Co-working space demand rises across Asia

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Co-working spaces in Singapore are increasingly popular with foreign start-ups looking to expand here. JustCo at 120 Robinson Road has an open space area where tenants can interact with one another. THE NATION (THAILAND)

LOWER rental price, open space for sharing ideas, and flexibility are the three main factors driving the strong demand for co-working spaces in Asia, notably Thailand, property experts said.

According to a survey conducted by The Nation, rental prices for co-working spaces in the region started at an average 1,500 baht ($45.84) and 2,500 baht per month, depending on the facilities and customer demand.

For example, JustCo’s co-working centre in Singapore’s Marina Square offers entrepreneurs, startups, and small and medium enterprises three rental packages – Just Desk at S$98 ($71.67) monthly, Just Desk Unlimited at S$398 monthly, and Just Desk Dedicated at S$750 a month.

All include flexible access to the desk in a communal work space and the benefits of shared facilities. For those needing privacy, there is Just Studio/Dedicated Unlimited, starting at S$800 monthly, said JustGroup Holdings Pte Ltd CEO Kong Wan Sing. Members can renew the contract on a monthly basis, he added.

At the Marina Square location, the average rent for a serviced office is $750 per 1,000 square feet (92.90sqm) with a minimum contract for one year.

At JustCo’s premises in AIA Tower Sathorn in Bangkok, the rental fee of Just Desk is set at 990 baht monthly – 3,900 baht monthly for unlimited access to desk-space – 6,900 baht monthly for unlimited access to a personal reserved workspace and desk, and 7,500 baht monthly for an exclusive studio. In comparison, the average rent of a serviced office in the same property would cost 950 baht per square metre, subject to a yearly contract.

Reasons behind popularity

The popularity of a co-working space can be attributed to the difference in rental costs as well as its environment, infrastructure and design, said Suphin Mechuchep, managing director at property consultant JLL Thailand.

To stay competitive, owners of office buildings need to consider adding a shared working space in their properties for individual users, she said. For retail complexes, a co-working space could boost traffic to the venues amid the challenge of e-commerce.

Suphin said the mix of users has now widened to employees of large corporations wanting their staff to learn and share ideas in a broader community.

“A co-working space should be easy to access, comes with good infrastructure, an appealing design and provides both public and private areas,” she said.

According to a survey by JustCo, in Bangkok co-working spaces currently make up one per cent of the office market of approximately eight million square metres.

JustCo predicted the share of co-working spaces in the Thai capital would reach five per cent in 2020. At present, JustCo manages 9,200 square metres of co-working space in Bangkok at AIA Sathorn Tower and Capital Tower.

A global surge

With the opening of its new premises at Samyan Mitr Town next year, that will increase to 17,200 square metres before reaching 30,000 in 2020.

Noelle Coak, Regus’s country head for Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea, said that co-working spaces have emerged as the definitive environment for startups, entrepreneurs and those who think out of the box to not only work but bring people together and build a real community.

“Most startup employees and entrepreneurs are millennials, accustomed to being connected all of the time, so it’s no surprise that they are increasingly looking for more inspiring options when working,” she said.

“Worker demand is changing, and it’s up to Thai businesses to evolve with their changing workforce.”

Regus is opening a new venue at the Chiang Mai Icon Park Hotel on Maneenopparat Road in June and will start up another premises in Bangkok at the Singha Complex in August.

The Regus Business Centre opened its doors at Bitec’s Bhiraj Tower in Bangkok early this year. According to a research by Angel Real Estate Consultancy Administrator, ‘Co-working space’ was set up in San Francisco in 2015 and since then it has gathered momentum.

According to the World Economic Forum, freelancers now account for 35 per cent of the total workforce in the United States, 16 per cent in Europe and their numbers are growing in Asia.

Globally, co-working spaces have been growing rapidly, surging from just 75 spaces in 2007 to more than 7,800 in 2015, according to a CBRE report. According to Colliers, the first co-working office in Thailand emerged in 2012, pioneered by local operator Hubba in the Ekamai area.

The number of co-working space projects nationwide rose from four in 2012 to 12, 20, 60, 120 and 132 from 2013-2017 respectively and is projected to reach 150 by the end of the year. There will soon be 25,000sqm of new space from 10 projects in Bangkok this year, boosting the total to 125,000, he said. However, that would only account for a mere 1-2 per cent of total office supply, estimated at 8.8 million square metres. THE NATION (THAILAND)