Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bringing lifestyle into the workplace

YOU could describe 75 High Street as serviced offices disguised as a boutique hotel. Or as an event space with catering services. Or as a bar where you can play chess and rake trails in a Zen garden. Or, if it gets all too complicated, simply a 'meeting space' - which is what the project's founder, Tony Chen, calls it.

Because that's what it is, in essence. Operated by apbcOffices, a premium boutique serviced-office provider of which Mr Chen is the chief executive officer, the chief aim of the rejuvenated building opposite The Treasury is to promote interaction between the environment and its tenants, as well as among them.

'Our aim is to bring lifestyle into a working environment,' says Mr Chen. 'Times have changed, it's not like 50 years ago. Now, you have lifestyle where you stay, where you play and where you go to restaurants. It's unavoidable; you can see it everywhere whether it's in the form of a handphone or a laptop. And since we spend much time at work, surely, we would also like lifestyle at work?

'Besides, when you are relaxed, you tend to be more creative. And when you are creative, the company will benefit.'

Hotel-inspired concept

To that end, the building features a collection of creative-juicing workspaces, which range from floors of funky serviced offices with different colour themes, to a 'magnet space' on the ground floor that features a wall with a quirky animal print and a shared full-service bar in-built with the aforesaid chess set and Zen garden.

Meanwhile, in the basement, there are plushly carpeted, cocoon-like meeting areas in soothing white (where, we observed, meetings were being held with shoes off).

The ground floor and basement areas fall under apbcOffices' Face To Face component, which is intended to encourage people to meet in person as opposed to remotely, says Colin Seah of Ministry of Design, the design firm responsible for the project.

He elaborates: 'In our increasingly electronic age, the number of face-to-face interactions is decreasing and are being replaced by remote ones - e-mail, MSN, video and phone conferencing, etc.

'The Face To Face concept counterpoints this by providing rich opportunities and conducive environments for more person-to-person interaction. And we believe that by doing so, creativity and productivity will increase as face-to-face meetings allow for more creative, engaging and productive exchanges.'

The concept was inspired by a small hotel that Mr Chen visited about a year ago in France. 'What struck me was the amount of interaction between the design, the contents and the people there,' he says. 'In a lot of hotels, when you go in, you feel that it's just a room with facilities. But in this one, you can see the hotel is trying to interact with you - there are constantly changing messages in the lift lobbies, for example. And yet it wasn't a design that depended purely on building materials.'

apbcOffices at High Street (the company has three other locations in Singapore plus more in Malaysia and China, but 75 High Street is the only one with the Face To Face concept so far) opened about three months ago, with office space priced from $1,500 per workstation per month.

But that's not the only bit of the building that's for rent. Non-tenants may also book the Face To Face area as a corporate event space and apbc can organise catering too - all at a very minimal cost.

'We want to encourage creative companies to come and make use of the space here for their own needs, be it for press conferences, events or networking,' says Mr Chen. 'When you have creativity close by, it's always beneficial, for us and for our clients, and it will provide an advantage in any business.'

In future, the company plans to implement the Face To Face concept, either in part or in whole, at its other serviced offices. 'Our aim is to repeat this signature when and where possible from here onwards,' says Mr Chen. 'So this is only the beginning.'