SINGAPORE – When Furama RiverFront hotel launched its work-from-hotel package in August, it caused quite a stir.
For $15 a day, two patrons could park themselves at the lush waterfall lounge, drink their fill of coffee, tea and other beverages, and even get $10 worth of dining credit for lunch. With free parking thrown in, many wondered about profit margins for the hotel.
Over the past few weeks, many thronged the lounge to check out this unbeatable deal, with seats sometimes filling up within half an hour of opening.
The hotel even had to limit the number of daily passes and walk-in sales on certain days.
On Monday, it raised prices to $28 for a day pass, upping the dining credit to $15 at the same time. Guests are also allowed to reserve a table for an additional $5.
Meanwhile, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel – another player offering work-from-hotel facilities – sold out all 50 monthly co-working packages offered at a promotional price of $88 within two weeks. It has since upped prices to $135.
The Straits Times checks out three co-working lounges to see how good they are for a change of work-from-home scenery.
1. DAY TRIP TO THE AIRPORT
Heading to Jewel Changi Airport for work is hardly the same as going on vacation, but spending the afternoon there offers a refreshing change of scenery.
The pay-per-use lounge, formerly for transit passengers and those on fly-cruise itineraries, reopened as a co-working space in August. It seats 50, but had fewer than 10 people on the morning I spent there. Larger than the one at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel and less crowded than Furama RiverFront’s, it feels the most luxurious of the three I visited.
It is also super clean. Surfaces such as tables and chairs are coated with an antimicrobial coating that deactivates viruses and kills bacteria and fungi, which works for up to 90 days.
OFFICE FOR THE DAY
Armchairs and couches are inviting, but no one wants to hunch over a coffee table all day.
The lounge provides portable steel-and-glass mini-desks you can shift to your couch of choice. There are ample power points, and the Wi-Fi is speedy and stable.
For maximum productivity, I go for a long table against the wall, kitted out with dimmable table lamps and a hard-backed chair that my lower back agrees with.
It feels like a sleeker, more grown-up version of a university library.
Two-hour packages ($15) come with a drink, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks and Milo, and a pastry. An a la carte menu (above) of bar bites such as popcorn chicken and fries, with items priced between $4.50 and $12.90, was launched on Thursday.
Four- and eight-hour packages ($24 and $44) come with free-flow drinks as part of a limited promotion, as well as free parking.
CHANGI AIRPORT JEWEL LOUNGE
FEE: From $15 for two hours
OPEN: 10am to 9pm on weekdays and 10am to 10pmon weekends
INFO: Changi Airport’s website
2. WORK BY A WATERFALL
Furama RiverFront’s Waterfall lounge has been drawing a steady stream of home office escapees since its launch – and for good reason.
The hotel declined to reveal the number of seats available and the take-up rate.
However, all 70 or so seats at the Waterfall lounge were full by 10am when The Straits Times visited on a weekday morning.
More seats are available at hotel restaurants The Square and Kintamani on levels two and three, though these make a less pretty Zoom backdrop.
Since Monday, the hotel has raised prices from $15 to $28 for a day pass, which may ease demand.
OFFICE FOR THE DAY
Refurbished last year, the space feels plush yet youthful, like hanging out at a trendy friend’s crib.
Full-length glass panels let in an abundance of natural light and views of greenery. Suede couches, marbled tabletops and rattan wall decor lend a modern backdrop to Zoom calls.
Plush couches and coffee tables are comfy for lounging – I even spot one person taking a nap.
To get serious work done, charge for the rattan chairs with tables of a regular height, though even these feel like a game of Tetris as I balance two laptops, pots of tea and lunch. Tables at The Square and Kintamani have more room.
Power sockets are available at most tables, even those in the middle of the lounge. Although my companion had problems with the Wi-Fi connection at first, staff were quick to troubleshoot.
My Zoom call went off without a hitch and those who want to watch Netflix will have no trouble either.
A mix of working professionals and a backpack-toting, hoodie-wearing crowd gives the place a vague school-library feel, complete with an air of hushed focus.
Meetings and phone calls go on quietly, and patrons are generally considerate.
Besides free-flow coffee, tea, juices and soft drinks for the pass holder and one guest, lounge passes come with $15 dining credit.
This can be used for an extensive menu that includes pizza and burgers, Asian food from Kintamani, and cakes.
Set lunches – at $9.80 for mains such as salted egg prawn rice, bacon aglio olio and a smoked salmon bagel – are good value. Ordering via an online chatbot is fuss-free.
A snack cart stocked with treats, such as ice cream from Udders and salted egg yolk fish skin from Irvin’s, will keep the midday munchies at bay.
Besides free parking and a concierge to take care of printing and mail, each pass grants one child free weekday admission to the hotel’s indoor playground Waka Waka, which usually costs $18 on weekdays.
FURAMA RIVERFRONT WORK FROM HOTEL PASS
FEE: From $28 for a day pass
OPEN: 9am to 10.30pm daily
3. POCKET OF SERENITY BY THE SINGAPORE RIVER
A few hundred metres away from Furama RiverFront, the co-working space at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel’s lobby is cosier and quieter. Thick brass pillars, wooden desks and marble floors create a professional, if cookie-cutter, setting.
The space seats 40. About half the seats are usually filled since its launch in the middle of last month, estimates Mr Lee Richards, Millenium Hotels and Resorts’ vice-president of operations for South-east Asia.
OFFICE FOR THE DAY
The lounge overlooks the Singapore River, but the blinds are down during my visit to keep out the afternoon sun. This creates a dim and cosy atmosphere that is great for afternoon naps, if not the best for productivity.
Rectangular tables are large enough for work, and helpful yet unobtrusive waiters keep glasses filled. Most tables have power sockets. The lounge is quiet enough for calls – so quiet that it felt like I was disturbing the peace when I had to make one.
If drinks are all you are after, the Millennium I package, at a promotional price of $16 a day, includes free-flow coffee, tea, soft drinks and juices. You won’t find any watered-down caffeine here – the hotel serves a respectable latte, and the tea menu includes options such as Yunnan pu erh and South African Rooibos, on top of the usual suspects such as English Breakfast.
The Millennium II package, at a promotional price of $35 a day, comes with either a main or two sides from its menu.
My baked teriyaki salmon on a bed of mash and roasted vegetables was nicely caramelised, and sinfully crisp luncheon meat fries are a crowd favourite.
Other highlights include complimentary parking, 30 pieces of A4 black and white printing, and a mailing service.
The Millennium II package includes access to a sizeable gym. Make appointments early.
GRAND COPTHORNE WATERFRONT “WORK FROM HOTEL” PACKAGE
FEE: From $16 a day
OPEN: 8am to 6pm daily