Working from home is no longer an alien concept.
7 April marked the day Singapore went into Circuit Breaker mode, meaning staff and employees of non-essential workplaces were forced to work from home. Heading outside for an afternoon tea break with colleagues is no longer an option.
It has been two months since, and the idea of waking up at your ‘workplace’ has become the norm. According to a local survey done across 9000 respondents, nine in 10 employees in Singapore want to continue working from home in some capacity.
That being said, an increasing number of offices don’t see the work-from-home situation as a fleeting one. An expanding directory of firms, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Shopify and MasterCard are making plans for a permanent shift to remote working even after the effects of the pandemic die down.
This shift to remote working has led to an increased conversation of the flexibility of home offices and workspaces, as well as future home-planning. Indeed, flexible housing has the potential to be a design-led solution that suits the needs of a broader cross-section of society while accommodating to the needs associated with 21st-century living.
According to Dora Chng, General Manager (Residential) at Guocoland, “Flexibility is an important factor in the post-COVID-19 landscape where homes suddenly have to accommodate two working parents and their children undergoing home-based learning. Homes that are people-centric and able to help owners adapt quickly to changing life demands will be an attractive proposition for homes moving forward.”
Intrigued, we sat down with Chng to understand more about what people-centric homes mean and how flexible spaces will pave the way for future homeowners.
LSA: Hi Dora, tell us a little about yourself and GuocoLand.
DC: GuocoLand is an award-winning regional property developer with operations in Singapore, China, Malaysia, Vietnam as well as the United Kingdom and Australia through strategic partnerships. Headquartered in Singapore, the Group’s portfolio comprises residential, hospitality, commercial, retail and integrated developments. In Singapore, we have successfully developed 36 residential projects resulting in approximately 11,000 apartments and homes.
As General Manager (Residential) at GuocoLand, I am responsible for the conceptualisation and implementation of the company’s sales and marketing strategies for its residential properties portfolio, including Wallich Residence, Martin Modern, Meyer Mansion, Leedon Residence, Goodwood Residence and Midtown Bay, the residential component of Guoco Midtown, GuocoLand’s latest mega integrated development.
I am also involved in the product development, product positioning and communications strategy of GuocoLand’s residential properties.
LSA: The COVID-19 situation has led to nearly the entire workforce working from home. Moving forward, do you think that this situation is something that will be the norm in the future?
DC: Since Singapore entered into the circuit-breaker period, it has become more apparent for homeowners to have the flexibility to create workspaces at home. This will very likely continue even after the pandemic is over. Through our thoughtful design and layout, GuocoLand’s properties offer homeowners that flexibility to work from home in the longer term, or even to turn their residence into a home office.
LSA: GuocoLand’s residential properties like Wallich Residence and the newly launched Meyer Mansion tap on flexible spaces. For the uninitiated, could you explain a little more on what flexible spaces mean in residential properties?
DC: When designing our luxury properties, one key principle we abide by is “people-centrism”: ensuring our properties enhance the lives of people. One aspect of our people-centric property designs is the concept of flexible usage which allows owners to have a choice in converting the space. While there are some commonalities in the flexible attributes of our designs, each project is different.
For instance, the facilities at the exclusive 181-unit Wallich Residence, which sits atop Singapore’s tallest building, Guoco Tower, supports working from home, with a “boardroom in the sky” at level 52 and private, formal dining rooms to host business associates.
As for Midtown Bay, it was designed to give homeowners the flexibility to use their apartment for multiple purposes – living spaces, home office and entertainment.
It has been intentionally planned such that the balcony floors are flushed with that of the living room, extending the living space seamlessly so much so that an 8-seater dining table can be placed at the balcony space of a two-bedroom apartment. This frees up space in the living area for the homeowner to create his or her workspace.
Another unique offering of Midtown Bay is its 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom duplex units, which offer great flexibility of usage.
With these duplexes, homeowners get a choice to design their home solely as a residence or to design it for dual-use, such as having the lower level set up as a home office, while the upper level is kept private and comfortable for living and sleeping.
LSA: Why do you think this element is so important in home design?
DC: Having a home with the flexibility to adapt is vital to allow owners to accommodate various use of the space, based on changing demands of the moment and different phases of life.
For instance, homeowners at Wallich Residence are mainly business owners and entrepreneurs who own several properties around the world. They use the apartment as a private office and residence when they travel to Singapore a few times a year. The environment at Wallich Residence provides a business-like setting that is suitable for them to meet associates, staff and host meetings using the facilities provided e.g. function rooms and dining rooms.
LSA: The idea of flexible spaces isn’t commonly designed and considered in residential properties — if it really is that advantageous, why do you think other developers aren’t putting much emphasis on it?
DC: Building flexible design into homes increases the cost of development and interior design of projects. GuocoLand takes on the additional investment in many of our residential properties.
LSA: There’s been a lot of talk about work-life balance the last couple of years — would you say that having flexible spaces help professionals today navigate this issue?
DC: Greater work-life balance also means a closer integration between work and living. With remote working expected to be a new way of operations, homes will need to be more flexible to accommodate the changing demands on space.
Homes that have been designed with flexibility from the ground-up will provide homeowners with greater control to adapt spaces for work-from-home needs, thus enabling them to achieve closer work-life integration.
LSA: Apart from flexible spaces, what are some aspects that professionals and HNWIs can take into consideration when selecting a home?
DC: Apart from the traditional factors like location and price, other factors which HNWIs and prospective homebuyers can consider are quality of the project, flexibility in design, the extent of gardens and landscaping for wellness, and the community around the development.
For instance, Wallich Residence only has 181 units, making the residential community naturally very exclusive. This exclusivity will give rise to a unique international community living there. For many of these HNWI, what is important to them is not just the high quality of the apartments and spectacular views, but also about the neighbourhood community.
Another factor is the long-term growth prospect of development. With Wallich Residence part of the integrated mixed development named Guoco Tower, the combination of commercial, residential, office, and hospitality components have propelled Tanjong Pagar as one of Singapore’s most premier business and lifestyle districts.
LSA: We’ve heard that there are new projects on the line for GuocoLand, would you mind sharing with us a little more about that?
DC: Our current projects include Martin Modern, Meyer Mansion and the mega integrated development Guoco Midtown with two residential components namely Midtown Bay and the Tan Quee Lan residential development.
Guoco Midtown is GuocoLand’s second integrated development following Guoco Tower, our flagship development at Tanjong Pagar and Singapore’s tallest building with the 181-unit Wallich Residence at the apex. Guoco Midtown will become an exciting new landmark in Singapore with multiple towers, buildings and gardens sprawled across an expansive footprint of 3.3 hectares.
Our latest project is the new 30-storey residential development at Tan Quee Lan Street, located right above the Bugis MRT interchange station. It will have two residential towers with more than 500 units of luxury apartments as well as a retail podium with food and beverage establishments open to the public.
(Hero image credit: Guocoland)