Co-working spaces have emerged as a modern solution to traditional office setups, catering to the evolving needs of freelancers, entrepreneurs, startups, and even remote employees. In essence, co-working spaces are shared work environments where individuals from diverse backgrounds, industries, and professions work alongside each other in a communal setting. It is also reported that these office co-working spaces are currently the fastest growing enterprises in real estate, expecting an increase to 30 percent by the year 2030 as opposed to the current 5 percent of the market value.

In recent years, the majority of users of co-working spaces have been SMEs and startup businesses. It is estimated that the number of individuals working in co-working spaces is expected to reach no less than 5 million by the year 2024 showing an increasing trend of remote workers and an increase in the number of startup businesses.

Despite the increase in demand for co-working spaces, the co-working industry in Malaysia is still undervalued and underutilized by businesses. In this article, we will delve into reasons why Malaysian companies still fail to understand the importance of co-working spaces and how they

Malaysia’s traditional working culture and beliefs

It is well documented that Asian countries have heavily adopted and accepted a culture of overworking. Naturally, Malaysia is susceptible to this,  having one of the most overworked cities in the world. On average, Malaysians work 15 hours more than their supposed contracted hours each week, further emphasizing their negligence of work-life balance. Malaysia has a cultural expectation of working physically, encouraging face-to-face interactions to prove the employee’s commitment and hard work. This cultural expectation creates pressure for employees to prioritize work over personal time, leading to imbalances in life domains.

As the pandemic wanes, an increasing number of companies are reverting to on-site work, advocating for the return of office-based employees. This shift highlights the rigidity of Malaysian companies, leading to a neglect of employee work-life balance and prioritization of company objectives over employee well-being. Moreover, the inability of Malaysian companies to offer flexibility has spurred interest in gig work among Malaysians, as it permits them greater control over their work hours. This trend raises concerns about a potential shortage of skilled workers in the future.

There exists a widespread belief in the importance of diligence and perseverance in the Malaysian working society, often demonstrated through the custom of arriving early and leaving late at the office. Malaysians, akin to numerous other Asian cultures, highly esteem a strong work ethic. This encompasses punctuality, commitment, and dedicating ample time and effort toward achieving professional objectives leading to instances of overwork among employees in Asian nations, resulting in diminished productivity.

The habitual behavior pattern is evident when employees adhere to a fixed routine of reporting to the office every weekday and maintaining consistent lifestyle choices to prepare for work. This resistance to change contributes to the inflexibility of Malaysian companies regarding work environments. Consequently, this inflexibility fosters discontent and dissatisfaction among employees, disrupting the flow of productivity. These cultural norms and organizational policies must evolve if we aspire to cultivate a more dynamic and efficient work culture. Therefore, how else can we initiate a transformation away from stagnant routines?

What kind of benefits can co-working spaces offer that traditional workspaces fail to provide?

One of the biggest advantages of coworking spaces is that co-working spaces focus on providing flexibility for businesses and employees alike.  With flexible membership options and the ability to work outside traditional working hours, you can easily fit work into your schedule, instead of the other way around. Meaning, you can work on your terms, without sacrificing your personal time and life. Co-working spaces also often prioritize work-life balance by offering amenities such as lounges, relaxation areas, and wellness programs. This holistic approach supports the well-being of employees, helping individuals to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life.

Employees especially in the tech field, can utilize co-working spaces if they wish to avoid distractions from home or office. Co-working spaces like us offer a professional environment, utilising high-speed internet, meeting rooms, and shared common areas for companies to interact and work together. Co-working spaces should also consider operating 24 hours a day to cater to jobs requiring working outside business hours. This allows for companies to work on odd hours not restricting themselves to the boundaries of official business hours.

Co-working space also provides options for accessibility, aiming to allow ease of transport and convenience to the co-working space. Accessibility is also an important factor in the working environment, as convenience impacts the employees’ productivity, consequently affecting the deliverance of organizational goals. By utilising co-working spaces, employees can avoid the pestering office politics and the trouble of commuting to work.

In conclusion

Co-working spaces act as a solution to negate the negative working culture and the inflexible work-life balance by providing amenities and services that allow the employees to thrive. Consequently, this results in an increase in employee productivity levels as well as job satisfaction.

Casper Foo is the co-founder of Sandbox Coworking Space, a prominent coworking hub located in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur, and Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya. Before venturing into the coworking industry, Casper built a strong foundation in the financial sector. He began his career as a financial planner after graduating, accumulating ten years of experience in financial advisory services.

Driven by a passion for entrepreneurship and a desire to support local business growth, Casper co-founded Sandbox Coworking Space to create a dynamic and collaborative environment for small businesses, freelancers, startups, and digital nomads. The space is designed to foster innovation and community among its members, providing a range of amenities and flexible workspaces to suit diverse professional needs.

At Sandbox Space, we aim to leverage this growth to create innovative solutions, foster community engagement, and meet the diverse needs of modern professionals and businesses. From strategic partnerships to enhanced amenities and tailored services, we believe co-working spaces are redefining the landscape of contemporary work environments.

Community is crucial to driving innovation, says WORQ Coworking Space’s Stephanie Ping [ORIGIN Innovation Awards Q&A]