Remote working emphasises importance of co-working community: JustCo

/ EdgeProp Singapore |
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - At its heart, well executed co-working spaces are communities for different businesses and entrepreneurs to share and interact, and spin off new business opportunities. But this sharing culture has been hindered by widespread remote working and safe distancing measures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Covid-19 has made people realise that social interactions and the community element plays an imperative part of our work experiences,” says Brandon Chia, JustCo vice-president and head of Singapore and Indonesia. “Humans are social beings and we understand the need for physical interaction and companionship — which is different from simply interacting with one another virtually,” he says.
Covid-19 has made people realise that social interactions and the community element plays an important part of our work experiences, says Chia. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Co-working space operator JustCo is one of the largest flexible workspace providers in Singapore and the Asia Pacific region. The company — which is headquartered in the Republic — has rapidly expanded its local and regional presence over the last few years. In Singapore, JustCo operates 18 co-working locations with at least one more new location in the pipeline. It has also established a presence across major Asia Pacific cities — like Taipei, Shanghai, Bangkok, Seoul, Sydney, Jakarta and Melbourne — where it has over 20 co-working centres.

Preventive measures

Following the end of the “circuit breaker” period — a stay-at-home order implemented as a preventive measure by the Singapore government in response to the pandemic — the company says that most of its members continue to telecommute or work from home. “JustCo saw about 20% of our members return to our centres to carry out essential services – this number has been quite consistent across all centres in Singapore since the easing of the circuit breaker,” says Chia. Singapore’s circuit breaker period formally ended on June 1.
Returning members are only allowed to work from their assigned “home centre” and are strongly discouraged from visiting multiple JustCo centres. Health and safety in the workplace remains a concern for this group of members and the co-working operator has been clear in communicating its stringent health and safety measures, says Chia, adding that members have been generally receptive and understanding of the rules put in place to stem the spread of the virus.
JustCo opened its latest centre at OCBC Centre East in August, after a three-month delay. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
“We have also reconfigured our furniture in common areas and placed prominent signs at communal areas to enforce a safe distance among members and reduce close interactions. Contactless thermometers and hand sanitisers are also free for members and visitors to use. These measures have had no direct impact on the daily occupancy rate,” Chia adds.

Networking while apart

JustCo members are concerned about their ability to continue attending events to interact with other businesses. To encourage dynamic exchanges across their community, JustCo offers virtual events in lieu of physical events where like-minded individuals and businesses can connect for potential collaboration opportunities.
“Over the years, we have seen many member-to-member success stories and how companies have found connection and synergy with one another — which is something that JustCo truly stands for, connections within the community,” says Chia.
The co-working operator is banking on its suite of services and functions on its mobile application to bridge the virtual gap. Through the app, members receive updates and alerts to attend virtual events or webinars organised by JustCo. They can also enjoy privileges when they purchase business services through the Jshop, an e-store function on the app.
Since the easing of the circuit breaker in Singapore, JustCo has seen about 20% of its members return to work at its centres. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
In June this year, the company also launched a new initiative called JustCo Campus, a multi-format learning hub where its members can consult, connect, and learn through a range of events including one to one business consultations and curated panel discussions.
“Especially in a time like this, members have found it extremely helpful and convenient as they get to easily access specially curated events via a single online platform and also learn and connect with other individuals and businesses across the globe,” Chia adds.

Changes to office space demand

In Singapore, the government still advises companies to adopt remote working for most employees where possible, on top of strict safe distancing measures. JustCo says it has received enquiries from businesses who needed help in setting up alternative working arrangements and split team office arrangements as part of their business continuity plans.“[This is the case] specifically for their employees who are not able to telecommute and have to be working nearby and still be in compliance to the safe distancing requirements,” says Chia.
On the other hand, he says that some JustCo members have also requested moving to smaller sized office spaces, due to the bulk of their workforce now working from home. “We have members who requested to scale down in terms of their office spaces. This is also the beauty of JustCo as it provides our members with the flexibility to upsize or right-size their office space when needed,” he notes.
The challenging market conditions are also forcing some JustCo members to take a hard look at their future corporate real estate needs, and some have indicated that they may not be able to renew their lease as a result of the current market conditions, he adds.
“However, we have also received a fair share of new enquiries from businesses that are looking to move out of their traditional office spaces and into co-working spaces. These corporates are rethinking their real estate strategy and work arrangements, and they recognise the importance of a flexible, reliable and sustainable workspace solution — one that allows them to respond to different situations in future.”
While some JustCo members say they will not renew their leases due to the challenging market conditions, a number of corporates are still moving into new flexible workspaces. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Changes to office space demand are also reverberating across the region as a result of the ongoing pandemic. During the early stages of the pandemic in the Asia Pacific, Chia says JustCo saw an increase in enquiries as businesses sought alternative working arrangements as part of businesses continuity plans. But this has evolved over time with work-from-home mandates set by local governments.
In recent months, as businesses transit and adapt to a new normal, “businesses increasingly demand workspaces that offer maximum flexibility that allows them to adapt to different situations with minimal disruption,” says Chia, adding that “this change in demand across all markets are quite similar since companies and employees all around the world have been affected.”

On-demand workspaces

A timely response to the increase in demand for even more flexible workspace solutions, JustCo will launch a new on-demand workspace usage concept at its upcoming space in The Centrepoint. This means that consumers will only pay for their usage duration, but it still allows them to utilise co-working amenities including hot-desks, phone booths and meeting rooms.
This new space at The Centrepoint is slated to open in October. It will be its first centre to feature card-free access for centre entrances, meeting rooms and private suites. Members will be able to access these areas through the JustCo app on their smartphones.
“With more businesses looking for short-term leases and doing away with long-term contracts, this innovative concept will definitely be worthy of consideration as it requires zero commitment. Members get to maximise cost savings in the long-run, and transfer the savings to drive innovation or business development of their own,” says Chia.
JustCo will launch a new on demand workspace plan that will allow consumers to will only pay for their usage duration, and allows them to utilise co-working amenities. (Picture: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
JustCo will be relocating its headquarters from its current office space in Marina One East Tower to The Centrepoint to cater to the company’s growth and expansion. American video game developer and publisher Riot Games will also move some of its Singapore-based team into the new co-working space.
“JustCo’s one-stop workspace solution has provided us with great convenience and flexibility to house our growing team while we work on numerous new game launches. We moved into JustCo less than a year ago, and have since outgrown our existing space. We are excited to be moving to a larger workspace at JustCo at The Centrepoint later in the year,” says Kaialani Ng, office manager of Riot Games Southeast Asia.

Expansion plans still on track

Chia says JustCo still sees demand from large corporates who are adopting flexible workspace solutions as part of their business strategy. Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, the co-working operator says that its expansion plans this year are still on track, although it had to push back some launch timelines due to various country lockdowns and government mandated remote working over the past few months.
For example, in Singapore, the company opened a new centre at OCBC Centre East in August and is working to ready its centre at The Centrepoint. But the completion and opening dates of both properties were delayed by about three months because of disruptions, he explains.
“In a post-Covid-19 world, we believe that co-working spaces will continue to play an important role as companies are more aware than ever of the need to seek for workspaces that offer maximum flexibility,” says Chia. He expects more businesses will house more employees in flexible workspaces going forward as a result of remote working, and as part of broader workforce decentralisation strategies.
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