The West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation (HIDCO) has introduced Happy Works, a co-working space in Kolkata’s growing commercial hub, New Town. At affordable rates of Rs 30 for 90 minutes and Rs 20 for each additional hour thereafter, these seven-days-a-week 9am-to-8pm work-pod clusters are witnessing a surge in the number of working mothers, young entrepreneurs and freelance workers looking to nurture a professional space distinct from the blurriness of working from home, steep-on-the-pocket office rentals or the HR-controlled regimes of traditional workspaces.
While co-working spaces in urban metropolises are no novelty, these are mostly private sector initiatives looking to break the ennui of standard office experiences. They often come at a restrictive cost, limiting the experience to those who can afford it rather than those who may be in need of it. HIDCO’s venture indicates both a welcome change in the state government’s attitude to commerce and an acknowledgement that, in the post-Covid era, the future of work includes flexibility, especially when the workers are juggling many roles.
The co-working manifesto is built on the premise of sustainability. It places the interest of the worker at the heart of the enterprise — an idea increasingly lost on corporations chasing profits. In unshackling workers from their many roles — primary caregiver, family breadwinner or young entrepreneur-in-need-of-a-breakthrough — it provides them with a space they are in control of. In much the same way as a city allows people a chance to reimagine their identities without the cloying intimacy of familiar spaces, these co-working spaces let users choose their degrees of interaction with other occupants while working at their own pace. The result can be greater productivity, unlikely collaborations and a spontaneous sense of community. Democratising these spaces through affordable pricing is, therefore, a pragmatic step towards a happy, healthy and more inclusive workforce.