Women’s labour force participation has increased from 11.9% in 1955 to 18.6% in 2023. The pandemic has further opened a new world of possibilities. With improved digitisation and fewer physical limitations, the new-age work model offers women more flexibility, and has led to lower attrition rates and a more equitable work environment.
Every new opportunity comes with its own set of challenges. The new flexible work model may have proved a boon for women, but has been accompanied by an increase in household and familial responsibilities. According to a recent Deloitte survey, 65% of women respondents have taken on more household chores since the pandemic, and 25% reported increased workloads. For women with children, the burden has been even greater: 58% reported additional childcare responsibilities and 53% said they had to take on additional educational responsibilities of the child. Despite the initial buzz about changing work patterns, women’s empowerment is still a distant goal.
The pandemic-induced work model also paved the way for advanced design possibilities. Housing societies and real estate developers are revisiting design strategies to incorporate modern, dynamic layouts that go beyond basic amenities. They are mulling over the viability of incorporating coworking spaces in their residential projects to align with new work realities. This is likely to benefit women the most, enabling more of them to take up employment, and in the process, will help close the gender gap and boost India’s economy.
By providing working spaces that prioritise women, housing societies are not only addressing the challenges women face in a conventional ‘desk-in-a-cubicle’ setting, but also promoting a sense of inclusivity and empowerment. These spaces address a growing need for flexibility and work-life balance, particularly among women across the country. To further the growth of working women professionals, housing societies should continue to foster similar spaces and work cultures in future projects.
Dedicated working spaces in residential societies are an attempt by developers to go beyond the usual and redefine possibilities. There is the added potential for introducing amenities that cater to women’s unique needs. For instance, a breastfeeding room and crèche services.
Envisioned by experts in real estate innovation, a similar approach has been adopted at the Three Jewels Housing Society in Pune, where the traditional clubhouse is now transformed into an ‘innovation hub’. Besides hosting a suite of smart solutions designed to foster social innovation there is also a special dedicated ‘coworking’ space. Through an app, mothers can conveniently book a designated space, utilise the smart locks to access the area, and provide a comfortable environment for their children. With amenities like a book-crossing area, children can engage in reading or complete their homework, while their mothers can make use of the coworking seats and benefit from the complimentary Wi-Fi connection.
This trend is further seen in the affluent area of Mumbai’s Lower Parel, where developers have offered coworking spaces as part of the membership to residents. The space is equipped with meeting rooms, a boardroom, and a networking area with 7,000 sq.ft. of office space incorporated with the latest state-of-the-art amenities. Residents’ welfare associations too welcome this initiative, just as one in Chennai is planning to convert the community hall and games room into a coworking space for the residents. These projects have become a successful experiment in an existing residential community and have kickstarted a similar trend in upcoming real estate projects.
The writer is Chief Research and Product Design Officer, Planet Smart City.