable well-being of all in this community.
Facility Management to Be Intrinsic Part of Realty
We can, therefore, be certain that the need for professional services in facility management will be intrinsic to the real estate ecosystem in the future. The continuity of any business process will be possible only when the management of facilities in the post-COVID environment is par excellence.
While the definition of normalcy is yet to be redefined, we already observe a few key changes in our lifestyle and on-going practices at business parks. Fundamentally, for business park managers, the top priority is to ensure that all areas within the park are well-maintained, with utmost attention being paid to hygiene standards. Regular cleaning of commonly accessed areas and touchpoints, deep cleaning of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment and air ducts, fumigation of premises, heightened security, strict compliance, creation of dedicated empowered teams to ensure employee health and safety regulations, permanent placement of crisis response teams, presence of isolation wards and dedicated clinics within the park premises, and use of communication channels to ensure the smooth and real-time flow of information, these are among practices that would define the new normal for the integrated facility management (IFM) companies.
From a park user’s perspective, a 360-degree transformation in lifestyle is already evident. These include social distancing, self-isolation from society, packing personal protective equipment (PPE) as part of the daily kit, maintaining high levels of personal hygiene, frequent check of the body temperature as a pre-emptive measure and eating healthy. We also find the age-old ‘namaste’ replacing handshake as a healthy way to greet people.
Future of Business Parks
From a stakeholder’s perspective, there are numerous ways to anticipate the future of their business. Focusing on those within business parks, a major process of thinking would go into the sustenance of the business with reworked overheads. Some of these businesses – depending entirely on their unique demands – would need to report with the same headcount, while other organisations would look at foraying into a mix of part work from home and part office model. Others may proceed to work remotely 24x7.
For firms that resume operations with the full headcount, with social distancing between employees increasing the per person space requirement, occupying more area would be feasible only if the model ensures success and cost-effectiveness. For those who will function with a reduced number of employees and a remote workability model, revamping the facility, decreasing leased space or venturing into co-working spaces may be the most viable way forward. However, a thorough practice-based analysis is required to shed more light on the efficiencies of these actions.
In all of this, there is a silver lining for India. With countries across the globe looking for a new alternative to China to meet manufacturing and industrial requirements, this could be an opportune time for the country to make suitable moves. With the industrial parks sector becoming more predominant, coupled with the possible demand coming in from the industrial and manufacturing sectors, there could be a positive outcome from this pandemic. And organisations within the facility management industry would be keen to leverage this to ensure their continued growth.
Pradeep Lala is Managing Director & CEO, Embassy Services Pvt Ltd