Ray Tan, Head of Growth, WeWork Southeast Asia. -- Photo Courtesy of WeWork
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things in people’s lives. One of the big changes is the working method. Instead of going to the office, many people are now working from home. Việt Nam News reporter Thu Ngân talks with Ray Tan, head of Growth, WeWork Southeast Asia, about the new working lifestyle and what he thinks about the new changes
Inner Sanctum: How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed working styles globally and in Việt Nam particularly? What is your assessment of the working environment in Việt Nam, and how does it compare with other countries in the region?
COVID-19 has changed the workspace needs for many companies and started conversations about the nature of workspaces. It has also emphasised the importance of flexibility and the value of outside support in responding to the transformation of the modern workforce.
Proactive efforts from the Vietnamese Government were timely and effective in mitigating the pandemic situation, and that same forward-thinking mindset has led many of our existing enterprise members – and potential members – to invest in business continuity measures through our space-as-a-service platform.
In Việt Nam, we continue to see sustained economic growth, a strong millennial work culture, and key Government initiatives to support the economy’s recovery. We are also seeing optimism that Việt Nam will rebound strongly from the current economic situation.
Many international enterprises have entered Việt Nam in recent years, which has created a need for companies to continue being nimble and agile to maintain their competitive edge, which often leads them to embrace flexible workspace solutions.
In order to meet the expectations of a savvy young generation, we are seeing Vietnamese companies turning their focus towards providing an inspiring work environment that nurtures talent while increasing productivity and cross-collaboration.
It’s clear that many see co-working spaces as the best way to do this, as 80 per cent of companies are planning to use shared workspaces in the next 1–3 years, and 86 per cent recognise that it is crucial to have an innovative and collaborative workspace to be successful, especially with millennials and Gen Z entering the workforce.
We believe this is a sign of a long-term trend.
Inner Sanctum: What should people do to be as efficient working from home as they are at the office?
Mandatory working from home was a necessity that has not been without challenges, as it has required changes in mindset, boundaries, security, and methods to ensure productivity. That said, it has shown that distributed workforces are a viable option in many cases, so we expect that structure to become more common.
A co-working space in HCM City. -- Photo Courtesy WeWork
There has been a lot of focus on productivity tips during this period, while the importance of community and team engagement has been neglected despite its strong impact on employee morale, retention, and effective collaboration.
What has worked for us in Việt Nam so far is placing greater emphasis on connection and communication among and within teams. To support this priority during social distancing, we got creative with employee and member engagement, ranging from virtual location tours to webinars and charity initiatives.
With these initiatives being positively received, WeWork, as a company that prides itself on being a community builder and enabler, was encouraged to see members of our community working to uplift each other.
As our members are progressively returning to work, we are now turning our focus to balance the same sense of familiarity and comfort with demands of professional distancing.
Inner Sanctum: What will be the new working trends after COVID-19 is controlled in Việt Nam and the rest of the world?
Companies are rethinking the idea of single headquarters locations and creating a distributed workforce to advocate distancing, but in a way that preserves interpersonal connections and company culture. We have seen companies in other markets adopt this model and rely on our community experience to drive employee engagement. Maintaining the highest standards of health and safety remains a major priority for both businesses and their customers even after businesses resume. As the economy looks to recover from COVID-19, two major trends stand out for us.
Given the volatility in the economy and uncertainty around business adjustments, businesses are focusing on greater operational efficiency. As such, many are also reassessing their long-term real estate needs and fixed costs as they continue to be savvy with operations and overheads.
COVID19 has shown the importance for companies to react fast, and they need the capability to respond to a disruptive situation or have the agility from a partner that understands their strategy forward.
The situation has highlighted how agility helps organisations tide over this crisis, and this mindset will continue to be emphasised post COVID-19. Agile organisations empowered with the right support are realigning their policies and processes that shift from designing for efficiency to designing for resilience. This is where our proposition of empowering flexibility means companies who are scaling both up and down will benefit from it.
As more companies focus on a regional strategy, enterprises will want to have multiple workspaces in the same vicinity to support their segregated workforce.
As with any business, agility and sustainability are key partners in ensuring longevity. In a new world that expects businesses to have the ability to think two steps ahead, having a strong partner enables them to get the resources to succeed.
Inner Sanctum: What should Việt Nam do to have more ideal workplaces in the future? And how will WeWork offer its members an ideal co-working space?
One of the things we focus on at WeWork is designing our co-working spaces to be inspiring environments for our members. We accomplish this through inviting and visually appealing architecture and interior design, with an emphasis on open spaces, natural light, greenery, social and relaxation areas, and the opportunity for different workspace configurations. While traditional office environments are widely used by companies in Việt Nam, we expect to see companies shifting towards more open work environments to keep up with the changing future of work.
We also expect to see more emphasis on workplace designs that reflect the behaviors adopted at the height of COVID-19. Professional distancing measures will naturally be a priority as the country reopens to international visitors, and workplaces should orient themselves to cater to these policies at short notice.
To this end, we are enhancing our spaces in Việt Nam to focus on three key areas: prioritising personal space, cleanliness, and behavioral signage.
The configuration of space to ensure productivity and an overall positive experience is something we are very familiar with from our 10 years of experience. Now we have enhanced our spaces and services to maintain hygiene, safety, and physical distancing best practices. We modified shared spaces with staggered seating and buffer zones, so teams can continue to operate in the workplace while still maintaining a healthy physical distance from colleagues and fellow members.
We are disinfecting common areas more frequently and providing complimentary sanitisation products in our spaces. And we have strategically placed signage and friendly reminders to members and guests that the wellbeing of our community depends on each of us doing our parts.
This may be just the beginning, and we plan to continue our reputation for flexibility by quickly responding to any new developments as they occur, removing the burden from our members so they can continue working with peace of mind. VNS