Co-working has become increasingly popular among young freelance office workers and owners of startup companies in Ho Chi Minh City.
In recent years, several co-working venues have popped up in the southern hub, providing an ideal new working space for fledgling business owners and “nomadic” businessmen, who travel the world to promote and find markets for their products.
Co-working is a modern-day model in which perfect strangers pay to share their working space.
Saigon Hub, located at 27B Nguyen Dinh Chieu, District 1, looks just like a spacious, serene café.
The difference is that absolute strangers come there not to lounge, but to share the space to work.
Co-workers sit with their laptops side-by-side, engrossed in their work in perfect silence.
They communicate mostly by brief looks, smiles, and whispers.
“The atmosphere is just like the relaxing yet serious vibes which I would immerse myself in during my years in the U.S., so I find the place to be an ideal working space,” Tran Minh Anh, who works in IT, said of Saigon Hub.
Currently some 20-30 clients, mostly young freelance workers in IT and advertising, visit the space every day.
Clients choose where to sit and have coffee together with free access to Wi-fi. They can also book presentation and conference halls when needed.
Fees vary from VND15,000 (US$0.7) an hour to VND2.4 million ($112) a month.
“Startup businessmen and young office workers call the place an “intensive working house” where they work intensely and sometimes spend nights to finish their projects in time,” the manager of Saigon Hub shared.
Many have “matured” from Saigon Hub and grown into successful entrepreneurs from their time working there, he added.
Customers can stay for as long as they wish and do not need to worry about bothering anyone while working late.
Unlike the dynamic, modern working environs at Saigon Hub, Work Saigon, at 267/2 Dien Bien Phu, District 3, boasts a richer artistic atmosphere.
Located in a small alley, the French-architecture villa is richly adorned with lush vegetation and provides inspiration for its clients, particularly those working in artistic fields.
Clients can book a seat there for VND2 million ($95) a month.
Those who buy coffee on the ground floor can also sit upstairs to work if there is space available.
Clients can also work on their laptops next to the swimming pool or remove weeds and harvest vegetables to relieve stress.
There are also film screenings from time to time in the garden at night.
“The landscape is fantastic and I’m always inspired whenever I come here,” shared photographer Hoang Duy, a patron of Work Saigon.
At other co-working spaces, rooms typically have several 1-1.2 m compartments and are well equipped with electronics tools that are free to use, such as printers and fax machines. Co-workers are usually on a first-name basis with each other.
These modern-day urban work spaces cut costs and enhance work efficiency by creating a collective work atmosphere that helps motivate its customers.
Connections and opportunities
Apart from creating an ideal common working environment, such common co-working spaces enable new working relationships, business opportunities, and the opportunity for people from various fields to exchange experiences.
“From working together and joining presentations and exchanges, start-up groups like us can learn a great deal from successful predecessors and if we’re lucky enough, we can also attract funding from potential investors to turn our projects into a reality,” said Huynh Duy, head of a start-up group in online marketing.
Co-working has thrived in the U.S., Europe, and several Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia.
The birth of these common working spaces can be traced back to the 2007 economic recession, which plunged many businesses into financial crisis.
Co-working came into being as an alternative to renting conventional office space and helps cut costs considerably.
Globalization has also given birth to a generation of “nomadic” entrepreneurs, who do not work in a fixed office space and wish to work anywhere at any time.