What is flexible space?
Flexible space is workplaces that offer more flexibility to users than traditional offices. Generally, it provides users with work stations and office equipment, facilities and services.
Unlike traditional offices where rental is typically per square metre and tenants are typically committed to a three-year lease term, most flexible offices charge rental per workstation or per person per hour, day, week or month.
In Bangkok, flexible space generally refers to serviced offices and coworking spaces.
Serviced offices are typically more formal and corporate in nature. They tend to house businesses and established teams. Serviced offices usually provide occupants with telephone access, internet, and mail services as part of a monthly package. Some also include access to business equipment like fax machines, copiers, audio-visual equipment, and office furniture. However, there is a growing trend of new serviced offices adopting concepts and designs commonly associated with co-working, such as communal spaces.
There are many local and international operators that provide excellent serviced offices in Bangkok, but the better known ones are Regus and ServCorp.
Coworking spaces put a greater focus on creating a sense of community in co-working spaces. They prioritise networking and shared resources among tenants, and normally provide more amenities than serviced offices. Coworking spaces often have livelier, more dynamic and interactive environments to encourage innovations.
Most of the existing coworking spaces in Bangkok are located in standalone buildings, shophouses and retail/community malls, and are owned and operated by Thai entrepreneurs. Only a handful of coworking space providers operate in office buildings.
But this trend is changing as more overseas coworking space providers are setting up their footprint in Bangkok. These operators offer large facilities, occupying 3,000 sqm of space on average in prime office buildings. These include, as of this writing, two international brands, WeWork and Spaces, and two operators from Singapore, Justco and The Great Room. While some the existing operators have an aggressive expansion plan, there are more coworking brands looking for opportunities to enter Bangkok. Most of them are from Asia, including Japan, Hong Kong and Malaysia and are also looking for approximately 3,000 sqm of space in prime office buildings.
Why flexible space?
Typical users of serviced office are small businesses that need to provide employees with workstations, office equipment and facilities which they could not otherwise afford while coworking spaces are more popular among startups and freelancers or self-employed professionals looking for a more inspiring workplace, a social environment that encourages interactions and knowledge sharing.
In addition, there is growing trend of more corporates considering flexible space as a workplace option, lured by many advantages that it offers.
Short term contracts allow organisations to adjust headcount and accommodate changes to underlying business strategy, without being constrained by longer-term leasing commitments. Some occupiers can move towards a ‘core/flex’ strategy in which they take on a traditional office space lease for their core staff and lease workstations from a flexible space operator, ideally in close proximity to their core space, to accommodate headcount changes.
Per square metre basis, flexible space may be more expensive than traditional leased offices. But this may be traded off by the absence of capital outlay associated with office fitout, and more importantly increased flexibility.