Health-tech firm adopts coworking space concept in new BGC office

Ten years ago, there was not a single coworking space in the Philippines, but after the launch of ASpace’s flagship office in Makati City in 2008, they have steadily risen in popularity and can now be found in most major cities and townships across the archipelago.

In addition to the coffee available at the cafe, mClinica gives team members free lunch daily from eateries around their Bonifacio Global City office. Photo credit: Kathleen Guytingco Photography

In addition to the coffee available at the cafe, mClinica gives team members free lunch daily from eateries around their Bonifacio Global City office. Photo credit: Kathleen Guytingco Photography

For those who may be unfamiliar with the concept, think of coworking spaces as your Uber for office space — it’s an on-demand place to work. You can avail of short-term leases (as short as a month or even a day) to work in a beautifully designed office equipped with high-speed internet and unlimited coffee, among like-minded folks.

Freelancers, creatives, startups, and other tech companies are frequent residents of coworking spaces in the Philippines, eager as they are to make connections and collaborate with their “coworkers.”

While the advent of coworking spaces in the Philippines should be celebrated for giving alternative options to the millennial worker, they may also present a misleading dichotomy: Coworking spaces are cool. Traditional 9-to-5 offices are not.

To many, these two work environments occupy different ends of the spectrum, and the idea that one can incorporate elements of the other would not even cross the mind of most.

The newly christened Bonifacio Global City (BGC) office of Singapore-headquartered, health-tech company, mClinica wants to turn this notion on its head. Rather than rent out an office at a coworking space, mClinica’s office is designed like a coworking space, and it would be easy for a stranger to mistake it for one upon entering.

The mClinica office opens to an area it calls the “cafe.” Instead of having to trek all the way to Starbucks for their coffee fix, team members can get their daily brew at the self-serve bar, which is stocked with all the extras you need to make the perfect cup.

You can then enjoy your coffee with a teammate for a short, informal meeting. Employees also get free lunch delivered daily, as part of their subsidy for food.

mClinica’s Bonifacio Global City office has both an open floor plan and open seating -- team members sit wherever makes the most sense for them at a given time. Photo credit: Kathleen Guytingco Photography

mClinica’s Bonifacio Global City office has both an open floor plan and open seating — team members sit wherever makes the most sense for them at a given time. Photo credit: Kathleen Guytingco Photography

Apart from a few administrative positions who need designated desks, the heart of the office is open seating. Digital marketers sit among data scientists, software engineers sit among public health experts, and team members reconfigure themselves into new arrangements almost on a daily basis, as the situation calls. That team members can so quickly group themselves into ad-hoc teams — much like at a coworking space — was by design.

“When you’re addressing public health issues with technology, you’re drawing on a constellation of different, ever-changing disciplines. We needed to make it easy for people to collaborate with one another, and we found the best way to do so was to move the restrictions of a typical office: So it’s not just sit where you want, it’s sit with who you’ll do the best work with today,” says Rommel Claveria, the Philippine country manager of mClinica, which makes a variety of health-tech products, such as SwipeRx, the largest platform for pharmacy professionals in Asia.

That team members should aim for nothing less than the complete transformation of public health across Asia is visually encapsulated by a street art-style mural adorning the eastern wall of the office.

With direction from Claveria and other team members, the commissioned street artist painted elements that represent mClinica, the company’s mandate of changing global health, and the challenges it faces but will doggedly fight to overcome.

Though mClinica is a multinational company, with its headquarters in Singapore and operations in Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Thailand, the Manila office has several nods to local Filipino culture.

Interspersed with the faux brick, there are wood-paneled walls whose raw materials are sourced locally, as is all the wood in the office.

The conference room, which doubles as an additional dining room during mClinica’s nearly weekly birthday or milestone celebrations, features an upcycled tree as the centerpiece table.

All of the wood in the conference room -- and in the rest of the office -- was locally sourced from the Philippines. Photo credit: Kathleen Guytingco Photography

All of the wood in the conference room — and in the rest of the office — was locally sourced from the Philippines. Photo credit: Kathleen Guytingco Photography

According to Claveria, these Filipino flourishes were important to the overall design of the office.

“We felt that incorporating local culture into the physical office was necessary because that’s what we want to achieve as a company: We aim to change public health country by country across Asia, using the best resources available to us,” he said, adding, “Plus, I hope you can agree: It looks great!”

The designer of the mClinica office shares the same sentiments.

“Most of the furnitures was made from refurbished hardwood from century-old houses because we value our environment and we want our designs to reflect that. From the materials to the manufacture, we take care and conserve our planet,” says Jebron Calimlim of Jebron At Work.

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