Corporate to Coworking: 5 Reasons Singapore is Next

 

Just two weeks ago, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim highlighted that “workers are demanding job flexibility to better balance their work-life commitments” at the inaugural conference New Ways to Work 2016.

A Smart Work Centre at Tampines Regional Library was also announced, joining three other work centres opened in the Toa Payoh, Jurong and Geylang East libraries earlier.

With government bodies leading the way in new spaces to work, here are five other reasons we think Singapore is the next city to adopt coworking on a national scale.

 

1) Less time wasted with more working options

What if you could skip the sardine-rush of peak hour traffic and opt for a fifteen minute bus ride? Already, gripes about the limited capacity of Singapore’s transport system and its frequent breakdowns have hit an alltime high. Research has also shown that commuting for more than 20 minutes can make one more stressed and prone to burn-out, and it is apparent that one common complaint among workers is the discomfort of traveling. Should employers offer options across a few coworking spaces (or even coffeehouses), employees stand to benefit from a shorter travel time.

In addition, beyond choosing where they want to work, employees are empowered to decide their work environment and by extension their working style– fueling a sense of agency that the new generation of workers so crave. The slash in commuting time works for employees of all ages though. Just take Mr Preston Koh, whose cumbersome three hour journey has been shortened to just 10 minutes on foot.

Opting into a workspace VS stressing to check in at a pre-designated office? You choose.

 

2) Take the company to where the competition is

Tech is disrupting everything–from products, services, to even the way we work. The democratising power of sleek FinTechs are poised to sap the profitability of banks and financial services. Running the risk of being left behind, banks have launched their own mobile apps to streamline their services and hackathons to develop new ideas. While these are great initiatives, perhaps the next move might be a literal move into the start-up ecosystem themselves.

Silicon Valley Bank is a great example, renting desks across 16 co-working offices which allows its bankers closer proximity to potential clients–working alongside tech startups (literally) and being part of their world. Recently, Hong Kong’s HSBC followed suit by moving 300 staff into a hot-desking site at Causeway Bay. While large companies stand to lose visibility in today’s entrepreneurial scene, nothing beats the physical presence of a corporate neighbour. This is especially easy to achieve in Singapore, where the number of start-up hubs can still be counted on one hand.

 

3) An affordable landlord with lower commitment contracts

A constant factor in filing annual returns is rent–an unchangeable digit that sinks a large sum of profits. CBRE estimates that a typical U.S. company pays US$12,000 a year for each worker’s office space. Similarly, a traditional office space seating 300 staff in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay can cost about HK$8,170 a month. While prime office rent for Singapore offices in the upper floors of skyscrapers might be much lesser than Hong Kong’s US$278/sqft/per annum (pa) and San Francisco’s US$113/sqft/pa, it still comes eighth in 23 leading cities at US$63/sqft/pa. With Singapore heading for an economic downturn, it might be a good time to rein in expenditure by opting for coworking spaces with more affordable rates and shorter contract periods.

 

4) A community more than a company

Increasingly, organisations are realising that how strong and successful companies become is dependent on how strong and successful its team is. While leadership and team-building activities are great, a corporate office structure reinforces the pre-historic hierarchical ladder— interns beneath full-time staff, and a slew of junior, senior, executive management before the boss– the different types of furniture and barriers speak before the title does.

A minimal, open workspace makes for more conversations and collaborations. While senior staff are still appointed leaders, the proximity shortens perceived distance between junior staff. Ever ran an extensive marketing campaign only to find out it was irrelevant? God forbid that your younger staff (and target audience group) knew but never dared to say a word.

 

5) Every employee an entrepreneur

In The Lean Startup, book author Eric Ries highlights the fact that entrepreneurs need not necessarily refer to founders who start their own business, but extends to include employees launching new products or services within organisations. This basically means everyone is an entrepreneur from junior staff members in charge of contacting suppliers to senior management making board decisions.

More than a shift in mindset following a change in environment, employees also stand to benefit from the slew of workshops, talks, and competitions regularly hosted by coworking spaces. The constant flux of ideas and initiatives serve as regular inspiration for the employee in need of a perk-me-up. In a corporate organisation with many functions and services, employees also stand to gain from being at the forefront of innovations in their department’s start-up equivalent.

Arguably, changing the mindset of both employers and employees is crucial in making sure a shift to coworking spaces can happen. A certain degree of trust needs to be put in place for flexible work arrangements too. However, as we become more open to changes and implement tools and modes of communication to ensure accountability, a shift to coworking presents greater possibilities and innovation, disrupting traditional ways to work.