More demand for co-working spaces as firms split operations

Working at a co-working space

Photo Source: Justco/ ST

More companies here have been looking to co-working spaces to conduct split operations as part of their business continuity planning (BCP) amid the coronavirus outbreak. Several flexible workspace operators told The Straits Times they have seen an increase in demand and inquiries for office space since the outbreak response level was raised to orange early last month.

Mr Brandon Chia, vice-president and head of Singapore and Indonesia at JustCo, noted that the Covid-19 situation has not dampened interest in its office spaces.

“We are also seeing increased demand from companies adopting JustCo as part of their BCP to house employees in various different locations, enabling them to continue to work efficiently with minimum interruptions,” he said.

Singapore-based JustCo, which is backed by sovereign wealth fund GIC and real estate firm Frasers Property, has 17 offices here, with two more opening later this year.

Ms Maria Nakamura, head of operations at co-working operator Arcc Spaces, said more companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises, have inquired about flexible workspace options in the last few weeks since Singapore announced its first coronavirus cases.

“In flexible workplaces, businesses are able to take advantage of splitting their teams across multiple small private rooms, as opposed to occupying one large combined space,” she said.

Mr Turochas Fuad, WeWork managing director for South-east Asia and South Korea, said that for most companies, priority lay in the speed and scalability in securing flexible workspaces, given the rapid changes in the virus situation and the authorities’ push for BCP.

Noting that businesses in industries advised to carry out BCP, such as those in financial services, had been proactive in seeking out workspace options, Mr Fuad said: “Conversations have also elevated to the discussion of a longer-term and more comprehensive future-proofing business strategy as opposed to just a one-off reaction to the Covid-19 situation.”

One company which has opened a satellite office at a co-working space here is Japanese insurance company Nippon Life Asia Pacific, whose headquarters is located at One Raffles Quay.

Mr Kiiru Mori, assistant vice-president at Nippon Life, said the firm split its 17 staff into two offices after it heard about a confirmed case who worked near its headquarters. Two-fifths of the company’s staff are currently operating from a WeWork office in Robinson Road.

“In addition to preventing outbreaks of the virus, which is our top priority, we chose to use a coworking space (as a satellite office) instead of teleworking at home, in terms of ease of work, continuity, and the importance of face-to-face communication,” said Mr Mori.

Ms Lim Wee Ling, a director at public relations agency Asia PR Werkz, said some of its staff are currently working from co-working spaces, while others who are not scheduled to work at its main office are given the flexibility to work from home, cafes or other spaces deemed conducive for work.

The agency started its membership at co-working space Found8 last year before the virus outbreak, as part of its efforts to “enhance staff innovation and collaboration”, said Ms Lim.

Separately, given the high human traffic at co-working spaces, operators have stepped up hygiene and cleaning measures.

JustCo and WeWork, the two largest operators of flexible workspaces in Singapore, as well as Arcc Spaces and other players, have increased the cleaning frequency at their office spaces, especially in common areas such as pantries and meeting rooms.

Community events have also been postponed to minimise large group gatherings.

The Straits Times, 20 Mar 2020

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