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Flexible workspace: A strategy to cope with uncertainties

Flexible workspace: a strategy to cope with uncertainties

Let’s face it, the pace of change in the business world is accelerating and for many organisations, there is just too much at stake to do nothing and wait for events to unfold.

Business leaders of today have had to grapple with heightened risks, technological disruption, changing workforce, as well as societal and political upheavals. More so than ever, anticipating and planning for uncertainties has become an important part of the management’s mandate.

Bastiaan van Beijsterveldt, Director of Office Services at Colliers International, said, “Against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving business landscape, companies want to be nimble and be able to change course quickly, if the need arises. For most occupiers, one big area of uncertainty is in headcount projection, and my view is that the emergence of flexible workspace has given them more options to cope with organisational, talent, and HR challenges to some extent.”

Flexible workspace boom

It thus comes as no surprise that corporates are taking to flexible workspace – serviced office and coworking centres - like fish to water, leading to a surge in demand for such spaces in recent years. This has, in turn, led the sector to flourish in Singapore.

For many occupiers, flexible workspace has become a strategic component of their real estate strategy. However, it appears there is still a gap in expectations between occupiers and operators, as revealed in a Colliers Roundtable discussion held recently.

What do occupiers want? 

Real estate needs differ from firm to firm, and much will depend on the life cycle of the business and its phase of growth. Occupiers shared with Colliers on what they are looking for in a flexible workspace, and some challenges they have encountered:

  • Flexibility. As it is difficult to estimate headcount needs, firms appreciate the ability to dial up or down their space requirements in tandem with business growth or cutbacks.

  • Saleable. Corporate real estate personnel want a flexible workspace proposal that they can ‘sell’ to their management. Some occupiers said that it is important that the flexible workspace ties in with the look and feel of their core space. More crucially, the amount of desk space allocated to staff should not be radically different between the core and flex premises.

  • Desk space. There must be options to cater to varying staff needs. For instance, some employees have to work with multiple screens and would need larger desk space.

  • Bigger private offices. A number of occupiers shared that they would like to see some reduction in the ‘pretty spaces’ – such as the large common areas or social spaces – and channel those space to make larger private offices.

  • Crowding. An observation was that operators tend to to allocate more people into the offices than the traditional occupier would like to. For example, an occupier noted that the firm put 70 desks in what was offered as a 120-seat equivalent space.

  • Swing space within the same building. Occupiers prefer flex space within the same building; where possible, landlords could provide temporary swing space to house the firm’s staff, during fit-outs for example.

  • Confidentiality is a key. The lack of which makes it difficult for occupiers to use certain providers or the front-of-house and common areas in the flexible workspace centres.

  • Location and amenities. These could make or break deals. Occupiers want a flex space in a place that is near their core space, with ample amenities for their staff.

  • Ease of doing deals. Positive customer service experience and ease of doing business rank highly among occupiers.

  • Customisation. Operators need to come up with a menu of choices for occupiers because most businesses would need some form of customisation.


“There is no one-size-fits-all solution. For instance, a startup might base its operations entirely out of a flexible workspace centre, while a larger firm may only deploy certain business units to such spaces and keep the rest of its staff in the core office. A flexible workspace membership, for example, works well for salespeople who travel a lot and require a work desk in different cities,” added Mr. van Beijsterveldt.

The flexible workspace sector in Singapore is expected to continue to grow as more occupiers embrace the Flex and Core™ strategy, which features a combination of flexible workspace and conventional office space. Based on Colliers Research, flexible workspace accounted for the bulk of net office absorption in 2017-2018. Since 2015, the flexible workspace sector has tripled its footprint in Singapore, occupying 4.4% of Grade A space in the central business district.

Contact Colliers to find out if flexible workspace works for your organisation.


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Bastiaan VB

Executive Director & Head

Occupier Services


Bastiaan is currently an Executive Director and Head of the Occupier  Services team. Bastiaan manages and leads the Tenant Representation, Project Management and Industrial Brokerage function.  His main focus is ensuring team performance and growth in tandem with leading  complex transaction projects for diverse global multinational companies with occupancy needs throughout Singapore.

Pertinent to this assignment Bastiaan has led complex transaction projects for diverse global multinationals throughout the entire Asia-Pacific region and his expertise includes transaction management, tenant representation, portfolio reviews and divestment analysis.

In Asia - Pacific, Bastiaan lived and worked in; Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia and Australia.

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