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Global Village Voice

Paperspace: Paving The Future of Workspace Design

Last April, Paperspace director and co-founder Sombat Ngamchalermsak was featured in an interview by Global Village Voice, a top broadcast program in Thailand keen to spotlight on unique business models of startups, Sombat shared about the philosophy and mechanics behind designing an office that attracts, as well as the future of work and workspace design.

Paperspace Asia was first conceptualized as a business to “unoffice”,  where people can enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working in a time and location of their choosing. It is made up of a collective of experienced strategists, designers, and change activists based in Singapore, Bangkok and Manila with expertise in Workplace Strategy, Design, and Change Management. 

A Brief Background of Paperspace Asia’s Co-Founder

Before starting Paperspace Asia, Sombat worked in Singapore and developed a strict disciplined work ethic. Compared to Thai designers, he realized that Singaporean designers and clients run on shorter deadlines and face intense competition. In addition, Sombat recognized that the Singaporean government focuses on inviting up-and-coming designers from different countries to collaborate. This is evident in famous landmarks done by celebrity designers across the city-state such as the Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay.

With all the experience and learnings garnered, Sombat eventually made his way back to Thailand to work on corporate and commercial interior design with multinational corporate clients throughout Asia. 5 years later, the concept of Paperspace Asia was born.

The Future of Work Culture 

Workspaces designed by Paperspace are noticeably more modern and fit the new way people work — collaboratively, not locked up in individual office cubes. This was partly inspired by how multinational tech companies have an open, activity-based workplace where no one is assigned a desk and employees have the freedom to move and use various workspaces around the office as they wish. 

This concept of open offices is slowly gaining ground and some clients in Bangkok are starting to adapt to the change.  Ways of working will change very soon, given that more millennials are starting to enter the workforce. With such a development, the design of the workplace will definitely have to adjust.

A New Generation of Employees and Workplaces

As Sombat shares during the interview, five years from now, half of the workforce will be millennials. Their generation was born between 1980 and 2000. They are those who grew up alongside the boom of technology, but also witnessed the Market Crash of 2008 and still feel those repercussions till date.

Millennials are adept at using online tools to communicate and do not believe in a 9-hour workday, nor in working in one place—or company—all the time. Theirs is a generation that believes in a flexible lifestyle with no permanent office hours, and think that a workplace is a temporary place where people go to do a task for some hours and leave. 

This new generation of employees, business leaders, and workplace owners understand that it is not necessary to own a lot of expensive supplies for the business to function. It is possible to operate and thrive once essentials are catered for, such as a stable internet connection, photocopy equipment and a materials library. 

This new generation of workers is what Paperspace has built itself on — a prototype to represent this concept, to show clients that this type of workspace is possible in Bangkok. 

Present organizations and businesses using traditional business models are adapting to this trend. They can restructure their office by decreasing their headquarters and building several satellite units around the city so that staff can access whatever satellite office is nearer. Doing so is much more efficient and cost-effective compared to expecting employees to report to the office daily.

Sombat also advised businesses to decrease their number of full-time staff, and outsource more work to freelancers, in anticipation of the fact that most jobs will be project-based looking ahead five years from now.

Positioned and prepared for an uncertain future

Sombat points out that as of 2020, foreign firms are already doing work in the new style or readying themselves for big adjustments. He is confident that forward-thinking Thai firms will do so in time since their owners are getting younger.  He shares examples of millennials creating startups, while others have come back from studying abroad to apply their new knowledge and cultural experiences to their family’s businesses. This generation is undoubtedly ready for the latest trend and is sure to run their businesses in a way that reflects it. 

In five years, Sombat believes that the new generation of business owners and leaders will already be making a palpable impact in their respective industries. Such a transition will necessarily translate to the achievement of far greater and more equitable economic growth. 

This article is a summary of an interview conducted in January 2017 in conjunction with Global Village Voice.