Flexible Workspace – new trend of workspace catering to startup businesses

A square, blocky cubicle containing a desk, a computer and a chair is a traditional office environment that might look tired, and sometimes uninspiring for workers.

Flexible Workspace is a new alternative for companies, organizations or young working people with funky design, airiness and comfort to create a good working environment. It can be changed flexibly according to the needs of the user. It is not just a response to startup trends or modern workers’ behavior, however.

It can also be an answer to a company’s cost problems, as the massive costs of leasing a permanent office building are no longer necessary. The lease period may be short, medium or long depending on the user’s requirements.

Surveys and reports on the Flexible Workspace service by Colliers International, a global real estate consultant, say that the Flexible Workspace is a hot new trend in the Asia Pacific region. Many service providers have been appearing and growing in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Melbourne and Sydney.

In the short term they expect a number of multinational corporations to use Flexible Workspace more, for specialized teams working in areas such as digital, innovation and technology.

Recently, HSBC decided to lease a space with 400 desks from WeWork in building 535, Hong Kong for its digital team, while Ernst & Young (EY), a large auditor, is moving its Sydney team to such a space. This is “coworking” with many different kinds of business working together.

This ties in with the opinions of Peter Black, Director of Strategy and Workplace Design at Colliers International Australia. He says that business organizations want to reduce their office space by looking at the use of Core Space to work effectively. Flexible Workspace is organized to cater to work as needed, whether it is a project, a monthly meeting or a meeting space requiring technology, or a space to incubate startups which are usually accommodated in the same building. The leases can be managed by the hour, by the day, or long-term.

The new trend has induced real estate developers or large tenants to start looking more at Flexible Workspace. For instance, Verizon, a US cell phone network provider, has teamed up with coworking provider Grind to convert 10,000 square feet of under-used space at its Head Office in Manhattan into Flexible Workspace for leasing to startups and other entrepreneurs.

The use of space by providers is also trending to increase, especially in China. Providers such as WeWork, JustCO, The Working Capitol, URwork and naked Hub are looking for a minimum space of 40,000 square feet to open new branches.

However, this trend is huge opportunity for the owners of Grade B office buildings and the owners of retail space that is getting increasingly saturated. At latest, CapitaLand, a Singapore real estate giant, has signed a contract with URwork to lease space in CapitaLand shopping malls for providing Flexible Workspace.

Sanchai Khu-ekchai, Vice President of Colliers International Thailand, said that the market for office space in Bangkok has grown continuously over the last 6 years, with the rate of vacant space consistently less than 10%. Rents have therefore increased over the last 3-4 years, which is a barrier for startups or SMEs.

The popularity of Flexible Workspace in Thailand is following world trends. In 2016, Regus was the most active provider by adding over 20,000 square feet in the AIA Capital building and 10,000 square feet in the SJ Infinite building. Meanwhile, local provider Glowfish has leased 10,000 square feet in the Center Point of Siam Square shopping mall.

In 2017, many providers of Flexible Workspace in Thailand are continuing to expand space in new locations and formats, most of which is in the form or partnerships. They are still waiting for some large spaces to come on line, which are expected to be complete in the next year or two. It is expected that Flexible Workspace will become better known as a new alternative for working space in Bangkok.


Reference: Forbes Thailand