Introduction – Remote Working Trends
It's undeniable that the workplace has evolved, and this evolution has come in many shapes and sizes. Gone are the days where companies could afford to wait and see how the pandemic played out, taking short term extensions in their existing office space and kicking the can down the road. It's been almost 2 years since we had our "Circuit Breaker” in Singapore, yet Covid-19 is still very much so a part of our lives.
Companies have had to pivot their Real Estate strategies at an unprecedented pace to get with the times, and in the past 2 years we have witnessed work-from-home trends take root in many companies.
This has been welcome news for many employees – travelling from the residential hubs to the CBD can take anywhere from 40-60 minutes, and it is no secret that a large majority of Singapore's workforce stays in the heartlands. A recent study conducted by Randstad showed that 41% of respondents would rather take home an average bonus than work in the office all the time, and more employees are demanding some level of flexibility in their working arrangements.
Working From Home - Limitations
As much as WFH is a trend that many have grown to love, the WFH model does have its limitations. Working from home simply isn’t the most conducive for everyone - Houses have gotten smaller over the years, and not every household has the means to have a dedicated room for work. Even if there is, there is an ever-increasing chance that more than 1 person in the household is working from home at any given point of time. Add in the household pet, the neighbour's ongoing renovations or a newborn child and you have a living WFH nightmare.
The default assumption that working remotely means working from home still holds true for most people. Though it comes with its limitations, most companies have made it work to varying degrees of success. However, we can always strive for better.
Working Near Home
Putting aside the pandemic, which everyone hopes will come to a swift end, one of the main driving forces of remote working is the desire to cut commuting time and to bring the office closer to home.
It is understandable that talent retention is a key metric in any office relocation exercise, which is why not many firms are willing to relocate away from the CBD to move closer to the heartlands. Relocating the entire office to Tampines or Jurong would lead to some attrition in the workforce.
If one looks at the situation from a quantitative perspective, a 30-minute increase in commuting time per day would add up to roughly 125 hours of travelling time per year.
The recent establishment of commercial hubs are a potential solution to this conundrum, seemingly pre-empting the Covid-19 nightmare of the last 2 years. For example, the recently completed Paya Lebar Quarters which sits atop a MRT interchange boasts a reputable international tenant mix. This ranges from pharmaceutical giants Bayer to our very own SMRT Corporation. Factor in the recent upgrading of the Singapore Post Centre mall and you have a trendy commercial centre with a wide array of amenities.
Paya Lebar Central is a prime example of how distributing commercial activity throughout the island is an excellent way of bringing jobs closer to homes while reducing congestion and travel into the city center.
Despite the improved infrastructure, the idea of working near home in one of these commercial hubs is still a foreign concept to many. In my conversations with clients and friends alike, WFH is a common topic of interest, though I am yet to stumble upon someone who mentions working out of a satellite office.
These commercial hubs are home to notable coworking centres (Example: JustCo in Asia Green, Spaces in Paya Lebar Quarters and Regus in Vision Exchange) which provide flexible plans catering to a wide range of requirements without a long lock-in period.
It may not be for everyone, but it certainly has its merits. At a fraction of the cost, companies can establish satellite offices in these coworking centres and provide employees with the option to work near home. To put it simply, enabling hybrid work has never been easier.
This could be a cost-efficient means of tackling the limitations of working from home while still catering to the growing demand for remote work.
Could this be the final evolved form of remote working? Probably not. Would this be worth a shot? Most definitely yes.