[UPDATED, Oct 2, 2020]:
Furama RiverFront has since updated their Work From Hotel packages. It now costs $28 a day for a pass and it comes with $15 worth of dining credits.
You can also reserve your seat if you are worried that spaces might run out for $5.
Singaporeans sure know a bargain when they see one.
When Furama RiverFront Singapore launched their Work From Hotel (WFH) passes, it sounded like a good deal. For $15 a day, you get $10 worth of dining credits, free-flow drinks, including coffee and soft drinks, and use of the public spaces in the hotel for more than 13 hours, from 9am to 10.30pm.
Evidently, many thought the same. It wasn't too surprising that when I reached Furama RiverFront Hotel at 9am, most of the seats in the Waterfall Lounge — one of the three spaces that you can work at according to their website — were occupied, and there was a line of people waiting to "check-in" with their Work From Home passes.
The demand was so high that the night before I went, I'd received an email that the WFH passes were sold out for the weekend (Sept 18 to 20). I had also kept up with the hotel's social media postings and noted that the hotel would post by about 10am every day that they were at full capacity for WFH.
One young chap who was just ahead of me in the queue was turned away as he had not purchased a pass online. The hotel had initially accepted walk-ins, but it announced on Sept 20 that it would no longer do so.
Lucky for me, I still managed to snag a sofa seat with a friend, though it came with a low coffee table. A scan around the lounge showed that there were a number of comfortable sofa seats with higher tables that would make for a more comfortable seating option.
The good: Plenty of seats, power sockets and decent food options
While the Waterfall Lounge where I was at was full, it was not uncomfortably so, as the hotel had spaced the seats well apart (in line with social distancing rules). And there were floor-to-ceiling glass windows that spanned more than two storeys, allowing plenty of natural light to stream in.
The staff shared that every day, they would only allow 150 people in to WFH at any one point. And they would be spread across three levels in the hotel.
Other than the lounge area on the first floor, the hotel had opened up their restaurants, The Square @ Furama and Kintamani Indonesian Restaurant, on the second and third floors respectively.
Several meeting rooms had also been opened up with tables and chairs for people to work to cope with the high WFH demand, according to staff members. And the people I saw seated in those areas looked pretty comfortable.
One main concern of most people would be whether there is a place to plug in and work for the whole day. In this aspect, Furama has got it covered, at least in the lounge.
There are plenty of power sockets scattered throughout the lounge, and if you aren't seated near one, you can always request for an extension cord.
However, there are no power sockets at The Square @ Furama, so you might not want to sit there if you need juice for your electronic devices.
Feeling hungry while you are working is normal and Furama offers a wide variety of food options. Its online ordering system lets you order your drinks (more on that later) and food items. There's also a snack cart and vending machines with more options.
And if you are wondering whether $10 in credits are sufficient for a filling lunch, the answer is yes. There are special lunch sets that are just $9.80 and sufficiently filling so you won't need to spend more than the initial $15 for your pass, unless you have a specific craving.
The nasi goreng ayam I had was flavorful, while the cheesy fish quesadilla that my WFH companion had was pretty delicious. In short, you shouldn't need to worry about going hungry here.
With so many people using the same network, I was curious to see if internet speed would be an issue.
Around us, there were people comfortably doing video conference calls and my friend was able to comfortably stream videos on Netflix during lunchtime, though the quality of the stream could admittedly be better.
The 'can be better': Orders took a while to come
Perhaps it's because the hotel is still getting used to its online ordering system, but I faced some difficulties with my free-flow drink orders.
The first order I made took a good half an hour before it came and it would happen a couple more times throughout the day, with some orders never making it to my table. That said, when I did raise it to the wait staff, they promptly tried to resolve it.
Also as water wasn't an option on the menu, I had to ask for it from the wait staff, which sort of defeated the purpose of contactless ordering that the online system was set up for. And if you are ordering, I'll say to skip the juices.
Another thing to note if you're like me and are still working from home: you have to keep your mask on at all times, unless you are eating or drinking.
As I had been used to working without my mask on, it admittedly took some getting used to. I found myself sneaking in sips of water just to be able to remove the mask momentarily. Lucky thing too that the washrooms are located pretty close by.
And if you think you could get away without your mask on, you are mistaken as staff regularly go around, reminding people to have their mask on.
The verdict: It's a good deal and I would come again
Even cafes wouldn't let you just buy one meal and sit there for the entire day, and we all know that a meal at a cafe can easily cost more than $15.
And what more, the unlimited drinks that's included — I had four drinks that made it to my table, plus numerous glasses of water, decent Wi-Fi, and a filling meal.
I had not even utilised the other benefits, including printing up to 30 pages of documents, two hours free play time for kids at the indoor play area Waka Waka and free stamps for normal local mail.
However, perhaps it's because I'm too used to working from home where I have total control over my environment, I did find myself getting distracted by all the goings-on around me and I was admittedly not as productive as I would have been if I had stayed at home. It was, however, a good break from the four walls of my home, constant mask-wearing aside.
While I do think the pros outweigh the cons, I would probably prefer to come back on a weekend and enjoy the day catching up with a friend with the privileges afforded, without having to actually work. It is, after all, cheaper than having lunch at a cafe.