At your service - short-term office space, some with secretarial support

Start-up owners Alex Yeo (right), 31, and Shawn Lau, 19, like working from the smart work centres at three community libraries because of their convenient locations and conducive environment.
Start-up owners Alex Yeo (right), 31, and Shawn Lau, 19, like working from the smart work centres at three community libraries because of their convenient locations and conducive environment.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Demand rises for short-term rentals of such spaces in convenient spots

More companies are turning to short-term serviced offices to avoid high start-up costs and to take advantage of the flexibility such offices offer.

Apart from being able to rent offices for short-term periods, from an hour to six months, companies also get help in the form of phone lines, Internet access and even secretarial support.

Regular offices are usually rented based on a three-year contract and typically require the company to spend money on furniture.

A check with four serviced office operators show that they are running at nearly full capacity and have plans to expand over the next year.

Ms Stella Ong, country manager of Compass Offices, which runs serviced offices in Raffles Place, said demand is especially strong from start-ups and international firms new to Singapore.

"With serviced offices, companies can start working immediately and focus on their businesses," she said.

Ms Benita Wahjudi, director of Signature Space, which runs serviced offices in Raffles Place and Ubi, said her clients, which include start-ups and consultancies, find it useful that they can tap on technology and administrative support teams.

"We take care of the daily operational and support issues," she said.

The rising demand for flexible working hours and spaces is another reason why workspace provider Regus has set up three work centres at community libraries in Toa Payoh, Geylang East and Jurong, said Regus' country manager, Mr Paul MacAndrew

"Employers and employees can cut down the commuting time and the stress of travelling to the city centre," he said.

Firms pay about $8 an hour or about $20 a day to rent deskspace at the libraries.

But such convenience is not cheap either. Property experts said monthly rents at serviced offices are higher than at permanent offices.

For regular offices, rentals for a workspace for one worker costs on average about $1,200 a month.

But for serviced offices, rents for the same space could be as high as $2,000 a month, said industry players.

Mr Raymond Lau, director of office lease and sales agency Griffin Rock Properties, said: "Some serviced offices also charge for everything, from paper to printing."

Ms Cheng Siow Ying, executive director of business space at property services firm DTZ, expects demand for serviced offices to remain strong as firms are drawn by cost savings from renovation and buying furniture.

One boss who believes he is saving money this way is Mr Lee Thiam Hock, general manger of European pipe systems manufacturer Klinger's Singapore office. He has been renting a serviced office from operator Signature Space in Raffles Place for six years. He pays $2,500 a month for the office, shared with a staff member.

"I save on employing a secretary, who will cost over $2,000 a month," said Mr Lee.

Other business owners like the rented workspaces for their convenient locations.

Mr Alex Yeo, who owns financial education course provider BigFatPurse, likes to work from the smart work centre at Jurong Regional Library, which is near his Bukit Batok home.

"The library environment is conducive. I get a lot of work done," he said.

ameltan@sph.com.sg