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The office just went freelance

A woman works at the coworking space Muchroom in Bangkok, Thailand. (The Nation)
A woman works at the coworking space Muchroom in Bangkok, Thailand. (The Nation)
An increasingly attractive option for freelance professionals as well as those who find working at home too lonely or too distracting, co-working spaces are springing up all over Bangkok.

Wander into any of these shared offices in search of a desk and you’ll find a community of graphic designers, programmers, digital nomads and one- or two-man start-ups already hard at work.

Places like Klique Desk and Hubba, both conveniently located downtown with easy access to BTS and MRT stations, provide fully serviced and modern office space complete with high-speed Wi-Fi along with the company of like-minded folk.

Klique Desk, which is owned by interior designer Kant Rodsawat and two partners, has been around since February last year.

“Our research showed that more and more people are tending to work alone, while new graduates in the IT and design fields prefer to start their professional careers as freelancers. We wanted to provide for them by offering a multifunction shared working space,” Kant explains.

Located on the second floor of the Shinawatra Building on Sukhumvit Soi 23, the office has a modern, avant-garde look that’s in sharp contrast to the old-fashioned structure of the building with walls and floor painted a cheerful shade of yellow.

Spread over a generous 300 square meters, it houses two multipurpose meeting rooms, complete with projector, television and other multimedia tools, hot-desk space with full office connectivity and 14 private offices in different sizes. Prices start at 200 baht ($6) a day for shared working space and 17,000 baht ($518) per month for a private office.

The fully serviced office offers a business address and a bilingual receptionist who handles incoming mail, email notifications and answers the phone.

“Most of our customers are graphic designers, bloggers, web developers, media people and foreign business people. Thais are also becoming more aware of what a co-working space is and how it is different from a cafe or library. A co-working space is ideal for freelancers and start-ups, especially small and medium enterprises. They don’t have to worry about high rent or setting up an office system. We provide everything they need. We have flexible packages for long-term private office leases that include cost of utilities and reception service,” Kant says.

“Our space is not only a workplace, but also a community that allows you to network with like-minded people.”

The hot-desk zone can seat 15 and boasts a phone booth area for private conversations and online conferences, as well as a photocopier, printer, scanner and fax.

There’s even a small pantry equipped with a refrigerator, microwave oven and coffee maker where you can grab free drinks and a selection of snacks.

“We’re just a short distance away from the BTS and MRT, though we also provide free parking space for those who prefer to come by car. Co-working space is becoming a popular trend in many big cities because entrepreneurs from Europe are expanding their businesses to Asia,” co-founder Nattamon Limthanachai says.

PanchaphatLert-U-Thai, who has just launched a travel and cultural website in Chinese, recently moved into Klique Desk.

“I have a small company and just a couple of staff. Klique Desk was an obvious choice thanks to its attractive location and fully serviced space. The flexible lease helps me save on costs and works out cheaper than turning my house into an office. All you need to move in is a notebook computer; everything else, even the coffee, is provided,” Panchaphat says.

One of the pioneers of co-working spaces in Bangkok, Hubba is still the most popular spot for foreign tourists and expatriates. Tucked away on Soi Ekamai 4, the white, two-storey house with a shady courtyard is the property of Charle Charoenphan.

A business consultant for many years, Charle set up Hubba as an alternative for those fed up with working in coffee shops. The prices range from Bt265 per day to Bt36,500 per year, inclusive of hi-speed Internet connection, office equipment and drinks.

“I launched Hubba last year. At that time, co-working was a very new thing and people had no idea what we were all about. We had just one member the first month! We’ve tried to educate people in the shared working space concept and its benefits,” Charle says.

The spacious house is decorated in minimalist-style and offers a “hot desk” area that can accommodate, indoors and outdoors, a total of 50 visitors.

The ground floor boasts a small library with books in several categories, a fitted pantry, three private offices, a spacious shared working space with phones and a meeting room.

The second story has two fully equipped meeting rooms that are the right size for small seminars or workshops.

“Co-working space builds a community. It is where we can find people in different careers with whom we can interact and network, perhaps leading to new jobs,” Charle says.

“Besides, we also offer a program of workshops on a range of interesting topics, which are facilitated by our members and specialists and designed to improve career skills. Next year, we plan to expand the co-working space and also open a new branch in Hua Hin.”

Nutthawut Teachatanawat, who has worked for an international NGO for years, comes to Hubba almost every day.

“My office moved to other country, so now I have to work from home. I’m used to being around other people and found I was becoming depressed. So I searched for co-working spaces on the Internet and found Hubba. Working here is much more convenient than a coffee shop and my productivity has noticeably improved,” Nutthawut says.

German tourist Alexej Friesen has been a regular visitor to Hubba since arriving in Bangkok a month ago.

“My friend recommended this place. Co-working spaces are very popular in my hometown and Germany is now the second biggest market after the U.S. I like this place. It’s friendly and the atmosphere encourages us to talk and make friends with strangers. In Germany, spaces tend to be more serious and quiet. Here, there is much more of a sense of community,” Friesen says.

The latest kid on the block is Muchroom on Soi Pradipat 23. Also situated in a two-story house, it’s run by engineer Sarinthee Nualchanchai, accountant Watcharaphong Chaicomaudom and a friend.

It’s been open since August and the cozy office and attractive garden has been successful in attracting local freelancers.

“We want people to work here as happily as if they were working at home but with the benefits of a functional and serviced office. We provide a mail box, multifunction rooms for workshops and seminars and a range of office supplies,” Sarinthee says.

Muchroom has a “hot desk” space that seats 20, five private offices, a meeting room, a reading corner with lounge chairs and a spacious fitted kitchen.

IT consultant Jarunee Sinchairojkul, who’s used to “coffee shop offices”, finds the space inspiring yet relaxing.

“It’s so much better than working in a cafe. Here, I have a desk and high-speed Internet connection, and the atmosphere helps improve my productivity,” Jarunee says.

Phakphum Visetnut, a freelance web programmer, brings his laptop along to Muchroom twice a week.

“My home is too much of a comfort zone. Not only do I find it hard to concentrate but I also feel very isolated. A co-working space is much more beneficial to my productivity,” Phakphum says.

By Pattarawadee Saengmanee

(The Nation)