Roen Cian, Timothy Tiah, and Stephanie Kong paint a picture of just why co-working spaces are on the rise for among the modern Malaysian workforce.

Retail flagship building Lord & Taylor on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue has been sold off to office-sharing pioneers WeWork. Credit: Benjamin Norman/ New York Times

Last month in New York, WeWork became primary owners of the iconic brick-and-mortar Lord & Taylor building. With the motto ‘Make a life, not just a living’, this co-working operator has expanded to more than 160 locations in 52 cities in its short seven years.

Lord & Taylor’s department store will survive in a pared-down space a quarter of its previous size, while WeWork takes over the rest of the bulding after Christmas 2018.

Taking cue from the big boys of American digital havens, Malaysian entreprenuers have also been tapping into the potential of a co-working future. We speak to Roen Cian (Common Ground), Timothy Tiah (Colony) and Stephanie Kong (Komune) to paint a picture of just why co-working spaces are on the rise for among the modern Malaysian workforce.

1. Greater career freedom and flexibility

In a time where work satisfaction stems from a strong relatability to what we do, co-working spaces allow employees to seize greater control of their day-to-day schedules. Employees are granted greater autonomy over priorities and schedules, leaving traditional notions of work behind to find what suits each individual and organisation best.

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“Each Common Ground venue is designed to encourage creativity and inspire. We do have a general character but each venue will differ slightly in its unique own way,” Roen says.

You may also like: How Roen Cian turned passion for football into his own business reality

2. Numerous facilities in one accessible hub

According to Timothy, Colony started out by carrying out a survey on what employees want in the work space. “We found that they want different working environments to work at during different times of the day, whether it is a cafe, lounge seating or office. We also put together facilities like nap rooms and massage rooms that people have asked for,” he says, explaining how these facilities are increasingly catered to consumers’ needs.

The draw of these modern office spaces lie in the fringes of its facility offerings. From gyms and swimming pools to cafes and nap rooms, partnerships are built to strengthen the work experience. At Common Ground, for example, employees gain access to Flycycle and Fire Station amenities on top of a Fitness First gym membership. Both Colony and Common Ground also offer regular in-house spa and relaxation sessions.

“Our little success so far at Colony has been because of how we’ve focused on the things that really matter: a great location and good service for high-end customers,” shares Timothy.

3. Work is seamlessly integrated into lifestyle

This flexible, multifaceted set-up broadens the work scope to integrate with lifestyle elements that matter to modern office creatures. We’re not just talking bean bags and throw cushions – every area and activity is planned as a natural extension of the your working life. Through engaging various specialty partners, co-working operators create a backbone of support spreading across all aspects of business development.

“In the future I think offices will become more lifestyle-driven, like how malls evolved into lifestyle fixtures. We’re going to have a lot of things to do in the office – we can go there to work out or hang out,” Timothy says.

4. Networking is simplified with the gathering of like-minded individuals

At 18,000 square feet, Komune is one of the largest co-working spaces in Kuala Lumpur facilitating a community feel that attracts like-minded individuals. “Komune wants to be the space that encourages innovation, collaboration, networking and continuous learning to help you get your best work done. As much as it is about the hardware, it’s more about the software, particularly the community Komune creates. Here, similar tech and digital companies will be coming together to share thoughts and ideas in this free, communal space – that’s what drives the growth of co-working spaces,” shares Stephanie Kong, General Manager (Projects) of UOA Development Bhd.

While such networking opportunities help carve a nice, they can also widen the scope of the entrepreneurial backbone. At Common Ground, for instance, town-hall sessions and digital community platform The Ambition Engine connects members across all venues, allowing them to cultivate a greater network for when a particular product or service is needed.

With the launch of its Taman Tun Dr Ismail location, Common Ground will become Malaysia’s largest co-working space. “This indicates the rise of Malaysia’s entreprenurial ecosystem, where co-working spaces are ideal environments to assist entrepreneurs on their journey to success,” says Roen.

Stephanie agrees, saying, “The start-up co-working trend goes to show that Malaysians are very entrepreneurial, which is greatly positive.”

5. Financially feasible for growing enterprises

Gone are the days of cramped cubicles and awful lighting – co-working spaces could, in fact, be the solution to the shocking surplus of office spaces in the Klang Valley. This rings particularly true for young businesses in the incubation stage, when set-up costs and long-term rental contracts often build a barricade before the train even departs the platform.

Roen opines that flexibility of shared spaces removes the day-to-day stressors of your own office. “It’s a plug and play concept where members no longer have to worry about utility bills, cleaning, printing, meeting rooms, coffee or tea or even an internet bill,” he elaborates. Value is amped in the form of digital workshops, legal education, and investor linkages.

Co-working spaces represent the changing nature of work, riding the waves of tech advancement not just in start-ups, but increasingly in larger traditional corporations. If the future of work is lifestyle-driven, it’s time to make way for a new culture – change is, after all, the engine of progress.

Come December, downtown Kuala Lumpur will see the entry of another co-working operator over a 7,000-square-feet multifaceted space: Dojo KL.


Related: The changing tides of Timothy Tiah’s entrepreneurial journey