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The Singapore government supports the growth of coworking spaces & home offices(!)

The Singapore government is indeed opening up, after recognizing the changing behavior of its workers. In a groundbreaking new initiative in April 2012, it issued out grants to develop the next generation of shared workspaces and home offices.

These come in the form of dedicated home offices, which allow employees with families to better juggle their work and home commitments. For those who find working from home impossible, “Smart Work Centres” are also set up around the island to give employees a shared office nearby.

“It's booming and I see more government and big companies heading into this space, and soon the serviced offices are also going to learn from this - they already are, seeking to turn their facilities into a more open plan, collaborative space instead of just cubicles,” added Ho.

A brave first step encourages many enterprising hearts to follow. Apart from Kennel, which has attracted an eclectic mix of creatives like photographers and designers from aged 25 to 35, many other types of coworking spaces are budding in Singapore, wooing people from a range of industries from technology to industrial and social media. For example the Hackerspace, also known as the hackers’ living room and lab, is a community-run space that appeals mostly to people from the technology sector. There are also spaces like MakeSpaceThe HUB Singapore or Cowork@SG which is managing Smartspace, Space at 8 and Club 71, all emerging in a nod to the country’s growing entrepreneurial and nomadic workforce.

Grace Sai, founder of The Hub Singapore, said: “Singapore is opening up and we are setting up The HUB at the right time, in the right place and with the right support.”

The Hub is situated in Singapore’s lively Orchard Road, within one of the buildings belonging to Singapore National Youth Council. First set up in London back in 2005 as a coworking space for social entrepreneurs to have meaningful encounters and exchange and develop significant ventures in the world, Sai had started HUB Singapore with that ideal in mind. She had found Singapore stifling after her graduation, and struggled with the whole notion of success in a profit only driven world.

At the moment, the Hub is a global social enterprise providing coworking spaces for people who want to tackle the world’s pressing social, cultural and environmental challenges. It is headquartered in Austria and has now grown to over 32 Hubs in cities including Melbourne and Johannesburg, with 5000 members in five different continents.

At Hub Singapore, members have access to the global community through an individual account. They are given priority entrance to iconic events, workshops, collaboration labs and talks and can also gain access to sister HUBs in cities like San Francisco. Hub Singapore is the Hub’s first location in Asia, with more coming up in cities like Tokyo and Seoul.

“Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey and the Hub provides a supportive network for likeminded people to come together.” Said Sai.

Besides centrally located coworking spaces like The Hub and Kennel, there are also spaces located in the more suburban parts of Singapore. One of the spaces of Cowork@SG is situated in Joo Chiat, a residential conservation area in the eastern side of Singapore. It also has two other branches located in the western industrial area of Singapore and another in central Singapore.

Bernie Chew, 37, co-founded Cowork@SG in 2011, when the coworking trend is spreading like fire in Singapore. Chew told Deskmag that it was her need for a more mobile workspace when she was trying to start her new digital agency after quitting her day job that inspired her to establish Cowork@SG.

“I've met so many people and it was indeed a very rewarding experience for me. My hope is that we can continue to meet the needs of people who have their own businesses but do not need the long term commitment of office space to come together and be a part of our community,” said Chew.

The coworking spaces of Cowork@SG now have members aged between late 20s to 40s, ranging from new business owners, startups, and people who do not require long-term office space. It is no wonder that gypsies in the past has held such a magical lure to people mystified by their talents and nomadic experiences; in present times, this mobile lifestyle is transported into coworking spaces where talents can merge between beginning strangers, and new enterprises can form.

 “As long as we continue to meet the needs of an ever changing workforce that demands more flexibility and mobility options I think the concept of coworking can evolve and appeal to more people in the future,” added Chew.

It certainly has. The coworking concept is not just catching on in Singapore, but also other Asian cities like Bangkok and Seoul. Most have caught the coworking bug from tech hotspots like San Francisco and New York, but this new way of working is becoming so in vogue now in other parts of the world that its popularity seemed to have overpowered its American predecessors. According to The Second Annual Global Coworking Survey, more than half of coworking spaces worldwide are located outside the United States, where the number of spaces is also growing more rapidly. Coworking is popular across sectors from technology to industrial, design, health care, automotive and beyond.

In Singapore, the trend is set to rise even more, with more people cherishing the opportunity to be their own boss and creating interesting projects as people from various industries and cultures meet and exchange their talents.

For Ho, even though coworking resonates more with younger Singaporeans, there definitely is a coworking community augmenting in the city state – because it resonates with a natural desire to follow one’s heart and come into one’s own. 

She said: “It resonates because it stands for independence, freedom and flexibility, as well as for doing something that reflects your passions. Many people all over the world would resonate with that.”

Update: Kennel is currently looking for a new space.

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