The Way It Works

by Marc Almagro
22 Nov 2021

A leading shared offices brand responds to the challenges that arise with the pandemic

A cultural intelligence principle, core and flex is finding useful and varied applications in other fields of endeavor. Enterprises that perform sustained, long-term operations within a space, and have developed essential yet less regular activities apply a version of it as a strategy. 

Jaelle Ang, CEO and Founder, The Great Room

This is a proposition that co-working space brand The Great Room offers in its fifth location in Singapore, confirms Jaelle Ang, its CEO and Founder. “Essentially, we are empowering enterprises to choose to occupy one or several of our dedicated offices to serve as their core headquarters in the long-term, opt for flexible hot desks, or adopt both options, depending on the arrangement that best suits their needs.”

The Great Room, Afro-Asia will have 50 dedicated offices, up to 16 on-demand hot offices and 41 hot desks, and a host of conferencing and meeting areas.

In Asia, the fastest growing flexible workspace segment is the premium grade-A office, Ang highlights, as more enterprises adopt flexible workspace strategies driven by the desire to optimize office real estate, win the **** for talent, and raise employee productivity and well-being.

(Related: This CEO is all about making workspaces more human)

The traditional office is evolving rapidly. With agility and nimbleness being keys to sustainability and success, tenants’ growth objectives are often stymied by the limitations and inflexibility of long-lease office spaces. This becomes even more obvious with the benefits of adopting flexible workplaces in times of uncertainty.

Although the current penetration of flexible workspace is at a low 2 to 3 per cent of total commercial real estate in Asia, it is expected to be at 30 per cent by 2030, showing its immense growth potential of the market in this decade alone.


An Evolving Workplace

“The role of the office is changing. Beyond densifying the headcount per square foot, it is about activity-based working for different functions, and the office being a place of collaboration, decision making – the modern agora for learning,” Ang explains.

“As a hospitality-led brand, we put people at the focus of our offering,” Ang declares. “This is a pandemic of loneliness as well as of a virus, and we have all come to realize the importance of connection.” At The Great Room, Afro-Asia, members will have access to seamless, ‘invisible technology’ and amenities—including a podcast room where they can reach out to their audiences effectively. They will be updated with handwritten notes and invited to virtual events which are designed to “bring some levity and playfulness” to their workday. These will become part of creative programming that the team will roll out for varying levels of restrictions.

“Our spaces are built for not only collaboration, but also privacy; we generally cover a fair amount of square-footage, so we have been able to accommodate safe distancing measures with ease,” Ang adds.

Afro-Asia will be the brand’s biggest location at 37,000sqft, with clean lines and uncluttered spaces that provide a calming easy to maintain environment. “Rigorous standards of housekeeping have always been a part of our operations, and we have doubled down on this during the pandemic of course.”

(Related: The end of the workplace as we know it)


Designing Sustainability

Climate change and environmental issues have placed new demands on the workplace, and The Great Room has committed to aligning its policies and protocols with the greater workspace sustainability goals.

Ang admits that although they have a long way to go, they are “moving proactively towards embedding sustainability for the planet and for the self in their DNA”.

Members of The Great Room, among them high-performing financial and technology companies, social mission-driven entities, brands of sustainability, and NGOs, are also expecting and demanding the same level of social commitment, Ang notes.

The Great Room looked at design, as well as Afro-Asia’s existing sustainability credentials, as first steps in creating a sustainable work environment. The structure is Green Mark- and LEED Platinum-certified and rated, a fitting inspiration to the way The Great Room’s interiors are articulated. More recycled and upcycled materials have been incorporated into this than in other locations, which Ang promises to maintain as they expand.

The Great Room worked with award-winning London and Hong Kong-based designer Joyce Wang on materials selection and procurement, as well as in investing in local artisans where possible. Several artworks, installations and furniture were co-created with local artisans, including ethical woodcraftsmen Roger&Sons. “Serving as a community anchor point and pièce de résistance at the center of the Drawing Room, the (Roger&Sons) table is specially crafted from Singapore-grown mahogany, resulting in a net-zero carbon footprint.”

The Great Room, Afro-Asia is also paying attention to energy reduction through lighting. Working with specialists DJCoalition, they have devised a lighting scheme that will reduce energy use per member in the next five years, without sacrificing efficiency and ambience.


Wellness At Work

“Our ethos, ‘It’s all work. It’s all play’, reflects our goal of being a modern-day hub for work and play, business and pleasure,” Ang highlights. This is reflected in a programing that has always included wellness activities, networking, professional development talks and workshops, as well as fun and entertainment.

The popularity of its wellness activities, which includes gong meditation in all their locations, have led to the creation of a dedicated wellness room, which allows members to take a mindfulness break or join restorative programs like sound healing, breathwork exercises and yoga.

“Having an area completely dedicated to wellness is a first for our brand,” Ang enthuses, “and a feature that I believe many of our members will embrace.” This will be further amplified at the Afro-Asia location, where a unique space, The Sky Garden, will bring “a dash of nature in the CBD”.