26 FEB 21
How Bridge+ flexible workspace helped UOB FinLab increase productivity and spark innovation
The way we work is changing as we know it. In the post-pandemic era, we might see more companies adopting a flexible approach to office work—which means more freedom for employees to choose their workspace and organise their schedule.
Now, the question is: how can companies maintain connectedness within teams while ensuring their employees continue to remain focused and productive?
Enter the coworking space.
The best coworking spaces provide a flexible environment for individuals to do their best work while inspiring collaboration among colleagues. They also present fast-growing startups, entrepreneurs, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with opportunities to network with other businesses and boost creativity by exposing employees to different perspectives.
For the six-member innovation accelerator UOB FinLab, it’s essential to have a shared space where the team can work together and separately, as well as run large-scale events.
“I think the key question you first have to ask is: What is the value of a space for working arrangements?” says Pauline Sim, head of UOB FinLab. “Many times, when we ideate, we're glad that we can come together to do our whiteboarding and strategy meetings.”
To meet that demand, Bridge+ Ascent comes equipped with meeting rooms, event spaces, charging ports, WIFI, and various other amenities to deliver an optimised workspace. But the workspace is more than a simple desk area with internet access.
The flexible coworking space is a platform for startups and enterprise teams to share their ideas, engage in thought-provoking discussions, and create meaningful communities.
The challenge of finding an optimised workspace
The traditional fixed office environment does not measure up to the needs and standards of today's employees. Modern workers want the freedom to choose and manage their workspace to perform their tasks efficiently.
People have different needs and preferences
Imagine this scenario: you are focusing on a task when a colleague comes by to chat or ask for help. You lose concentration, and you have to push back your work.
Interruptions have always been part and parcel of work—but research shows that our brains have a difficult time switching between tasks. Even when we return to the interrupted task, part of the attention still resides in the previous work. This “attention residue effect” is due to our fundamental need to finish an assignment before moving on to the next one.
Though office chats are essential to building a friendly work culture, employees also need a quiet, distraction-free environment to perform deep work and complete their tasks on time. When it comes to workplace productivity, everyone has different needs and preferences for designing a conducive work environment.
For Pauline, she prefers to sit next to a whiteboard so that she can immediately write down any ideas that come to mind. Kirmaine Chen, the Programme Analyst at UOB FinLab, likes “having both the isolation and collaboration spaces in one area [...] so that it enhances work productivity and teamwork.”
That’s one thing they love about flexible coworking spaces—they provide teams with a range of amenities to organise their workspace to meet their various work demands.
Will Leong, the Programme Manager at UOB FinLab, says that in a coworking space, you can choose dedicated areas to help you concentrate on specific tasks. “You can find a quiet, empty room to get your work done,” says Will.
It also helps that there are lounge areas and a well-stocked pantry for people to take a break, de-stress, and have quick coffee chats. These amenities, especially the team’s favourites—the coffee machine and pantry area—help them start the workday with positive energy and double down on producing quality work.
Coming together as a team
Before Covid-19, the UOB FinLab team held regular offline meetings and events to interact with startups, entrepreneurs, and SMEs. The team is now co-organising the upcoming 2020 Singapore Fintech Festival, a week-long nationwide event with over 4,000 overseas visitors to showcase the wide range of opportunities and development in fintech.
“We collaborated with the Bridge+ community to have different parties coming together and sharing the different areas of tech, like blockchain and social enterprise,” explains Pauline. “In one space, we can show several aspects of Singapore's innovation and digitalisation scene.”
Large events, such as the Singapore Fintech Festival, require plenty of space to accommodate hundreds of people and event booths—something that not many coworking spaces can provide. Bridge+ event venues—like the 130 sqm Arena and the 178 sqm Metro areas that can accommodate up to 120 people—provide the UOB FinLab team with sufficient space to hold these large-scale events.
As part of its contribution to last year’s festival, Bridge+ organised an “Innovation made real” event. Participants could listen to speakers from companies like UOB FinLab and LongHash as they gave their insights on fintech-related topics. While these talks were happening in the Metro space, participants could also network and exchange ideas with other startups at the nearby booths outside the event venue.
“The Singapore Fintech Festival is the most important yearly event for our members from the fintech community. We organise this ‘Innovation made real’ event to provide a platform for them to come together to celebrate and share different business perspectives,” says Bridge+ Singapore Lead Eugene Tan.
This year, as UOB FinLab looks to bring their festival events online, they are working closely with Bridge+ to adhere to the safe distancing measures and curate the number of participants joining the physical events at the new 79 Robinson Road centre.
Other than having enough space to organise these large events, the UOB FinLab team has also requested for a quiet, enclosed workspace. The UOB FinLab team has leased a customisable private suite that accommodates 10 people. They have asked Bridge+ to set up a whiteboard in the suite, as well as a table laid out specifically for internal discussions.
“The way we position the table, we have a mini island in the middle where team members can crowd around,” says Janice Ooi, Programme Executive at UOB FinLab. “We want to build a small community so that we can have a discussion next to the whiteboard.”
The dedicated suite allows them to be effective and at the same time, profile their branding on our community logo station. As the team grew, Bridge+ helped them with expansion by providing more desks and a larger suite to cater to their changing needs.
Whenever necessary, the flexible workspace allows the UOB FinLab team to have the autonomy to select their optimised workspace to accomplish their team goals.
Embracing the creative energy and collaborative culture
Another reason for using Bridge+ Ascent workspace is the thriving coworking culture. “We wanted to be in a flexible coworking space because we wanted to be part of the tech ecosystem and meet new tech solution partners or potential collaborators,” says Pauline.
“Innovation made real'' is one of the many events that Bridge+ provides for UOB FinLab and other members within the fintech and innovation community—like LongHash, AXA, and NGC Ventures—to socialise and network. Bridge+ also hosts regular, casual events—such as community lunches and member’s spotlight—to bring like-minded people together.
As companies worldwide embrace creativity and play, collaboration has become a competitive advantage for continuous innovation. These values have translated into the physical environment; companies are designing their workspaces to have more common areas and open spaces to encourage interactions and sharing of opinions.
Jaime Tan, the Marketing Manager at UOB FinLab, likes the sense of “dynamism and vibrancy” of a coworking space. “You have tons of people walking in and walking out, and you can see discussions happening. Being in a dynamic space puts you in an environment to push yourself to innovate and think of new marketing ideas,” she says.
Last year, Jaime took the initiative to hold a watercolour workshop for the Bridge+ community during lunchtime. She worked with Eugene to bring people from different companies together for a leisure bonding activity.
While it is vital to organise business-centric activities, Bridge+ also understands the need for fun, social events. “We organise these frequent, small-scale community events to introduce new members to the community. It breaks the ice and gives new members the chance to mingle and promote themselves to the community,” says Eugene. “Our members appreciate our effort to intentionally organise opportunities for them to understand the rest of the community and to know if there are possibilities for business collaboration within Bridge+. Happiness is something we value and strive to ensure for our members at Bridge+.”
In these coworking spaces, as barriers to cooperation are reduced, opportunities for fostering these kinds of meaningful connections occur more regularly and with ease. Having friends at work and forming healthy relationships can help to make the workday less laborious and employees happier and more productive.
The physical work environment has a degree of influence on the way we act and interact with one another. A coworking and community atmosphere promotes the free exchange of information and different perspectives. And eventually, it prompts people to co-create and refine their ideas to solve problems and contribute to their team goals.
Consequently, we can view the coworking space as a whole ecosystem—where entrepreneurs, innovators, and creative thinkers can work together in a communal space, engage in activities, and build connections.
Adapting and being open to new opportunities
All these factors have made it possible for the UOB FinLab team to maintain their productivity and continue working towards their goals.
While there are challenges for first-time coworkers, like any new work environment, it is a matter of time and establishing a routine before adjusting and getting comfortable with the flexible workspace. Will's advice to startups and enterprise teams is to keep an open mind.
“It’s always good to widen your connections with other people. You never know when you might need their help, or they might need you,” he says.
Similarly, Eugene adds that, “You never know when a partnership can form. We give our members a platform to share and find like-minded people. When like-minded people are in the same space, there will be a stronger sense of support and community.”
Within the Bridge+ community of innovators, startups and enterprise teams can thrive on the collaborative culture to gain fresh insights and motivate employees to be bold and creative.