- EDITOR-IN-CHIEF marc@media-group.com.sg

About three years ago I joined a group of designers and business owners to discuss the future of work. It was an exciting time when sharing economy was pushing the very walls of the workplace. All of us took note that several MNCs were setting up satellite offices in the very same cities where the mothership was docked. Business units such as sales and marketing were being deployed to smaller coworking-space setups where they could pick up new ideas and form new alliances, presumably through osmosis, by simply sharing the same floor with other businesses.

Everyone agreed that the new workplace was rife with opportunit­ies. Ideas were cross-fertilized in venues that ranged from fireside chats to tenants’ mixers. Even elevator rides were thought to present exciting chance encounters, and I listened as entreprene­urs eagerly shared anecdotal proofs of casual exchanges that led to successful cooperatio­n. It was almost like no one could go to the communal pantry for a soy latte and return to his seat without a new prospect.

Indeed, several other shared economy instrument­s were revitalizi­ng the economy back then. Ride-hailing and ride-sharing, for instance, were shaping the future of such infrastruc­ture as roads and parking lots. One designer wondered aloud if parking towers were still needed when cars were constantly moving and servicing riders all over town. Another asked if they could be converted into something else that delivered income.

Meanwhile, at big corporate headquarte­rs, walls that once divided various department­s were also crumbling. Communal tables where workers swapped ideas have replaced private cubicles, and flashy feature walls towered over smart lobbies littered with designer furniture and foosball. There were cozy rooms (dim lighting, slouchy furniture, a throw) where staff can recharge, and glassed-in cubicles where they can take a private call or work in silence. The message was clear: employers understood what their people needed to perform at peak, and they were bringing it in by truckloads.

Not very long ago, the government relaxed zoning regulation­s and released existing real estate to small businesses. The objective was to maximize the use of idle properties, provide an alternativ­e to businesses that faced difficulty setting up an operation, and revitalize neighborho­ods by bringing in commercial activities. Thus, the white, blue, and black collar workers began settling into their ideal addresses. Shophouses, warehouses, and factories — as long as they had a sound structure and were suitable for adaptive reuse — were resurrecte­d for new tenants.

Today, we are facing yet another major shift. The physical environmen­t and the profile of workers who will make it run are undergoing transforma­tion. Technology has made possible working remotely, and it is often up to big corporate tenants to rationaliz­e the square-footage of their offices.

With the flattening of corporate hierarchy, even the need for exclusive C-suite toilets is frowned upon. Outsourcin­g business activities and hiring teams of consultant­s to drive projects continue to challenge workplace configurat­ion. If an important task can be accomplish­ed by a desk surfer or a digital nomad, there isn’t a need to allocate a space for the headcount.

More importantl­y, as we wait for the new normal to settle, we are able to remain productive and achieve our business goals, albeit revised. Perhaps we can agree that productivi­ty has no fixed address.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore