DEMAND for flexible offices – including co-working spaces and serviced offices – is growing faster in Asia Pacific than anywhere else in the world, according to new research by real estate consultant JLL.
The region’s stock of flexible floor space is growing at 35.7 per cent per year compared to 25.7 percent in the US and 21.6 per cent in Europe.
The report, which looks at major coworking and serviced office operators in 12 Asia Pacific markets, reveals that the number of major flexible space operators has doubled, while flexible floor space has increased by 150 per cent between 2014 and 2017.
“By 2030, flexible work spaces could comprise 30 per cent of corporate commercial property portfolios worldwide,” says Jeremy Sheldon, Managing Director, Markets & Integrated Portfolio Services, JLL Asia Pacific. “Although corporate adoption is still in its early days, there are certain factors that will continue to make this region a hot spot for coworking growth.”
A key driver, says the report, is that governments are encouraging entrepreneurship to offset the slow growth in traditional industries such as manufacturing, and are offering financial resources and backing for small companies, many of whom locate in coworking-style spaces.
For example, in Singapore, the government has supported the development of flexible locations such as the JTC LaunchPad, which is home to a number of tech start-ups.
Similarly, the New South Wales government supported the development of Sydney Startup Hub, a 17,000 sqm tech zone catering to aspiring entrepreneurs. Meanwhile reforms introduced by the Japanese government to improve work-life balance and productivity are also pushing domestic companies to explore more flexible ways of working.
The report also identifies plug-and-play simplicity as a factor in the growth in corporate demand, particularly for larger companies.
Bangkok, most of the existing coworking facilities are operated by Thai entrepreneurs and mainly cater demand from startups and freelancers. But there is a growing number of international and regional coworking space providers entering the market, such as WeWork at Asia Centre, Spaces at Chamchuri Square (plus community mall Summer Hill), Justco at AIA Sathorn Tower and soon at Capital Tower (All Seasons Place) and The Great Room whose facilities at Gaysorn Tower will open in the middle of this year. Occupying large space in prime office buildings, some of these operators are open to tailor space for small to medium companies looking for corporate offices, and large corporations looking for satellite offices or workplace for mobile workforce such as sales teams.
The ability to move in and out of an office at short notice, and avoid complicated contract negotiations and fit-out work is a convenient option for many occupiers. At the same time, businesses are looking to encourage collaboration among employees and are using shared workspaces as a way to foster innovation through exposure to new ideas and ways of working.
“Some companies have even started their own internal coworking facilities, or have incorporated features of flexible space into existing offices to make the work environment more engaging. This helps to build a community feel and can be a differentiator when it comes to attracting and retaining young talent,” says Susan Sutherland, Head of Corporate Solutions Research, JLL Asia Pacific.
However, there remain some barriers to the widespread use of flexible space. Large corporates place a high value on retaining their brand identity and culture as well as the need to protect data and secure their IT infrastructures.