Co-working spaces don't just provide a physical space to work – these three new ones look great and are designed to help your business as well!

The Great Room co-working space
The best place to hang out at to work or mingle is at The Drawing Room, which could be mistaken for a fancy hotel lobby. Photo: The Great Room

The Great Room, 1 George Street, #10-01

Dread having to drag yourself out of bed on Monday mornings? Not if you work at The Great Room.

The newly opened co-working space is so stylishly designed that you might even be tempted to go to the office early and stay longer than you need to. In fact, the space could be mistaken for a fancy hotel lobby, which is what Jaelle Ang, co-founder and CEO of The Great Room, intended it to be. "When you walk into a well-designed hotel lobby, it feels different from conducting business in a stiff and grey office," she says. "You feel an elevated sense of purpose and connection with people – like today is the day you are going to sign that deal, or meet that special business partner."

Celeste Chong, The Great Room's director of marketing, says: "We want to change the way people feel about coming to work."

The Great Room co-working space
Dedicated Offices are designed for teams of two to 20. Photo: The Great Room

The 15,000 square foot Grade A office space was designed by hospitality specialist Distillery Studio, who also designed Manhattan Bar at the Regent Hotel. "We specifically wanted the design to be led by a hotel designer, not an office designer," says Ms Ang, who previously worked in the hospitality industry.

And when Distillery Studio merged with international design firm Hassell last year, Ms Ang says that they ended up with the best of both worlds. Hassell is known for designing cool offices. "What we got in the end was a beautifully designed space, with all of the intelligence and business efficiency of an office," says Ms Ang.

Most of the furniture are bespoke pieces and have been ergonomically designed without compromising on aesthetics. The colour theme here is mostly blue and tan, which Ms Ang calls "the new corporate neutrals". She also worked with art gallery The Artling to fit out the co-working space with a curated collection of over 30 works from Singapore-based artists, such as Tang Ling Nah and Ketna Patel, with pieces ranging from paintings to photography.

The Big Room co-working space
Hot desks are available around The Great Room, and many come with window seats that look out at the city skyline. Photo: Arthur Lee

Members of The Great Room have various options to pick from for their workspace. Hot desks are available around the office, and many come with window seats that look out at the city skyline. For those who want a little more privacy, The Great Room offers Hot Offices, which are private offices that can fit one to four people. Members can book these rooms for two hours, two days or even two weeks.

Then there are the Dedicated Offices, designed for teams of two to 20. Ms Ang says that such offices are good for those who still want to be near Raffles Place, but not experience the typical stuffy, corporate feel. These rooms can be booked for a minimum three-month period. These offices come with timber desks, leather task chairs, storage shelves with brass detailing, flattering lighting and good fengshui.

The Great Room co-working space
Hot Offices are private offices that can fit one to four people. Photo: The Great Room

Other features that The Great Room has include the State Room, a boardroom which can seat 14 people, with private access to the bar area, as well as several Phone Booths, which are insulated private phone booths.

But the best place to hang out at to work or mingle is at The Drawing Room. "Our advantage is that we offer that hospitality touch," says Ms Ang.

The Great Room co-working space
The State Room can seat 14 people (above), with private access to the bar area, as well as several insulated private phone booths. Photo: The Great Room

Members get free coffee, tea, and filtered water, and they can purchase snacks at discounted prices. To fight off the Monday blues, The Great Room will soon introduce a Monday Breakfast Club, where members can enjoy complimentary breakfast on Mondays, with their Papa Palheta coffee. Tired workers can also have a massage on Monday afternoons for a fee, and as the day winds down, a turndown cart brings around a warm cookie for those who are staying late to work. "We want our members to look forward to Monday," says Ms Chong.

From August, The Great Room will start offering yoga lessons on its premises. But it is not just all play. Business concierges will be on hand to act as connectors between members, and there will also be social networking events.

The Great Room offers day passes at S$70 a day, and membership from S$750 a month which grants them access to Hot Office usage. The rates for Dedicated Offices vary according to room size. Some of its current members include a non-profit organisation, recruitment firm, and a talent management company.

Ms Ang says The Great Room is not targeting any industry but rather "specific mindsets". "These would be the thinkers and influencers in various industries."

She adds: "We see ourselves as a grown-up co-working space, one that is stylish, and refined."

Industrial inspiration

Wonder Facility co-working space
Durable and cost-effective racks along the stairs provide more storage space, resulting in a feature wall. Photo: Sean Lee

Wonder Facility, 73 Ubi Road 1

Wonder Facility is unlike any co-working space in Singapore. It doesn't target the typical user, such as start-up companies, but is meant more for the artistic crowd.

Its founder, artist/designer Olivia Lee, says that the 1,000 square foot workspace which comes with a mezzanine, was designed to fill the gap between co-working space and art studios. "Wonder Facility was developed for design studios, artists and digital nomads who are drawn to co-working arrangements but yet prefer quieter and more settled environments," she says.

For her, co-working spaces can no longer be just transactional work arrangements. "I see them evolving, to uphold certain values and work environments that cater to personality profiles and styles of working," she says. "Culture and cultural fit are what keep people together and create a productive environment, even in a flexible model like a co-working space."

Wonder Facility may be located in an industrial estate, but don't expect it to be a dark and dusty place. Instead, it is very much the opposite – all-white interiors and bright.

Ms Lee took inspiration from the surrounding structures, and used industrial warehouse racking and polycarbonate panels to create Wonder Facility. The durable and cost-effective racks not only serve as storage, they section the space. Ms Lee configured racks along the stairs, creating more storage and resulting in a feature wall.

The tone and layout of the space acknowledge that solitude is just as important as collaboration for creative work to happen. Private work pods and generous communal space allow studios to switch between modes of focus and introspection to exploration and socialising.

Wonder Facility co-working space
Private work pods and generous communal space (above) allow studios to switch between modes of focus and introspection to exploration and socialising. Photo: Sean Lee

Ms Lee used the same racking system to design work pods with adjustable heights and under-desk storage. Castors allow the pods to be easily repositioned to accommodate changing use of the space. Polycarbonate sheets with their optical effects serve as privacy screens without sacrificing illumination. And when needed, long communal tables are easily dismantled to clear space for events and exhibitions.

Tropical plants that have been strategically placed add warmth and accentuate the role of Wonder Facility as an oasis in the heart of an industrial area.

Wonder Facility co-working space
Private work pods. Photo: Sean Lee

"All of this reflects Wonder Facility's aim to build a conducive and harmonious culture of like-minded personalities, whose work spans across design, art, innovation and technology, and studios to flourish." Currently, Ms Lee shares the space with furniture design firm Lanzavecchia + Wai, and artist Clara Yee.

"We are on the lookout for studios that complement the current mix, particularly technologists," says Ms Lee. But she is careful about picking the right people to share the space, as she aims to make Wonder Facility an intimate and highly curated co-working space.

"We look at whether our values align across the board, potential for collaboration, chemistry, working-style and habits," she says. She elaborates that hers is not some commercial rent-a-space outfit. "We are looking to create an environment where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is why fit is important, so there is mutual respect and a readiness to work together from the very beginning," she says.

Wonder Facility works on a rolling membership and is fee-based. "Given the fluid nature of creative work, we expect the composition of studios to change with time. The most important thing is cultural/personality fit," says Ms Lee. She declines to state the membership price but says that it is available upon request.

She adds that Wonder Facility is more than just a studio and place of production.

"It is a space for collaboration and testing ideas," she says. This ranges from pop-ups and exhibitions to prototyping concepts and experiences. Prototyping can range from small-scale models for site specific installations from Ms Yee to full-scale cardboard models of furniture from Lanzavecchia + Wai.

As the studios are mostly of a designer/producer nature, Wonder Facility also serves as warehousing for design goods, storage for exhibition pieces and a place for light production/assembly.

Collaborations among the three studios are on the agenda, and "we are actively discussing how we can catalyse collaboration amongst our wider networks – not just amongst ourselves", says Ms Lee. In the immediate term, the three studios are working together on events and programming to be hosted from Wonder Facility.

Big plans

Big Work co-working space
In total, Big Work has over 130 co-working hot desks, eight private offices and 25 meeting rooms spread across three cities, making it possibly the biggest co-working space regionally. Photo: Big Work

Big Work, 30 Prinsep Street, #01-01

WITH a name such as Big Work, the last thing you want to do is think small. So when the co-working space opened in Singapore just a month or so ago, it simultaneously launched in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh as well, with plans to set foot in another 10 more Asian cities over the next three years.

What this means is that members can get access to the co-working spaces in all three cities – good for, say, students or aspiring entrepreneurs who want to explore overseas markets.

Big Work is run by Entrepreneur's Resource Centre (ERC) Holdings, a resource provider for up-and-coming businesses, with a view to cultivating a strong entrepreneurial culture in Singapore. It also runs the private education centre, ERC Institute.

Big Work co-working space
Photo: Big Work

Yen Ong, group chief marketing officer of ERC Holdings, says that because the company already has expertise and infrastructure set up in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh, it made sense for Big Work to also be in place in both cities. In Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh, Big Work is located in the heart of the business districts.

Ms Ong cites the example of how members in Singapore, who may want to start up businesses in the two other cities, can tap ERC's experts there. "We can also provide networking trips to the three locations, so that members can cross share culturally and on the business front," she says.

ERC has expertise in real estate, hospitality, entrepreneurship, education and asset management, which Big Work members can tap. Big Work can also arrange consultations with incubator programme managers and management advisers to assess or fast-track members' business ideas.

Being a member of Big Work has its privileges. They can, for example, tap the knowledge of lecturers from ERC's partner universities, who serve as mentors. In addition, partner university University of Wolverhampton will be running a booster programme that offers reciprocal rent-free co-working space and assistance from entrepreneurs who are looking to branch out to the United Kingdom.

The firm jumped on the workspace bandwagon when it became clear that co-working was here to stay, given workers' increased mobility.

Big Work co-working space
Photo: Big Work

Big Work Singapore's 3,200 square foot space gives off a fun and casual vibe, with colourful furniture and walls with inspirational quotes written on them. Members can work at a desk, on a sofa or even on the floor if they wish. Bigger groups can rent private offices within the premise. Members get free access to lockers and meeting rooms, while services such as mailer service are chargeable.

In total, Big Work has over 130 co-working hot desks, eight private offices and 25 meeting rooms spread across three cities, making it possibly the biggest co-working space regionally. In Singapore, its membership perks include complimentary access to a gym located next door, as well as childcare services that come with a fee.

Big Work co-working space
Photo: Big Work

A daily pass for its Singapore office costs S$50, while a monthly three-city package is S$600. Ms Ong says that several start-up companies have shown interest in renting private offices at Big Work Singapore for a year. "Our regional approach really allows users and the community to have immediate support in furthering their offerings within South-east Asia," says Ms Ong.

She adds: "We understand the importance of nurturing the start-up ecosystem in Asia, and entrepreneurs need the necessary resources to bring their ideas to life. That's where we come in."


Written by Tay Suan Chiang for The Business Times.