by S BIRRUNTHA/ pic by SCALABLE MALAYSIA
The demand for office space is expected to increase this year with more companies adopting the hybrid working arrangements where they split their teams between working from home and office, according to Scalable Malaysia.
The office relocation and renovation specialist, which is backed by property developer Paramount Property Sdn Bhd, said it got first-hand experience and engagement with what companies went through in the last two challenging years.
Speaking in an interview with The Malaysian Reserve, Paramount Corporation Bhd Deputy Group CEO and ED Benjamin Teo said while many companies allow remote working indefinitely depending on the nature of the business, office spaces will still be relevant if people practice the relevant standard operating procedures (SOPs).
He opined that working from office is still more productive especially for larger organisations that want to bring their team back together.
Nevertheless, Teo believes that the key is to strike a balance between working independently and getting face time with managers and coworkers.
“It also depends on the nature of the job, the industry, and the company culture. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong in this debate of working from home versus working from office.
“It simply boils down to working conditions that are most efficient and productive for all involved. For example, spending that extra time after lunch to catch up on a personal level with a colleague goes a long way.
“What is essential now is how organisations are changing the way the office works by incorporating a little bit of home element to strike a good balance between comfort and productivity,” he said.
Teo added that for example, an employee can choose to work at the office lounge for a different desk view, a nap pod to refresh the mind, and quiet phone booths for privacy discussions.
This includes various light settings for different occasions in the office and effective meeting rooms equipped with tech enhancements such as a conference TV.
When the pandemic first started, Teo said his team at Scalable Malaysia was amazed over how companies showcase their perseverance through reimagining their company culture and refurbishing their workspace in line with their strategy to bring forth their team into recovery.
“It was very exciting and daunting at the same time to have seen the industry go through the Covid-19 pandemic,” he noted.
Flexible work spaces help improve office glut
Over the past few years, office space glut in Malaysia has worsened due to the excess supply of office buildings, especially in Klang Valley.
According to Teo, many offices are downsizing currently as the result of reduced workforce, mergers, and new divisions, which has resulted in reduced space requirements.
However, he said many of Scalable Malaysia’s clients want to keep their existing office space to accommodate current headcount as well as to cater for future growth.
He added that the reason being although the existing space may be perceived as redundant while employees are working from home and movement in the office is fluid.
“We see a potential change in a year or two when the economy recovers and businesses are back in full swing.
“This is where a change in mindset is needed when it comes to office design as the traditional office set up will make way for a mixed-use, multi-purpose space which encourages better interaction and teamwork,” he said.
Teo also emphasised that physical offices remain vital for collaborative work and to cultivate a sense of belonging for employees, as reports have shown that physical offices seem to have a higher degree of positive impact on our physical and mental health.
He said this is because Malaysian offices are highly social places with many workers having close friends in the organisation which can increase motivation, productivity, job satisfaction and overall well-being.
“Moreover, the onboarding process for new hires may be more effective with face-to-face versus remote guidance while daily interaction with others also helps them fit in faster.
“Hence, while the working model appears to be a mainstay in Malaysia for the foreseeable future, a delicate balance between business and economic needs and employee preferences is the ideal solution,” he said.
Hybrid working is here to stay
Teo said some of the key trends on the future of work includes hybrid and remote working arrangement, where flexible working setups are being adopted, resulting in a more decentralised working structure and workforce.
“We foresee that the hybrid working arrangement will continue for some time and eventually a full force back into the office for larger corporations.
“This is why it is imperative that companies redesign their offices to be more attractive, engaging to the workforce,” he noted.
With many corporations adopting the hybrid working arrangement, Teo said it is important that they come back with a strategy to maintain a good workspace environment.
“Based on our enquiries, we saw companies looking to refresh their workspace to suit their corporate identity, comfortable yet ergonomic design to drive better workflow and ultimately encouraging employees to produce quality work,” he said.
Whether the company prefers a single centralised headquarters or favours multiple, smaller satellite offices, Teo believes some level of physical proximity and interaction are still required to build strong and authentic connections.
Hence, he stressed that office spaces will still be a necessity.
“However, a quality workplace experience is key if companies want to attract top talent and keep people engaged in their work.
“In this sense, we see opportunities with the economy reopening and everyone talking about the future of work.
“What differentiates Scalable Malaysia from our competitors is our expertise and experience in the industry. We are a unique, first of its kind service that offers clients a one-stop shop for workspace solutions,” he said.
Building an emotionally intelligent workplace
Organisations that invest in emotional intelligence usually have strategic skills to coordinate both their employees and their business needs.
In that sense, Teo believes employees will be more productive when they have the right spaces for the tasks they need to accomplish.
“We often think of work as rational, logical and unemotional. But organisations are waking up to the key role of emotions and its effect on our work.
“Emotions influence how we make decisions, how we relate with one another and how we make sense of our surroundings,” he said.
Therefore, Teo said work environments can provide spaces where people can go to relax and recharge.
He added that regular engagements make employees feel like management has given them permission to deal with their emotions, which helps them feel engaged.
“After two years into the pandemic and countless debates on whether work from home and/or work from office constitutes the future of work, perhaps it is time for companies to discuss how the organisation can redefine itself after two years of multiple challenges and changes,” he said.
Teo opined that this can start with a refreshed office space that influences the way employees engage with one another professionally while personally connecting with their own values.
He noted that if an organisation can create a space that inspires, the team will be more likely driven to continue working for the long term.
“Ultimately, if we take care of our employees, they will take care of the business,” he said.