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I try a workcation in a neighbourhood I'm unfamiliar with, here's whether I was more productive or not

I try a workcation in a neighbourhood I'm unfamiliar with, here's whether I was more productive or not
Me hard at work writing this article for our lovely readers.
PHOTO: AsiaOne

One good thing that came out of the Covid-19 pandemic was some employers realising the benefits of flexible work arrangements. 

And now that we're in a post-pandemic world, those who can work from anywhere have even more options to choose from, such as cafes, co-working spaces or even another country. 

Personally, I prefer using my flexible work arrangement days at home as I am the most productive at my own desk. 

But when I had the chance to work and stay in a hotel for three days, I thought to myself, why not try getting out of my comfort zone?

So, my colleague and I packed our bags and headed over to Balestier for our mini workcation. 

Home for the next three days 

For the next few days, we called Coliwoo Hotel Balestier our home away from home. 

This service apartment hotel offers four types of rooms—Premier Queen Suite, Deluxe Queen Suite, Queen Suite and Superior Single Suite—that are available for booking, with prices starting from $100 per night. 

I got the Deluxe Queen Suite, which features a Queen-sized Murphy bed that can be folded upwards and turned into a desk. 

On the other hand, my colleague got the Queen Suite, which comes with a Queen-sized bed and a pull-out table that functions as a workstation and dining table. 

Both rooms also come with en-suite bathrooms and kitchenettes, making the rooms quite self-sufficient. 

I realise that when it comes to staycations and workcations, more popular choices would be places in town as it's convenient and central. 

However, though Balestier is on the city fringe, it surprisingly isn't as popular a destination. 

I myself am not very familiar with the location, and I soon realised that this was actually a good thing because it was a nice change of scenery. 

On top of that, it was also a good opportunity to explore an unfamiliar neighbourhood. 

Working and living in the same space 

For the longest time, I've seen home renovation videos featuring Murphy beds and I've always been curious about them. 

So, getting to use one was quite an experience for me. 

It was quite easy to use too—simply press the remote control and the bed will fold upwards into the wall, revealing a desk hidden below.

While it was a smart concept, especially within a modest-sized space, I personally found it quite a hassle to have to transform the bed into a desk before and after work. 

There were also times when I needed there to be a desk—such as for eating or placing items on—but the contraption was in bed form. 

For someone who likes to multi-task and lay their belongings everywhere, the Murphy bed wasn't for me. But I could see how it provides value in a small, tight living space.

I also tried working from my colleague's room to see if I preferred it, and I think that worked better for me as I found the pull-out desk more suitable for my work-style. 

As the rooms are meant to be self-sufficient and come with their own kitchenettes, we also tried cooking a meal for ourselves on one of the nights. 

There are two malls with supermarkets in the area—Shaw Plaza and Zhongshan Mall—so getting groceries was really convenient. 

I'll be frank and admit that I was concerned about doing so because the beds were right next to the stoves, and there was a chance we'd be sleeping in sheets that smelled like food. 

It was also the smallest space that I have ever cooked in and I was worried that an accident may happen. 

Surprisingly, there weren't many hiccups (I did drop a sausage on the floor and knock over a cup) but other than that, things went pretty smoothly. 

I managed to whip myself up a decent meal of pesto pasta with sausages, while my colleague made some very delicious strawberry pancakes. 

And the most shocking part for me was that the room actually didn't smell like food afterwards as it was pretty well ventilated and the stove had a cooker hood. 

Getting a good balance of work and rest (and food) 

While working at home, I'm reminded of all the dreaded chores that I have to do in my free time such as vacuuming the floor and doing the laundry. 

The beauty of a workcation was that I could take a "break" from that because out of sight, out of mind.  

In my time before and after work, or during my lunch break, I had the freedom to explore a new neighbourhood that I was unfamiliar with. 

While Balestier does have its fair share of modern condominiums and shopping malls, it still retains some of its vintage, rustic charm. 

For instance, the roads here are mostly lined with pretty shophouses, some of which still house old-school businesses. 

Examples include Whampoa Colour Centre, which is a photo lab, and the famous Lam Yeo Coffee Powder Factory. 

As a foodie, another thing that excited me was the vast number of food options in the vicinity.

Normally, I wouldn't travel all the way down to Balestier for a meal because the nearest MRT station is almost a kilometre away from the area and I don't have any direct buses to the area either. 

But since I had to live there for a few days, I had the luxury of time to go on a food hunt. 

For dinner on our first night, my colleague and I enjoyed a sumptuous dinner of chicken rice and other Chinese dishes at Boon Tong Kee. 

The next morning before work, I explored Balestier Market and got some dim sum and an iced coffee for breakfast. 

And for lunch, my colleague and I walked a little further down the road and found Whampoa Food Centre. There, we enjoyed some old-school western food and prawn noodles. 

On the last night of our stay, I was feeling a little peckish. Usually on such nights I'd cook myself some instant noodles as the food spots in my area close pretty early.

But as I was in a new neighbourhood, I decided to see what I could find nearby. 

That's how I discovered Rochor Beancurd House, which opens till 1am and sells soya bean drinks, you tiao and egg tarts. 

Would I do it again? 

While I still prefer working from my own home, I have to say, going on a workcation was a refreshing experience and one that I wouldn't mind doing again. 

Though I didn't have my usual desk set up, I found myself pretty productive because admittedly, it is quite exciting trying something in a new environment and I was more motivated to work. 

Being able to explore a different neighbourhood in my free time also made me feel like a digital nomad. Sure, I was still in Singapore, but I also felt like I was a tourist in my own country. 

For those who have been curious about becoming a digital nomad but don't know where to start, I suggest trying a workcation if your company provides you with flexible hours. 

If you're keen to try the hotel we stayed at, you can get more details from Coliwoo's website

Address: 471 Balestier Rd, Singapore 329842

ALSO READ: I tried 'working from home' at a mall for a change of scenery - and here's what I discovered

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