Realtor entrepreneur Sheila Lobien reveals why the flexspace sector has taken off in the Philippines, and what’s driving the trend
Flexible workspace has gone from being a novelty in the Philippines to a legitimate option for all types of businesses, according to Sheila Lobien, CEO of Lobien Realty Group (LRG), a full service real estate consultancy and property investments strategy firm based in the Philippines.
“IWG was among the first firms in the Philippine flexible workspace market— which was a novelty at that time in the central business districts of Makati and Bonifacio Global City in Taguig,” says Lobien. “Now, although its heritage brand Regus has grown to more than 30 business locations in the Philippines, competition has tightened as well. It is no longer a novelty but one of the most legitimate office options for all types of businesses in the Philippines.”
Referring to her recent presentation at a recent event for the European Chamber of Commerce, Lobien identified which trends are driving growth for flexible workspace in the Philippines, from the emergence of satellite cities to commutes horrendous traffic jams.
“The growth of townships has become a sub-business for some key developers to put up malls and business locations outside of Manila,” she says. “Half-way homes and flexible or co-working spaces are some of the key trends we see to be emerging the past several years.
“Our view at LRG is that these trends will intensify as businesses start to look for more cost-efficient spaces in terms of rent, taxes and overheads; more stable sources of talent, and higher productivity as a result of less stress from traffic.”
Other factors driving growth in the local flexspace sector include the rise of the country’s freelance workforce – now averaging at 1.3 million people – and the relatively large number of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Lobien also spoke about the advantages that opting for flexible workspace can bring for small businesses that are growing quickly, but that still need to streamline their operations to keep costs down.
“Flexible office spaces makes SMEs take the plunge more bravely,” she says. “It is always part of operations to have a physical working space, but [setting one up] is tremendously expensive. Having a flexible space as an alternative sidesteps this huge challenge to start-ups and SMEs. Money allotted for office space is then better used in the initial operations to grow the business until stable.
She adds: “SMEs can always seize opportunities to expand and put up satellite offices where they see such opportunity without much thought on the need to spend on a satellite physical office. The need to put up a physical office outside of the headquarters is usually one of the considerations bogging down expansions to the provinces.”
Conveniently located flexible workspaces on the outskirts of a metropolis not only cut out commuting time, they create high-quality facilities for hosting meetings with clients, too. She concludes: “If you are in the southern part of Makati and your company tends to be in that area as well, a flexible office space facilitates business relations. The fact that it’s also fully serviced and professional-looking brings a huge amount of added value.”
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