Co-living as a safe accommodation

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    Co-living is an essential, safe and a unique form of dignified affordable accommodation, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study of global business school INSEAD.

    INSEAD researched co-living in times of the new coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) with MyTown, the co-living brand under Philippines Urban Living Solutions (PULS), PeoplePods, a Philippine dormitory for migrant workers and industry experts.

    The findings, available in an e-book titled Co-Living Safety and Sanitation Handbook discussed best practices in safety and sanitation for co-living operators during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “This project gathered best practices and leveraged research insights to improve the well-being and safety of precarious workers and the wider working population,” said Alexandra Roulet, assistant professor at INSEAD. The authors consulted with experts from the University of Oxford, the Singapore Ministry of Manpower, a non-government organization GO for Singapore migrant workers, the World Health Organization and local authorities.

    “As one of the key players in Southeast Asian co-living, we believe we have a responsibility to collaborate with content experts and implement best practices not just in our own community, but also share these with the wider co-living sector,” said Jelmer Ikink, group director at PULS.

    What has become a thriving real estate sector in normal times, co-living has now proven essential in times of crises.

    “Especially in Southeast Asia, the focus of the handbook, alternatives to shared living are often unaffordable, impractical or unlivable,” said Daniel Layug, chief executive officer at PeoplePods Philippines.

    Business continuity is a top priority during this pandemic, and many employers have found that employee accommodation nearby the workplace ensures continued operations, when public transportation options are limited and operating at reduced capacity. The same holds for employees, whose income is dependent on being able report to work affordably and on time.

    Similarly, workplace wellness has become front and center for both employers and employees. The whitepaper finds that co-living can reduce the risk of community infections, as the average daily number of people a co-living tenant is in contact with is up to 98 percent lower when compared to a someone who relies on cramped and enclosed public transportation options. Moreover, a well-rested workforce is more likely to have a strong immune system that can fight a viral infection.

    The whitepaper further shows that co-living and dormitory operators are encouraged to implement a thorough prevention and response framework against the pandemic, and that doing so does not have to impact the sustainability of its business model.

    “This is important since, thus far, COVID-19 has continued to show resilience, and ‘new normal’ measures therefore need to pass the long-term sustainability test,” Ikink said.

    The study highlighted that whereas most real estate operators tend to focus on implementing coronavirus mitigation measures inside their premises, equally important are the need to educate and communicate with the tenant population, and prepare detailed response plans for a wide range of worst-case scenarios.

    The handbook provides helpful insight into how other operators can become more resilient, and continue to provide a safe and sanitary space to young professionals and migrant workers alike.