In this ever-connected world, being ready for any crises or contagion – viral or otherwise – lies at the heart of successful and sustainable businesses
Planning for contingencies and business continuity is not an afterthought. In this ever-connected world, being ready for any crises or contagion – viral or otherwise – lies at the heart of successful and sustainable businesses.
For many occupiers, their business continuity plan (BCP) was put to the test with the recent COVID-19 outbreak. We witnessed the full application of remote working - companies implemented a variety of measures, from split-shifts to work-from-home arrangements and having alternative office locations. Segregation is key in containing an outbreak, and here is where we think flexible workspace comes in.
Contain and conquer
To be sure, flexible workspace needs no introduction. Many companies, including large multinational corporations, are using such spaces as part of their Flex and Core™ real estate strategy – which comprises a mix of traditional office space and flexible workspace.
From a commercial real estate perspective, Flex and Core™ helps occupiers manage uncertainty, dialing up or down their space needs in tandem with headcount movements and business objectives. This aspect of flexible workspace has been widely discussed, but less is said about how such spaces can support BCP. Obviously, having teams working in separate business locations lends itself to segregation and containment in the event of an outbreak.
We believe that the experience from remote working and having alternative work arrangements during the COVID-19 outbreak will encourage occupiers to better appreciate the merits of the Flex and Core™ strategy and in turn, be more willing to try out flexible workspaces.
And that is indeed the case, according to WeWork’s Managing Director for Southeast Asia and Korea, Turochas Fuad, in response to Colliers’ query.
WeWork: More “proactive conversations” about space as part of BCP
“We are seeing an increase in proactive conversations from our members and non-members in better understanding the importance and relevance of space-as-a-service as part of their BCP strategy,” noted Mr Fuad.
What has been encouraging, he added, is the proactiveness from enterprises that are not regulated by the government to have a BCP plan and small to mid-sized companies looking to future-proof their organisations. “We are definitely seeing greater savviness and preparedness displayed by the enterprises,” Mr Fuad shared.
WeWork, the largest flexible workspace operator in Singapore by net lettable area (as of end-2019), said it sees BCPs evolving towards becoming part of a business strategy and not just a measure, and addressing “scalability needs” will become central to companies’ BCP.
“In the event of a disruptive situation, having a back-up workspace is crucial where companies can relocate their teams to maintain business operations. As connectivity and flexible workspace solutions rise, there is greater expectations for business to continue as usual in today’s business climate,” Mr Fuad said.
Another upside, WeWork’s global network of flexible workspace centres means companies will have most if not all of their key markets covered. This will help to future-proof organisations’ operational efficiency by minimising disruptions to business.
Enablers of remote work
For remote working to work, other factors are at play too: technology and connectivity; robust workflow protocols; and a clear communication framework. Pertaining to technology, many firms have already migrated to the cloud (moving data, applications or other business elements to a cloud computing environment), allowing employees to access documents on the fly and work seamlessly from remote locations. This is definitely a plus and it supports the “anywhere, anytime, any device” future of work trend.
Having to reduce social gatherings, many companies have also turned to teleconferences and webinars to support collaboration and to ensure that business can go on as usual, as much as possible. This would require firms to constantly review and invest in their digital technology platform and tools.
Office market outlook
We are monitoring the market closely and we believe the COVID-19 outbreak will probably nudge occupiers to rationalise their real estate requirements and accelerate technology adoption sooner rather than later.
Over the next quarter or two, we expect leasing activity to slow a notch in view of the uncertainty arising from the virus outbreak. Looking at the longer term, however, we are confident that the Singapore office property market remains a sector of growth given the strong economic fundamentals of the country and its position as a global business and financial hub.
The heavy focus on healthcare and hygiene to help combat the outbreak also brings home the importance of wellness and workplace strategy programmes. We expect to see renewed interest in wellness from all segments of the market: occupiers; their employees; and developers/landlords.
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