Coworking, flexible workspace: An emerging driver of property demand

MANILA, Philippines – Coworking offices and flexible workspaces are usually associated with startups but this perception is changing, as the demand for short-term communal office spaces is on the rise. 

A recent report by JLL showed that flexible workspaces have slowly become one of the leading drivers of office space demand, a trend that is expected to continue. 

JLL Director for Research and Consultancy Janlo de los Reyes told Rappler in a chance interview on Thursday, April 11, that they are "seeing around 2,000 seats in a year in the past 3 to 5 years."

"We're still expecting that number to grow because a lot of new flexible workspace operators are coming into the market and they're also aggressively expanding," he added.  (READ: Megaworld-WeWork deal seen to draw more foreign firms to Philippines)

Convenient, temporary

KMC Solutions legal counsel and co-founder Amanda Rufino-Carpo told Rappler that finding a temporary space is the first thing investors look for before setting up shop. 

Carpo said that they began their business with guiding foreign companies through SEC registration, visas, and recruitment. Helping foreign firms look for temporary office space became second nature to the company soon after.

"We realized that space is something that any person doing business needs to juggle so we’re providing a smoother entry: a temporary office, a way to start whether that’s a virtual office or staff leasing or built-to-suit [space]," she said.

"We didn’t invent this business. It’s because we listened to what the client wanted," Carpo added. 

KMC announced earlier this week that it received the support of Singaporean private equity company ASEAN Industrial Growth Fund to fuel its expansion in and outside Metro Manila. 

Lars Wittig, Regus Philippines and SPACES by IWG country manager said in a briefing on April 4 that temporary office locations help companies that may need to move locations multiple times.

"Because the speed of change is so radical, it’s basically impossible today for conventional or regular business, even multinationals, what their workspace needs are 10 or 5 years from now; maybe even 5 months," Wittig said.

Adapting to efficiency

As property developers shift towards self-contained townships, new buildings are also seen to adapt to the changing needs of locators by hosting more flexible spaces before setting up built-to-suit offices for clients.

"All the developers are realizing that the flexible office is here to stay and they want a part of their portfolio to have some flexible office," Carpo said. 

"I can’t say what percentage the flexible workspaces in their portfolio but all developers want a piece of it: Ayala has their own, Robinsons has their own, [and] Megaworld partnered with WeWork," she added. 

This has other benefits aside from attracting more locators, said Jordan Kostelac, JLL Proptech director for Asia Pacific.

Buildings with only about 5% of flexible workspaces can translate to about 45% efficiency of operations during normal operating hours, he said. He added that  increasing the workspace coverage to 30% bumps up efficiency by 80%.

Kostelac said the use of temporary office locations also helps the environment in the long run "because we’re using that space in a more effective way and that translates into less use of resources, including the resources of not having to build the next building."  – Rappler.com