Navigating the new workspace realities in Malaysia 

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KUALA LUMPUR: Space-as-a-service platform WeWork has continued to track growth in Malaysia as its members increased by close to 15% from March to July 2020. 

Significantly, WeWork Malaysia also tracked more than 30% growth in its enterprise members across sectors such as oil and gas, financial services, marketing and advertising, government and technology. These enterprises include the likes of Petronas New Energy, Tenaga Nasional Bhd, StashAway, Panduit, Respond.io and Trapo.

The enterprise segment has been a growth driver for WeWork. Across Southeast Asia, WeWork has seen more than 20% increase in enterprise members. 

With Malaysia in its recovery movement control order (RMCO) phase, more companies are evaluating their workspace commitment and leaning towards co-working spaces. This is in favour of more flexible, cost-efficient and scalable solutions as they look to recover and advance from the pandemic’s impact.

This outlook is further supported by a recent report commissioned by WeWork and published by IDC. The report, Future of Work: Co-working for Enterprises (A Southeast Asian Perspective), examined how global enterprises around the Southeast Asian region perceive workspaces and how this might shift workspace policies in the future.

Notably, companies are embracing new ways to create work environments that facilitate collaboration, cross-learning opportunities, and future-proof their operations. IDC reported that 93% of global enterprises had recognised the need to adapt their workspaces to align with the younger generation’s expectations, emphasising that co-working spaces have evolved beyond conventional norms for start-ups and individual entrepreneurs alone.

IDC predicted that by 2021, 60% of Global 2000 companies would have adopted a future-workspace model that is flexible and intelligent with a collaborative virtual/physical work environment.

Kuala Lumpur was one of the six capital cities surveyed for IDC’s report, with results showing that a vibrant start-up and entrepreneurial culture, as well as strong government support, are among the drivers of the co-working model in Malaysia.

Overall, 20% of Malaysian organisations have adopted co-working (compared to the 17% average across Southeast Asia), while 53% have plans to do so in the next 1-3 years. 

Companies which have made this transition have moved their innovation, sales and marketing departments to name a few into co-working spaces, and have seen success from the collaborative environment. 

With conservative growth reflected amidst the pandemic, there is a greater emphasis on companies to reinvent themselves to be more resilient by adopting agile operational models. 

The current climate has also shown the importance for businesses to be prepared with scalable and flexible space solutions to address their operational and regulatory needs promptly. These will be strong indicators for more companies to integrate co-working spaces for achieving greater operational efficiency.

Driving demand 

IDC reported that amenities and building space and quality were among factors considered by enterprises choosing a co-working space provider. 

Enterprises are prioritising flexibility, operational efficiency and the ability to scale up or down to their current and potential needs, with those in essential or regulated sectors also placing greater emphasis on business continuity planning.

Followed by remote working widely adopted as a necessity during MCO, industry sentiment also pointed to how the workspace remains an integral part of employee integration and experience to drive productivity, motivation and connection. 

With companies scaling back their operations, it is apparent that companies are starting to adapt to this new normal of workspace with a focus on flexibility, trust, and wellbeing. 

Having enhanced its spaces with professional distancing, increased sanitisation and behavioural signages in preparation for a new work environment, WeWork is well-placed to support new and existing members to transition back to work.

WeWork head of growth for Southeast Asia and Korea Ray Tan said: “Covid-19 has highlighted greater emphasis on addressing new workspace realities. We are seeing companies recalibrating their traditional real estate portfolio based on their operational needs. 

“This is where we are able to empower them with hybrid flexible workspace arrangements from a hub-and-spoke model to a phased workforce approach.” 

“As we enhance our spaces and services, we remain committed as a workspace partner to help tackle potential opportunities and challenges ahead,” said Tan.

“As we enhance our spaces and services, we remain committed as a workspace partner to help tackle potential opportunities and challenges ahead,” said Tan.

For example, in Kuala Lumpur, WeWork Mercu 2 location has seen rapid growth in enterprise members since its opening in end-2019, while WeWork Equatorial Plaza location continues to be a key support for essential sector companies.

One such company is digital wealth management platform, StashAway. It was among the first of WeWork Malaysia’s members to transition back to their workspace following the MCO and has plans to expand to Thailand. 

“As a high-growth company, we appreciate their flexible pricing, scalability offerings, and support of our office layout to ensure high levels of privacy and security StashAway requires. As a financial services provider, we also need to have a business continuity strategy in place as part of regulatory requirements,” said StashAway Malaysia country head Wong Wai Ken.

As Malaysia and the Southeast Asian region continues to work towards recovery, companies need to acknowledge that there are new realities for enterprises which have taken shape in the new normal. 

Space-as-a-service will play a significant role in developing the new work order in the long term, as companies embrace new strategies to ensure they are prepared for disruptions in the future.

While the landscape continues to evolve and new needs have come about due to the pandemic, IDC’s report showed that there is a positive outlook for the sector, with Malaysia in particular representing high potential for further demand growth in the future.


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