Originally published in Coworking Insights
By Colm O’Neill
A City-State Transformed
As part of its wide-ranging response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Singaporean government has ordered that staff throughout the country must continue to work from home where possible. These measures have transformed once-bustling hubs of industry and commerce into effective ghost towns, with none more striking than the downtown Central Business District.
Channel News Asia reports that as of May 20, 80% of Singaporeans are working remotely, and for many this momentous change of lifestyle and work culture has proved enlightening.
Both business leaders and their employees are discovering that working remotely is an eminently achievable task. Team members are communicating successfully and projects are reaching completion without any need for the physical proximity of the traditional office environment.
With the Urban Redevelopment Authority reporting that 11% of Singapore’s office space was already unoccupied prior to lockdown, it’s increasingly evident that the first steps in a major shift in workplace culture are already underway.
It is in this context that coworking spaces become an increasingly attractive option. Coworking spaces allow companies the freedom to establish a base in competitive property markets without committing to the kind of long-term lease that could spell financial ruin, should a future lockdown come to fruition. With so many companies operating on severely reduced budgets, such measures serve to safeguard companies’ finances in increasingly uncertain times.
The Solution Offered by Shared Offices
While the Singaporean government has not yet clarified any details of the latter stages of their plans to reopen society, the precedent set across the globe sees continued social distancing measures and limited capacity workplaces. These measures make the continuation of existing office culture in places such as the Central Business District unfeasible, and could see many businesses spread their backroom operations to less densely populated zones.
These conditions also challenge companies’ incentives to pursue long-term leases at the eye-watering rates the Central Business District commands, particularly with the possibility of further closures looming. Coworking spaces not only alleviate the risk faced by companies who would traditionally rent traditional office space, but also present building-owners with an alternative use for potentially unwanted real-estate.
Beyond the financial security that comes with the move away from traditional office spaces, coworking spaces can also provide an added level of personal security. Many coworking spaces provide private offices, a safer alternative to the open-plan work spaces which were previously the norm throughout the country.
At time of writing, Johns Hopkins reports that Singapore has just shy of 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, one of the highest rates in the region. Private offices allow for a greater level of social distancing and insulation from the risk of infection.
What’s more, coworking spaces offer a strong internet connection, private booths for conducting work calls, and conference rooms for company meetings. With more people finding success in working remotely, coworking spaces can provide these vital facilities that would otherwise be unavailable to many.
With these added benefits, we can expect to see a significant increase in the number of Singaporean companies using coworking spaces in the future. This lockdown has shown that traditional office spaces are no longer essential to conducting business. In Singapore and elsewhere, coworking spaces offer all the amenities of the traditional office space without the same level of risk attached. More than ever before, coworking looks like the way of the future.