How is the coworking culture in Asia different from the rest of the world? How are coworking operators responding to evolving userships? Jaelle Ang of The Great Room shares her insights.
27 July, 2018
The coworking market in Asia has been described as booming, with growth in the region outpacing the global average. Key growth factors include the entry of real estate players and an expanding usership by corporate clients. How are coworking operators in the region responding to evolving business needs? In what directions are our work habits changing and how is design addressing global work trends and the cultural nuances of diverse Asian cities? Upon the opening of The Great Room’s (TGR) latest location in Ngee Ann City in Singapore and its expansion to Bangkok (with the opening of an office at Gaysorn Tower), we asked the brand’s co-founder Jaelle Ang to share her insights about catering to Asia’s coworking cohort. Both new venues were designed by Michael Fiebrich Design.
“People nowadays want flexibility in a workspace, and in today’s startup culture, companies are fast-growing. They can be a team of two growing to a team of four or eight in a span of a few months,” Ang observes. TGR’s dedicated offices, which fit teams of two to twenty, provide the flexibility such businesses need. In addition to hot desks and dedicated offices, a hybrid called the Hot Office accommodates one to four pax and can be booked by the hour.
“Destination coworking is on the rise,” Ang shares, “catering to the jet-set nature of work today and the need for supportive business touchdown points in major cities.”
With these converging trends, Ang says coworking operators “are going the extra mile in terms of curating a unique experience for members”. She says, “Experienced coworkers now know what they like and dislike about coworking, and operators will need to keep up with the evolution to stay on top of their game.”
Ang identifies that there is a “physical DNA and native community” at each location. She says, “Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok are very cosmopolitan cities yet each has a distinctive culture. The ways of working, human interactions, organisational hierarchies, and dynamics between requiring privacy and collaborative spaces are quite nuanced.”
Each of TGR’s offices has been designed by a hospitality designer (its earlier offices at One George Street and Centennial Tower were designed HASSELL), based on a studied approach. “Before we design each space, we lean on the intelligence and data from our last design as well as in-depth interviews with potential users to understand both the organisational and cultural aspects of what work and play means to them.”
Referring to Ngee Ann City, she says, “Many global consumer brands, design and fashion groups have their base in the Orchard Road precinct. We expect our members and users here to be fiercely glamorous and bold. Interiors used to inspire fashion, but now fashion is also informing interiors – that’s reflected in the juxtaposition of raw and refined materials: cool marbles, gleaming metallic surfaces and rich timbers. We pushed the envelope to have a highly graphic stone pattern on the floor and played with a rather provocative selection of artworks that would ignite thought and conversations.”
Ang, who is architecture- and finance-trained, adds, “It’s not about throwing wads of money at design, either. Good design doesn’t have to be vastly expensive. My background is in hotel development, and very often in that area, in my experience, it is possible to deliver a five-star product on a three-star budget. There is always a strict budget, even at the high end… I’m quite proud of the fact that, being disciplined with the allocation of funds, we were able to create such a beautiful space while adhering to lean start-up principles.”
Ang sees TGR spaces as unique environments that offer more comfort and excitement than a home or an office. She explains, “It should be a space that facilitates quiet, private work, or socialising and chance encounters that could lead to ongoing relationships, both business associations and friendships – a space that fosters community. In a hotel lobby, meeting someone new could spell the start of an interesting night. At The Great Room, meanwhile, that chance encounter could help transform your business from struggling start-up to potential IPO. It’s all about setting the stage for those unexpected moments of delight.”
Photography by EK Yap, courtesy of The Great Room
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