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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Drop in at libraries to work from pay-per-use spaces

Smart Work Centres launched in Toa Payoh, Geylang East and Jurong
The Straits Times - May 31, 2014
By: Lee Jian Xuan
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Drop in at libraries to work from pay-per-use spaces Mr Abdullah making use of one of the new Smart Work Centres at Jurong Regional Library, where they were launched. -- PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

PAY-PER-USE workspaces, complete with meeting rooms, video-conferencing facilities, Wi-Fi and photocopiers, are now available at three community libraries.

These Smart Work Centres (SWCs), located in Toa Payoh, Geylang East and Jurong, were set up to provide entrepreneurs and people on flexible working arrangements with the services and workspaces they need at low cost.

They will give employees "better work-life balance and... flexible work arrangements", said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who was speaking at the official launch of the centres at Jurong Regional Library yesterday.

The initiative is part of a push for employers to adopt "more work-life-friendly practices", said Dr Yaacob, adding that users can also tap services and materials in the libraries.

People who wish to use the facilities at the SWCs will need to register with workplace solutions provider Regus, which runs the the centres, to gain access.

Each SWC can accommodate up to 47 people, and space is subject to availability.

Rental charges range from about $20 a day for desk space, to $399 a month for a private cubicle. Hourly rentals for workspaces are also available.

The SWCs are a tie-up between the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and National Library Board, and co-funded by IDA and Regus.

The take-up rate so far has been "encouraging", with 20 memberships sold at the Jurong branch alone since its soft launch two weeks ago, said Regus' country manager for Singapore, Mr Paul MacAndrew.

Regus hopes to reach out to more companies and encourage them to give their staff the flexibility to use them, he added.

A recent survey conducted by Regus found that the annual cost of providing a work desk here is $25,000, even though more than half are empty at any given time, according to another survey carried out worldwide.

This means companies can enjoy more cost savings if they allow staff to operate out of such workspaces or offices.

Employers must, however, trust their workers to clock in from outside, and staff must be "disciplined" while working away from the office, said Ms Claire Chiang, chairman of Employer Alliance, which has a network of 1,800 firms.

She added that such arrangements are increasingly relevant, as a new generation of employees will want "choice, control and autonomy" over where, when and how they work.

Entrepreneurs say these hubs help facilitate the meeting of like-minded owners of start-ups, which may result in new business partnerships.

"It's a good place for us to collaborate," said Mr Abdullah Hafidz Bujang, co-founder of IT solutions start-up Six Alliance. "If we had our own permanent offices, there would be fewer opportunities for us to make business contacts."

The 30-year-old is currently working on an e-commerce project with his business partner, Web developer Muhammad Hyzel Fadhillah, 29, whom he met while working out of a Regus flexible workspace two months ago.

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