WeWork’s Ray Tan On Where Vietnam Stands in Southeast Asia’s Co-Working Ecosystem | Vietcetera
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WeWork’s Ray Tan On Where Vietnam Stands in Southeast Asia’s Co-Working Ecosystem

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Bài viết này có ngôn ngữ: Tiếng Việt 

Saigon startups have come to rely on coworking spaces, particularly in central districts where limited grade A office space is unable to meet the burgeoning demand. As of September 2019, coworking companies have rented 52 percent of all office space in central Saigon, including in buildings under construction, according to a report by real estate firm Savills Vietnam. 

According to another report, by Coworking Resources consultancy, in 2019 Saigon ranked 41st out of the 50 fastest growing coworking markets in the world, with a new coworking space opening every 47.5 days in the city.

Even with COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the economy, the demand for shared working space has remained strong. As Vietnam’s firms start to emerge from lockdown, they increasingly turn to WeWork for smart office solutions in the post-covid world. WeWork has been present in Vietnam since March 2019 and its three Saigon locations — E. Town Central in District 4, Sonatus Building in District 1 and Lim Tower 3 in Dakao — offer flexibility to scale up or down depending on the circumstances.

Overseeing the company’s overall enterprise sales in the region is Ray Tan, WeWork’s Head of Growth of Southeast Asia. Before joining WeWork, Ray was the Head of Partnerships & Business Development at Spacemob where he was responsible for commercial strategy, real estate and business development. Ray’s extensive career also includes stints at HomeAway Asia, Blackberry and Yahoo!. 

We sit down with Ray to learn how WeWork’s value proposition can help companies better achieve success in today’s uncertain times.

What are some of the differences in managing WeWork in Vietnam and other countries in the region throughout this period? 

As one of the few nations to successfully minimize the impact of COVID-19, Vietnam has outperformed global expectations. We have seen proactive measures from the Vietnamese government that were timely in mitigating the situation, which in turn informed our local strategy.

Our operations are in consistent alignment with the government’s directives. We have been engaging with relevant government bodies on operations approval and safety measures for both our employees and members. 

We were able to react swiftly to the situation on the ground in Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia due to our strong regional and global network, which enabled us to leverage best practices and experience from our team in China. We set up a task force to ensure international alignment across all our functions, including stepping up our already rigorous sanitization measures with increased cleaning in common areas and checking temperatures of all employees, members, and guests. This also includes close cooperation with our building management to meet the government’s requirements for continued operation.  

While there has definitely been a different nuance to each nation’s response, our teams have been closely aligned for strategies across markets in Southeast Asia. The additional exposure across markets not only gives our team a leg up, but it also means that we are readily prepared to manage different scenarios. Being in such a position enabled us to react with speed.

WeWork Lim Tower 3. | Source: WeWork.

How have the current circumstances impacted the co-working ecosystem?

COVID-19 has changed the workspace needs of many companies and presented a new reality about workspace configurations. It has also emphasized the importance of flexibility and the value of additional support to respond nimbly towards transformation of a new work environment. 

From an industry perspective, we have been seeing positive sentiment on how co-working will remain a sustainable solution for companies: from the need to support a dispersed workforce to being more savvy with minimizing overheads and excessive operations. This is evident as companies transition back to our spaces in Vietnam. 

We continue to see momentum for WeWork for three main reasons: 

  • Operational Efficiency: Companies in every industry will face conservative growth on their road to recovery. We know it’s important for them to respond rapidly to disruptive situations, which requires agility matched with strategy. This is why we see ourselves as a key recovery asset. WeWork is well positioned to help companies and individuals as they strategize ways for their workforce to handle the new reality, as our services have helped companies reduce committed costs for leases and operations by up to 50%.  
  • Flexibility: Our priority has always been on offering flexibility of space and time. Given the recent volatility of the economy, many businesses are reassessing their long-term real estate needs, making flexible options more appealing.
  • Business Continuity & Distributed Workforce: The situation has highlighted the need to rethink common practices and adjust expectations for the future. Some are reconsidering the concept of a single headquarters, opting instead for a distributed workforce across several locations to advocate social distancing in a way that preserves connection and company culture. We see companies in other markets adopting this model and relying on our community experience to drive employee engagement. 

As Vietnam navigates its recovery, we are seeing great advocacy and support from business and industry leaders in scaling back to normal operations. While distancing will continue to have a place in our toolkit, collaboration and connection remain more important than ever. 

WeWork Lim Tower 3. | Source: WeWork.

How is the enterprise demographic changing?

We have been working with many large enterprises from the US, Europe, China and Korea and helping them with their expansion plans into Vietnam. From foreign companies growing in Vietnam to local conglomerates, they cover a wide range of industries - financial services, technology, social networking services and logistics.

It’s clear that more enterprise companies are taking an interest in coworking spaces for reasons of flexibility and dynamism, and we expect this trend to continue as these companies regain their footing. Globally, WeWork’s total memberships increased 49% year over year to 693,000 members — with enterprise members representing 45% of our total memberships, versus 43% last quarter.

Across Southeast Asia, we have seen a 9% increase in our enterprise member pool from 2019. And in Vietnam, the enterprise segment continues to support our local growth strategy, with a 13% increase in enterprise members since January.

WeWork Sonatus. | Source: WeWork.

What is WeWork doing to assist its partners and help businesses resume normal operations?

As businesses resume operations, what matters first is giving them the confidence and peace of mind to return to a safe work environment that allows them to focus on their business goals.  

Since April, our operations, safety, community and design teams have come together to develop alternative office space configurations in support of professional distancing and engaging our members one-on-one to better understand their strategies and plans, so we can adapt to their needs. 

Space configuration that ensures 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 sanitization 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. With WeWork known for its speed to respond to any ongoing developments as they occur, this ensures that our members can continue working with peace of mind.

In support of this, during the social distancing period we got creative with employee and member engagement, introducing initiatives ranging from virtual location tours to webinars. They were positively received by the members and embraced by WeWork, who as a company prides itself on being a community builder and enabler. We were encouraged and glad to see members of our community working to uplift each other. 

What are some of the long-term changes you expect to see in company culture and flexibility?

Flexibility has become a valuable currency, as companies around the world rethink their workplace needs and seek out safe, turnkey options on a global scale. Our value proposition is based on flexibility to seamlessly scale up or down to suit the circumstances, which is why leaders and enterprises continue to turn to us. 

This situation could influence many previously conservative businesses to more readily embrace change in response to a new paradigm. We believe it is an opportune time for businesses to reconfigure their strategies and re-align on the recovery assets they need. 

For instance, in Singapore, Nippon Life tapped into our space as part of their business continuity plan, as an addition to their headquarters office. As part of a dispersed workforce strategy, 40% of the staff works from a WeWork location - a comfortable work environment to continue their operations without any disruptions.

In Vietnam, 80% of companies are planning to use shared workspaces in the next one to three years, and around 70% of organizations plan to shift their sales and innovation teams to shared workspaces in the next 3 years. As companies continue to redefine what the future of work means to them, there is a need to be nimble and agile to stay competitive.

WeWork Sonatus. | Source: WeWork.

What can startups do for a speedy recovery?

Vietnam’s startup ecosystem continues to provide both opportunities and economic momentum, which is evident in the fact that 80 percent of the Vietnamese population is optimistic in the economy’s recovery (according to an April survey by multinational market research firm Ipsos). However, COVID-19 has created uncertainty for startups, which can be answered with greater emphasis on strengthening the support ecosystem.  

We applaud the Prime Minister’s initiatives and efforts to invest more in technology and innovation, which is a positive step towards a long-term vision for Vietnam’s future. We would encourage Vietnamese startups to take advantage of these measures, as well as the Vietnamese government’s directive for banks to create credit-support packages to aid companies towards faster recovery.

Apart from government support, accelerators, incubators, and innovation labs also play key roles in helping entrepreneurs emerge from this pandemic stronger. The situation has also resulted in emerging innovation opportunities, and many startups would be wise to pivot their business models to meet new demands. 

How will the role of WeWork and co-working spaces in general change should there be a transition to remote work on a large scale?

Being in this industry for 10 years, we have gone through different economic stages. This puts us in a position where we can apply past lessons learned to the current environment. Our goal has always been to help companies better achieve success by their own definitions, and this is where our space-as-a-service concept differentiates us from others.  

One of the things we focus on at WeWork is making our coworking spaces pleasant places to spend much of the day at. We accomplish this through inviting, convenient, 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. 

Enterprises are now tapping into our spaces to support their newly segregated workforce by following our hub and spoke model, which involves setting up their HQ in one building while support functions are distributed across nearby WeWork spaces. This setup exemplifies how organizations empowered with the agility and support of a strong partner are able to smoothly shift their policies and processes from a design for efficiency to a design for resilience.

Bài viết này có ngôn ngữ: Tiếng Việt 

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