Bharat Agarwal, CEO and Founder, The Hive Hostels

Bharat Agarwal, CEO, and founder of The Hive hostel has been a part of the co-living spaces and student housing industry for the past four years. He is also a crypto enthusiast and has pursued his graduation in law. He believes in providing a zestful experience to the students. When he moved to Mumbai, he realized that the vast mobile population of students and working professionals required a cost-effective and premium lifestyle solution that was hardly available in the market. So along with a group of friends came forth with the idea called ‘Hive’ to solve all unanswered issues.

 

It cannot be denied that the world that existed once has gone forever.  But that shouldn’t prevent us from making predictions of what a post-COVID-19 world may look like and working towards that. We need to keep hope and work towards it. The emphasis at hostels was a shared, community-driven budget accommodation which now has developed into a hotspot for students and working professionals to stay together and mingle. Hostels are no longer just a place to book a bed to sleep in. These days, the sole element that hostels across the board are known and favored for is sociability. For example, who you meet at the common area downstairs and in the co-working space while you are struggling with a new college assignment is one of those scenarios that is determined by chance, with the possibility that they become a crucial part of your journey and your daily life as well.

Hostels are built on the idea of community and sharing as they operate on the very notion of uniting people by bringing them together and that is the reason why social distancing and other precautionary measures in a hostel is completely contrary to its core essence. Students’ safety should be the first priority and no compromise must be made there. When the entire world is struggling with the pandemic, the working professionals and students who are already away from their home, are looking for the options that prioritize their safety and hygiene.

As hostel owners are eager to welcome students back and are hopeful that hostel stays post-COVID will look the same as those during pre-pandemic, they are also thinking about what the seasons ahead might look like and how the pandemic might alter other aspects of the hostel experience. We cannot deny that this style of accommodation provision inherently introduces increased risk of COVID-19 transmission and it will be essential to pay particular attention to ways of modifying risk for staff and students alike which means that cleanliness and hygiene should take prominence over all other things and the hostels should see some of the common changes post-pandemic.

The hostel facilities should include proper cleaning and sanitization ensuring hygiene, maintaining social distancing, ensuring the wearing of masks in the premises as well as outside and providing proper medical facilities.  Frequent hand washing with soap (for at least 40-60 seconds) even when hands are not visibly dirty. Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (for at least 20 seconds) can be done wherever feasible by hostel inmates. All staff should be strictly directed to wash their hands when arriving at work, as well as before handling or eating food, or after blowing noses, coughing or sneezing, or going to the toilet. Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief/flexed elbow and disposing of used tissues properly. Floor markings or other physical indicators, where implementation is appropriate and achievable, should be used to act as visible reminders of social distancing requirements.

Crowding must be avoided at entry/ exit points. Staggered timings of entry and exit with limited strength for different programs should be followed. Those having symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty in breathing are required to report immediately to the health office.  Installation & use of Arogya Setu App should be mandatory. On the other hand, the students should also be more cautious about their own safety. Self-monitoring of health should be done by all the hostel inmates and reporting any illness at the earliest.

Hostel inmates should be told to be careful while venturing out in the daytime. They should be directed towards wearing masks and using sanitizers to avoid the risk of getting infected. Hostel wardens should be advised to be more attentive in respect of the movement of the students outside the hostels as students visit eateries and other social joints quite frequently where they have higher chances of getting infected and spreading it further. Cultural activities, meetings etc. are not allowed. Disinfectant and hand sanitizer should now be a common sight around hostels. Beds should be placed in a way that there are several feet of distance between them to ensure the safety of the students. Even in the common areas, they should be careful about maintaining the social distancing norm. Hygiene conditions should be regularly monitored in kitchens, dining halls, bathrooms and toilets etc.  All hand washing to always be in line with the guidelines regarding method and length of washing and students should adhere to the floor markings and other physical indicators for their own safety.

The hostel facilities need to be professionally equipped to take care of what has been lost and at the same time, enhance the quality of life that the students are currently living, as this crisis is going to witness a shift of more and more people towards a safe and hygienic style of living especially the students who are staying away from home during this time of crisis. Spitting shall be strictly prohibited. Spitting inside the hostel premise is made a punishable offence. This is the time that humanity is being redefined and the idea of community and society is restructuring itself. So, the spaces that are going to play a vital part in the future should be idealistic and should abide by the norms and protocols of the new world we are soon going to experience. Students’ safety should be the first priority along with the right balance between a close-to-normal lifestyle for students and compliance that will allow all to stay healthy and the hostels to support what they do best: learning and living in community.

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