Is a 1-week workcation in Orchard worth S$1,088? I tried it & here’s what I learned.

It forced me to think intentionally about how I spend my time and energy.

Jane Zhang | October 26, 2020, 07:29 PM

*cue Titanic music*

via Giphy.

...since most of us have had the luxury of staying in a hotel for longer than a day or two.

Okay, so it hasn't actually been 84 years, but it's been quite some time.

That's because longer stays would usually only happen on an overseas holiday, and, as we all know, there haven't really been any holidays happening recently.

So when Oakwood Studios Singapore, a serviced apartment in Orchard, kindly reached out to offer to host me for a whole week, to try out their "Work from Oakwood" workcation package, I crossed my fingers, knocked on wood, and wished very hard that my editor would say yes.

Spoiler alert (though the headline is quite telling), I was indeed able to spend one full week living out a life that I would not be able to afford on my writer's salary.

(And because serviced apartments must have a minimum stay of six nights, due to Urban Redevelopment Authority regulations, I was able to convince my editor to not make me go into the office for a full week. Nice.)

So here's what the experience, which starts from S$1,088 for six nights, was like, and what I learned about being purposeful to make time for doing things that I enjoy and remembering to take care of myself. 

Convenient location with residential vibes

Arriving at Oakwood Studios on Sunday afternoon, my Grab drove through now-bustling Orchard, with pedestrian crossings full of people.

We took a couple turns onto smaller roads, where suddenly the neighbourhood felt much quieter and very residential, before pulling up to Mount Elizabeth, the road where Oakwood Studios is located.

The location is a nice balance between being accessible (about a five minute walk to Orchard Road itself), and providing some quiet space, away from the hustle and bustle.

Just look how quiet it was one night as I walked back from dinner:

It felt a world away from bustling Orchard, but in reality was only a couple streets away. Photo by Jane Zhang.

Artsy, vibrant decor

Stepping inside the brightly-lit reception area, the first thing I noticed was the very artsy decor.

Photo courtesy of Oakwood Studios Singapore.

"The property is imbued with electric vibes, vibrancy and fun, perfect for independent and millennial-minded guests who are looking for the unexpected in a serviced apartment," explained Oakwood Studios' general manager Scott Swank.

Photo courtesy of Oakwood Studios Singapore.

To be honest, the decor was quite different from my usual style. But I could see how others could find the place very hip.

Room had very nice vibes for getting work done

Those on the Work from Oakwood package can pick between Studio Deluxe and Studio Superior rooms, both of which are an extremely spacious 35 square metres (377 square feet).

The main difference, as explained to me, is that the deluxe has a king-size bed while the superior has a queen-size bed.

Lucky for me, I got to stay in the deluxe!

A whole king-size bed to myself, I could get used to this. Photo courtesy of Oakwood Studios Singapore.

"How do you keep yourself from jumping back into the comfy bed every day??" one of my colleagues asked me.

Ironically, my sense of productivity was quite high while I was on my workcation.

To be honest, there wasn't anything particularly special about the facilities at Oakwood Studios which made it especially well-suited for a productive workcation. However, there were various little things that came together to make my stay an enjoyable one.

The natural light this room offered was far better than the light I get in my room at home, and as someone who loves natural light, it was a wonderfully invigorating way to start my day.

So I found myself looking forward to waking up bright and early every day to enjoy some morning sun.

The room comes with a Bluetooth speaker, which is great if, like me, you need some upbeat music to get into the right mood to tackle the work day.

The room is also very well-ventilated. Working at the desk, I would often find myself directly in the path of a lovely natural breeze whenever the window and balcony doors were open.

Do note that it tends to get hot in the late mornings; that is when you might need to close the doors and turn on the air-conditioning again.

Photo by Jane Zhang.

And to answer my colleague's question, here's a tip: change into "proper" work clothes will get you into the right frame of mind to start work.

It will also help you to resist jumping back into bed because work clothes just aren't comfortable to lounge in.

(To be honest though, it was difficult. The bed was so soft, it was like sitting on clouds.)

The serviced apartment's closet has more than enough space for a week’s worth of clothes.

After all, Oakwood Studios has guests who stay with them for months on end, so if that's enough for them, it was more than enough for me and my one-week stay.

And if you didn’t bring enough clothes, there’s always a complimentary laundry service.

Photo by Jane Zhang.

The bag read: "Laundry today or naked tomorrow". Photo by Jane Zhang.

Was able to cook for myself

Another thing I appreciated about the room, which wouldn't be an option at most hotels at this price point, was that it had a fully-functioning kitchen, that came stocked with cutlery and cooking utensils — everything I needed to cook simple meals.

Guests can opt-in for Oakwood Studios' Continental Breakfast in a Box for S$70 per week, which includes basics such as bread, eggs, butter, juice, milk, oatmeal, and cereal.

Photo by Jane Zhang.

Of course, you can choose to buy your own ingredients instead of paying for the box if you prefer.

Most days, I cooked brunch for myself using the provided ingredients, as well as a few additional items — bacon, cheese, blueberries, and jackfruit — available at a nearby supermarket.

Yes, I like my bacon very crispy. Photo by Jane Zhang.

Having a kitchen to cook brunch saved me the time of walking out into Orchard to buy lunch.

It also offered me a good respite from work, as during these last few months of working from home, I often found myself buying lunch and wolfing it down over my laptop as I continued to do work.

Needing to take 20 minutes to cook lunch, and then taking the time to savour my food, served as an enforced break in the middle of the day.

The "Work from Oakwood" package also comes with complimentary snacks every day, so when I got hungry outside of mealtimes, I was also able to request snacks on Oakwood Studios' mobile app, which was great because I snack a lot.

Their snacks were healthier (and fancier) than what I usually eat, and quite tasty. Photo by Jane Zhang.

Plenty of spaces for a change of scenery

As much as I loved my room, spend too long anywhere and you'll find yourself itching for a change of scenery.

Luckily for me, there were a number of different places at Oakwood Studios that I could shift between to do work.

Each room has its own balcony, which is a great for popping out for fresh air ever so often throughout the day.

Photo by Jane Zhang.

The rooftop of Oakwood Studios also has a sitting area that overlooks the pool, as well as a small gym that guests can use (which I did not step into at all over the course of the week, whoops). Working on the pool deck was great because the view of the pool made me feel like I was lounging even when I was hard at work.

Photo by Jane Zhang.

The "Work from Oakwood" package comes with complimentary twice-per-week housekeeping services, which I felt was a good balance between not needing to live in my own mess for the whole week, but also not as disruptive as daily housekeeping.

So on Friday afternoon, when the housekeepers came around for the second time, I got out of their way and shifted to working at the pool deck. It was a much-needed hour out of the room, although it did get pretty hot, since it was the middle of the day.

I also enjoyed the outdoor "Retreat" area on the second floor of the building, where I spent a few hours one evening finishing up work from the lounge chairs. It felt so peaceful and made me feel like I was engulfed in nature, even though I knew I was surrounded by high-rises.

Photo by Jane Zhang.

The view from the lounge chair. I promise I was also getting work done. Photo by Jane Zhang.

Orchard Road is just nearby

Not only was I pretty productive over the course of the week, but I also managed to maintain a better work-life balance than usual.

Most nights, I pushed myself to finish my work and close my laptop around 7pm, and head out for dinner.

I walked around the area to explore and try other food that I usually wouldn't have the opportunity to walk to after work, such as Jollibee at Lucky Plaza, which was just a couple minutes' walk away.

After dinner, I'd usually take a nice, slow post-dinner stroll around the area before heading back to Oakwood Studios. I've always loved walking around Orchard, and it was nice to see it on weekday nights, away from the packed weekend crowd.

Photo by Jane Zhang.

Setting aside time to rest on a workcation

Over the past few months with the Circuit Breaker and work-life balance becoming even more blurred than it usually is — I've found it very easy to fall into the trap of just floating along during my free time, instead of actively pursuing things that I want to do and thinking about how I want to spend my time.

However, with this workcation assignment, I deliberately set aside time after work to relax. It is part staycation after all and besides, I'm doing it for work!

I brought a number of skincare products that I never seem to make time to use at home, given that I'm often too tired to actually do a proper routine at the end of a work day.

So in the evenings during my week-long workcation, I would put on some nice chill music (that Bluetooth speaker was very handy indeed), wash up, and put on a face mask (not the kind we've been wearing for the past six months, thank you).

Photo by Jane Zhang.

Another thing I haven't done in a long while but wanted to do? Sit back and unwind while the TV plays in the background. No checking work messages or emails, no scrolling through Instagram mindlessly — just relaxing.

Maybe it's just me, but there's also something specific about the feeling of watching television in a hotel (or in this case, a serviced apartment) that is warm and wonderful.

When packing for my week, I had also grabbed not one, but two books — ignoring the fact that it has been an embarrassing amount of time since I properly read a whole book — in hopes that I would make time to read them, either before bed or early in the mornings.

Full disclosure: I did not read either of the books. I'm only human.

Important to take stock and think intentionally about our time

So, I wasn't able to completely turn my life around in the course of a week.

However, the week I spent living at Oakwood Studios did get me thinking more about activities — watching TV, taking time to do skincare, and reading — that I have been wanting to do, but haven't made time for.

More importantly, it allowed me to think more deeply about how I want to spend my time and energy, and gave me a chance to take stock of what's important to me and to reset my perspective about spending time intentionally.

Of course, I know it shouldn't take a S$1,000+ one-week hotel stay for me to remember the importance of using my time intentionally and thoughtfully.

Let's be honest. The "Work from Oakwood package" might not be financially-viable for many of us.

But for those who can afford to pay for a one-week change of environment, S$181 a night for a convenient location, an in-room kitchen, and probably double or triple the amount of space that a hotel room of the same standard, is a competitive option.

The facilities at Oakwood Studios are also good enough if you need to juggle between work and taking time to rest away from home — which you'll probably be sick of after months of work-from-home.

For the rest of us who can't necessarily afford this luxury, this is still a good reminder for us to take a step back once in a while, especially during difficult times like the pandemic.

That could mean spending an evening reflecting on if we're happy with how we're spending our time, taking a couple days off of work to re-calibrate and rest, or using a weekend to try to build the foundation for new habits.

Creating a change of pace (and maybe environment) and being intentional about our time feels better than just floating along, and can be helpful to our wellness, and best of all, you don't need to spend a thousand dollars to do that.

Also, I'm happy to announce that in the week following my hotel stay, I started reading one of the books I had wishfully planned to read, on the MRT to work!

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Top photo courtesy of Oakwood Studios Singapore.