Improving creativity through flexible workspaces

July 18, 2022 | 08:00
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The impact of the pandemic on the office market in Vietnam and the flexible workspace industry has been huge. CEO Greg Ohan and COO Thuy Hoang of real estate developers The Sentry explored this further with VIR’s Bich Ngoc.
Improving creativity through flexible workspaces
CEO Greg Ohan and COO Thuy Hoang of real estate developers The Sentry

What is the culture and investment strategy of The Sentry as it aims to be one of the leaders of flexible office providers in Vietnam?

Greg Ohan: Headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, The Sentry is Vietnam’s first homegrown real estate lifestyle developer. Our core business began with real estate asset management and now we have pivoted our focus to providing flexible offices including coworking locations and, more recently, flexible living including co-living solutions in Vietnam.

We believe in the hub-and-spoke model. Our members and office tenants say they effectively need a hub-and-spoke model. The spokes need to be closer to where their employees live to minimise the commuting time it takes to get to the office. That is why we have decided to expand into decentralised and key suburban areas around Ho Chi Minh City this year, with new locations in District 1 and District 2.

Flexible workplaces allow companies to lease for shorter time periods, and have ready-built offices without investing in the design and build-out, with amenities such as conference rooms, social spaces, and even napping booths that are shared amongst members and available to all. This way of designing, building, operating, and selling workplaces has gained popularity with companies, especially those who are looking for more flexibility. This is the culture we have created and what we believe users will expect for the foreseeable future in our opinion.

What is driving the flexible workspace market and what type of companies occupy such offices?

Thuy Hoang: Most of the employees in our target sectors are under 30, living at home and hungry to be in an inspiring, innovative, and collaborative work environment. This is the new generation of a workforce which we cater to – the young population do not want to stay home – and their employers, and our corporate clients agree.

Within the last six months alone, 10 per cent of our founding members at The Sentry’s flagship CONNECT at SONATUS location have experienced expansion and headcount growth.

In recent months, big tech and other companies have been mandating employees return to the office, at least on a hybrid basis, after two years of pandemic-driven work-from-home. Will employees show up? Will they quit? There’s a disconnect between factions that want workers to return to the office and workers who have grown accustomed to the increased productivity and convenience of working remotely.

Global tech giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all been promoting a hybrid back-to-office plan globally and job postings in these sectors continue to grow at an unprecedented rate in Vietnam, especially for IT tech jobs like e-commerce, data science, IT, and coding. Vietnam is no exception to the rule. Our generation of workers would rather come to the office than work from home.

What are the benefits of The Sentry’s flexible offices against other flexible office providers?

Ohan: Flexibility and cost-effectiveness are critical quantitative factors for many space users. However, The Sentry believes its success lies in those qualitative elements and the positive effects created through its unique and carefully selected community. We do not rent to all industries and focus on a specific cluster of sectors. Our vision from day one has been to create a vertical silicon valley and it has been very successful for us.

By building such a community, we have managed to create an environment that promotes productivity, creativity, and diversity.

With a variety of options from private meeting rooms to small shared office spaces or booths to communal desks, members can work in a way that suits them and allows them to be as productive as possible. The Sentry also provides plenty of resources and tech that members might not always have available at home or in a typical office.

We also find that co/flexible working boosts our members’ creativity because they have the ability to connect and share ideas with people they wouldn’t normally meet. Studies have shown that a change in environment can be a good way to enhance their creativity by offering a different perspective and fresh energy.

Filled with a mix of people from all different backgrounds, The Sentry’s locations are a great place to share ideas and potentially collaborate. You have the opportunity to meet people from different industries and professions as well and increase the diversity of your own network.

What is next for The Sentry?

Hoang: Our mission is simple, to be the leader in providing flexible and affordable real estate solutions to meet the changing trend of the workforce. By the end of 2022, The Sentry will have up to seven flexible real estate locations across Ho Chi Minh City with five of those being flexible office space.

In addition, it aims to be a pioneer in environmental, social, and governance commitments with future initiatives for new projects focused on sustainability, recycling, and the environment.

The Sentry has learned extensively from its experiences in Vietnam, particularly over the past 24 months, about what it takes to create best-in-class spaces for its members and how to encourage and motivate staff. We hope to continue this trend as we grow with our members in the time ahead.

By Bich Ngoc

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