How Chang­ing Work Prac­tices Will Af­fect the Bangkok Of­fice Mar­ket

Thai-American Business (T-AB) Magazine - - Property Trends - Writ­ten by: James Pitchon

The Thai work­force is chang­ing and there is a war for tal­ent in Thailand. This is chang­ing the way that com­pa­nies choose of­fice space and the ways that they de­sign and use their of­fice space.

Multi­na­tion­als and Thai com­pa­nies have recog­nised that of­fice space is a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of their op­er­at­ing costs. Ini­tially, com­pa­nies would fo­cus on cost and then re­al­ized that the lo­ca­tion, qual­ity and util­ity of a build­ing were im­por­tant and that in some cases, they would be able to get a more ef­fi­cient work­place that would be at­trac­tive to staff if they paid more.

FO­CUS ON SPACE UTI­LIZA­TION

The fo­cus to­day con­tin­ues to be on lo­ca­tion, build­ing qual­ity and util­ity but now, in ad­di­tion, the fo­cus is on how com­pa­nies use their space. The days when ev­ery man­ager had their own of­fice are long gone and are seen as an in­ef­fi­cient use of space and bar­ri­ers to com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Each em­ployee hav­ing their own desk may also be­come part of his­tory. Com­pa­nies want their work­place to en­cour­age ef­fi­ciency and col­lab­o­ra­tion, break­ing down the silo cul­ture and giv­ing em­ploy­ees the choice of how they want to work.

Un­til re­cently, many com­pa­nies set an of­fice space uti­liza­tion stan­dard of one per­son for ev­ery ten square me­ters of of­fice space. To­day the new tar­get is closer to one per­son for ev­ery six square me­ters of of­fice space. At the same time, com­pa­nies are in com­pe­ti­tion for the best em­ploy­ees and pro­vid­ing an at­trac­tive work­place may be the fac­tor that helps com­pa­nies win the bat­tle for tal­ent.

It would ap­pear that the two goals of re­duc­ing the num­ber of square me­ters per per­son and at the same time pro­vid­ing an at­trac­tive work­place are con- tra­dic­tory. This is not the case for most com­pa­nies, how­ever. A sim­ple test is to look around your of­fice dur­ing the work day and see how many desks are ac­tu­ally oc­cu­pied. There are few work­places where desks are oc­cu­pied for the whole work day. The key is to ob­serve how peo­ple work and use space and how man­age­ment would like their staff to work bet­ter with more col­lab­o­ra­tion and team­work and less bar­ri­ers to com­mu­ni­ca­tion and si­los. The key is to de­sign the workspace around how peo­ple work by pro­vid­ing ac­tiv­ity- based de­sign so­lu­tions in­clud­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive space, so­cial­iz­ing space, fo­cus space and meet­ing fa­cil­i­ties. CBRE is rolling out new work­place strate­gies for our own of­fices with 22 of the to­tal 372 of­fices now de­signed us­ing work­place strat­egy. CBRE’S old Tokyo of­fice was an open plan de­sign hous­ing 550 staff at a ra­tio of one per­son for ev­ery 8.5 square me­ters. CBRE’S new Tokyo of­fice houses 600 staff at ra­tio of one per­son for ev­ery six square me­tres in a much bet­ter work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

WHAT AT­TRACTS EM­PLOY­EES?

It is pos­si­ble to re­duce of­fice leas­ing costs, in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­cruit the best tal­ent. This means se­lect­ing build­ings where em­ploy­ees want to

work be­cause of lo­ca­tion, es­pe­cially mass tran­sit ac­cess and other fa­cil­i­ties such as fit­ness cen­tres and restau­rants. It also means se­lect­ing build­ings that are ef­fi­cient in terms of floor plate, lifts and cli­mate con­trol. Equally im­por­tant is de­sign­ing a work­place that matches the em­ploy­ees’ work pat­terns and pro­vides an at­trac­tive en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple look for­ward to com­ing to work each day.

Although Bangkok of­fice rents are among the cheap­est in the re­gion, they are ris­ing. De­spite the weak econ­omy, de­mand has con­tin­ued to grow and based on cur­rent fore­casts will ex­ceed the growth in sup­ply for at the least the next three years. Ris­ing rents mean that com­pa­nies will have to pay more at­ten­tion to space uti­liza­tion. This means that more thought and time is re­quired to be spent on a com­pany’s needs anal­y­sis be­fore look­ing at op­tions avail­able, whether that to stay in ex­ist­ing premises or re­lo­cate. The lim­ited amount of choice also means that com­pa­nies will have to com­mit to space ear­lier. This is al- ready hap­pen­ing with com­pa­nies sign­ing leases for space in build­ings that are still un­der construction.

The whole process of analysing of­fice space re­quire­ments and ex­e­cut­ing a cho­sen op­tion is go­ing to take longer be­cause of the need for more strate­gic anal­y­sis and the lim­ited num­ber of al­ter­na­tives.

James Pitchon is Head of Re­search at CBRE Thailand. He can be con­tacted at James. Pitchon@ cbre. co. th.

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