What are the key ingredients for a great co-working space? Trendy, young hipsters making steaming coffee with cacti and succulents abound, prosecco on tap and Scandi style interior design? Maybe, yet these spaces can benefit all types of workers with a creative and comfortable place to network with peers, work productively and flexibly.  Some co-working spaces are also helping contribute to greater diversity and inclusivity – offering family-friendly environment where parents can juggle childcare with working.

Flexible co-working spaces have soared in Singapore, and is set to continue, according to a new study. Flyspaces have found that by 2030, co-working spaces will make up 30 per cent of all commercial real estate.  This drive has not just come from start-ups but corporations too, wanting to get a slice of the action to help evolve and drive this innovation.

There’s been a real push by the government in Singapore for workers to enjoy more flexibility in their jobs which has really boosted others to follow suit. The Ministry of Manpower introduced the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Working Arrangements just a couple of years ago and since then 2,358 organisations have signed up. The initiative encourages employers to offer employees more flexible working arrangements (as well as improve access) in recognition of the many benefits it can bring – including increased productivity and retention in talent.

Sectors such as the law are helping to drive this change which is supporting the acceleration of this demand for co-working spaces. Many law firms have signed up to the Tripartite alliance. For example , one of the largest law firms in Singapore, allows employees to work for 4-4.5 days a week so employees can have more time to look after family and have a good work / life balance, they also offer more traditional flexible working arrangements.

The boom of ALSP in the region has also helped push this change.  We launched Vario from Pinsent Masons, a legal consultancy arm of the global law firm opened in Singapore last year after strong demand for innovative services. We offer clients legal consultants who are able to work on a flexible / project basis. Other firms have also opened their consultant offering in recent years in the region.

Yet despite this boom, there is still work to do. A recent study found that two thirds of workers felt ‘vacation deprived’, falling to the sixth most vacation-deprived market in the world. It’s clear that despite the hype, more work-life balance initiatives need to be encouraged by employers.  And change still needs to be supported in the legal industry, for example Mr Foo Chee Hock, dean of the Singapore Judicial College recently raised awareness around junior lawyer burnout and the importance of reflecting on unsustainable working styles.  However, this slight change in culture can breed new habits, and help employers realise they will lose talent if they don’t offer agile working options. This then feeds into the culture, becoming a virtuous circle. It’s an exciting time to be working in Singapore’s legal industry and it will be interesting to witness how this innovation will help the region as of the top legal centres in the world.

Posted by Kirsty Dougan

Kirsty Dougan is Managing Director of Asia for Vario at Pinsent Masons. Kirsty joined Vario in March 2019, and led the Hong Kong launch. Kirsty is responsible for Vario’s operations across Asia and the growth of the business in the region. Vario has become the leading law firm led provider of flexible legal solutions, representing over 500 lawyers across numerous jurisdictions. Kirsty possesses significant experience in this field and is a pioneer of alternative legal services in Asia as co-founder of an international ALSP business in the region and was the Managing Director there for over 8 years.

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