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Returning To The Office? Here Are 4 Main Factors To Consider

After two months of mandatory work-from-home for many businesses, Singapore is officially easing out of the circuit breaker. Nonetheless, as the economy gradually re-opens, the Singapore government continues to encourage businesses to work from home as much as possible in Phase 1 of re-entry. For now, working from an office is only permitted where absolutely necessary.

Even though you may not be rushing back to the office anytime soon, now is actually a good time to start planning ahead. Your business situation may have changed, and in turn, so will the considerations that go into finding the right space.

Businesses have to weigh many factors such as: health concerns, maintaining office culture, motivating employees, managing communications as well as balancing business continuity and adjusting to fast-changing business goals.

In this handy guide, we walk through the different factors to think about when finding workspace in the “new normal.”

1) Size

Office size or headcount is likely the first consideration that comes to mind when starting your search. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and tightened safety regulations, it was acceptable to budget around 45 to 60 square feet per headcount.

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) advises that workstations should be positioned at least 1 meter apart, translating to a recommended range of 80 to 100 square feet per person. This “de-densification of workspace” means that you may potentially need a little more space to accommodate your full team.

Alternatively, consider whether it’s necessary to have your entire team in the same office at the same time. Many businesses are considering split-team arrangements, where working hours are staggered across different sets of employees. For example, Team A would work in the office on Mondays and Wednesdays, while Team B works in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, thereby minimizing the risk of cross-infection. Swiss furniture company Vitra recommends workstations to be thoroughly sanitized between shifts.

Key questions to answer:

  • How many employees do you expect to have in one office? Do all functions need to be present at the same time?
  • Who in your team should return to the office first? Could your re-entry happen in stages?
  • Do you need additional space for meeting rooms or storage?
  • What is your preferred office layout? An open office setup tends to require less overall space than a traditional cubicle setup.

 

Flexible workspaces, which includes coworking spaces, serviced offices and fitted offices offer customisable private team rooms that can be rearranged to accommodate social distancing measures. Regus, for example, enables split-team arrangements for tenants by allowing them to take up additional space in adjacent private  units for spillover headcount.

2) Location

Companies that choose the split-team model can opt to house their employees in different locations.  To accommodate the sudden surge for workspace, many have found solutions in flexible workspaces.

Businesses recognize that certain client-facing functions—such as sales and business development—may require more mobility over backend roles. Jobs that require greater mobility require a wider  range of options.  As work-from-home regulations ease, some employees have learned to appreciate working from home.  Others prefer working in an office closer to home, to minimise travel time and risk of infection on crowded public transportation.

Working from home is not always possible or conducive for many employees in Asia, where housing is typically smaller. Flexible workspace locations outside of the dense central business district (CBD) are becoming very attractive for distributed teams, including relatively new business hubs likePaya Lebar, Tampines and Jurong.

Two real estate models to consider:

  • Core-and-flex: in this setup, a business complements a traditional HQ space (the “core”) with additional flexible workspace options (the “flex”), oftentimes in the same building or elsewhere. These “flex” options are used for additional temporary headcount, specialized teams or innovation labs, just to name a few examples. Read more about the advantages of the hybrid “core-and-flex” model here.
  • Hub-and-spoke: the hub-and-spoke model may be more directly relevant to working during COVID-19. The focus is on prioritizing wellness and minimizing the need for travel by taking up space at flexible workspaces in different locations. The “hub” typically houses senior management and key decision makers of a business.  All other services or smaller “spokes” are housed in different locations, allowing for flexibility in rental leases as well as convenience.  Employees can choose to work out of “spokes” closer to their homes or clients.  Depending on the nature of their work, employees can “drop in” at a “spoke” office to work for the day, week or month.

 

3) Safety

It goes without saying that businesses must tread carefully while the COVID-19 pandemic is still active. Even after the health crises subsides, the pandemic is likely to have a long-lasting impact on standards for health and wellness in the workplace.

A crucial step is to check in with your employees – have conversations on what measures are most important for them to feel safe again at work. While community infection numbers have significantly decreased, it’s expected for employees to continue to have anxieties about returning to the office. Conduct company-wide polls or surveys in advance to see what kinds of changes employees are hoping to see in their working environment.

When looking for a new workspace, ask operators key questions about health and safety protocols:

  • How often and thoroughly are they cleaning or sanitizing workspaces? Are they using hospital grade cleaning products?
  • What design changes have they implemented to enable social distancing, especially in common areas with high human traffic?
  • How are events or meetings facilitated, if at all? Do members get access to virtual communities?
  • What are the safety entry/ exit protocols in place?
  • How is technology used to minimize risk? (for example, does this workspace use touchless technology for safe entry)

Thankfully, many flexible workspace operators in Singapore have been proactive in stepping up their health and safety regulations. In fact, we recently conducted an extensive survey with our partners to learn about the initiatives they’re taking to minimize risk for their tenants or coworking members. Read more about these health and safety measures here.

4) Flexibility

As we collectively navigate this “new normal”, it’s impossible to confidently predict the economic and business climate.  While we want to be COVID-safe, we also want to restart 2020.

That’s why it’s crucial for companies to manage their business uncertainty and risk  by opting for as much lease flexibility as possible. To help businesses grapple with COVID-19, a number of flexible workspace operators are now offering month-to-month flexibility.  Some operators have also given generous rental discounts on longer lease commitments.

Beyond safety concerns, many businesses are also looking to minimize costs during this period. When exploring your options, look out for any ongoing deals and promotions!

To help you reduce your real estate spend, GorillaSpace has compiled all promotions and business continuity solutions currently offered by our partners. As of June 2020, deals are available to help you shave up to 4 months off your rent!

Final thoughts

Re-entering the workspace is uncharted territory for most businesses. We recommend looking  at your existing work place practices and re-evaluating whether they can be adapted for the “new normal” post-circuit breaker.

There is ultimately no “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to finding the right workspace. Apart from the main factors outlined in this article, you will likely also take into account your specific needs, industry, and business challenges.

At GorillaSpace, our smart recommendation engine addresses your specific requirements. Simply tell us about your requirement, and our engine will match you with a curated shortlist of workspaces with the right qualities and availability. Try it out here!  It’s fast and it’s free to use.

Love tech, and yet prefer the a human touch? Contact our friendly Space Experts who will  walk through your requirements and take you on guided virtual tours of workspaces. With this feature, you can get a real feel of your options without having to leave your home.

Contact us at support@gorillaspace.co or +65 8817 9170. Happy space searching!

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