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A better place to work

next big thing: The Parq, a 20-billion-baht mixed-use development that includes offices, is being built to the new WELL standard.

The tremendous value that organisations place on their people extends to real estate, as executives realise that a workplace is a strategic asset that can help their organisation to attract, nurture and retain talent.

In recent years, the increased focus on talent and productivity has contributed to a growing emphasis on offering a more satisfying employee experience, and consequently led to new trends that are emerging in Bangkok's office market.

Convenience the top requirement: As the lifestyle of younger city residents shifts towards urban high-rise living, top talents increasingly seek employers with offices that are easily accessible via mass rapid transit, be it the BTS skytrain or MRT subway. This has affected the decision-making process for many companies.

While rental rates and parking availability continue to be major factors that companies take into account when entering the market or relocating, a rapidly rising number of firms now consider proximity and/or direct access to the city's mass transit network as a top priority. For this reason, it is not surprising that more than 60% of the 2.1 million square metres of office space scheduled for delivery through 2025 is located within 250 metres of a transit station.

In addition, supporting facilities such as food courts, restaurants, convenience stores and banking facilities have become a major factor that companies consider when selecting an office building. Again, it comes as no surprise that more office building owners have converted space on ground, basement or mezzanine floors into retail space in response to this growing requirement, while most new office developments incorporate a retail component.

The fast-growing presence of convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson and cafés such as Starbucks, Au Bon Pain and True Coffee operating in office buildings also exemplifies the trend.

Wellbeing and happiness at work: The pantry room will no longer be the only serviced facility provided at a workplace. Many companies are already offering a wide mix of spaces from cafes and lounges through to fully serviced kitchens. While a lactation room has become a norm in many offices, some companies are also providing family-friendly spaces, sleeping pods and prayer rooms.

For companies, this raises the question of how much space and budget should be devoted to spaces and settings that encourage employees' wellbeing and happiness. There is definitely no one-size-fits-all model to securing the right combination. But companies applying a good workplace strategy generally require less space per employee.

In the past, companies in Bangkok typically allocated an average of 10 square metres to an employee. Nowadays the allocation has shrunk to 5-7 square metres and is trending downward. For this reason, these companies should be able to afford larger communal areas for employees' wellbeing and happiness.

Photo by Spaces

WELL certification may be the next big thing: As a focus on employees' wellbeing increasingly plays a crucial role in attracting and retaining talent, some office developments in Bangkok aim to achieve WELL certification from the International WELL Building Institute.

The US-based body has developed a series of standards for various aspects of a building that positively contribute to users' mental and physical wellbeing, with features including abundant natural light, fresh air, specially filtered drinking water, noise-reduction measures and a layout that promotes movement. It is fast becoming a key marker of new office design in the US and is catching on in other regions.

Building owners and managers often seek to achieve WELL certification in conjunction with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). In Bangkok, The PARQ and One Bangkok are being built to meet the WELL standard.

A workplace is for everyone: The traditional workplace was known for silos, particularly among managers, as enclosed private offices separate from the rest of the workforce are occupied solely by managerial staff. However, this trend is changing as modern organisations are trying to eliminate or reduce hierarchical structures, and provide workplaces that allow employees to have more direct contact and mix with senior staff and consequently improve employee engagement levels.

Alternative workplace strategies: Corporate democracy, trust, taking initiative and kindness are becoming the top drivers of workplace empowerment. Organisations are expected to cultivate a culture based on these drivers and allow staff to switch between different settings (in and out of the office) to supplement their primary workspace.

Having opportunities to work from alternative locations from time to time fosters a sense of empowerment as well. This trend is emerging as more companies consider co-working spaces as an alternative workplace option to support mobile workforces such as sales teams.

The way people communicate, work, shop, travel and think will continue to change dramatically as technology advances and becomes more widely adopted. So will the way workplaces are designed, used and managed. But the key fundamentals will remain unchanged: progressive corporations will continue to build workplaces that can inspire employees and help enhance productivity and foster innovation.


Suphin Mechuchep is the managing director of the property consultancy firm JLL. For more insights, readers can visit www.jll.co.th, or https://www.facebook.com/JLLThailand/

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