THE year was 2005. As a young computer programmer named Brad Neuberg from San Francisco, California was contemplating his career path, he had an epiphany. “It seemed I could either have a job which would give me structure and community, or I could freelance and have freedom and independence. Why couldn’t I have both?” he pondered.
Before long, Neuberg came up with a new concept of working known as coworking which involved a shared workplace, populated by people who didn’t belong to the same organisation, and did independent activity.
The official first non-profit coworking space opened in San Francisco in 2005, which offered five to eight desks for hire two days a week, along with free WiFi, shared lunches, meditation breaks, massages and bike tours.
Since then, the number of coworking spaces in the world has grown significantly over the years, with even wider services being provided to lure the new generation of entrepreneurs such as startups, freelancers and digital nomads.
According to Deskmag’s Global Working Survey 2017, there has been a global increase of 5,500 coworking spaces; since 2014, the numbers have grown from 5,800 to 11,300, and they were projected to reach 13,800 in 2017. Closer to home, the concept is still considered relatively new but already there are close to 100 coworking spaces in this country.
Unlike traditional office spaces, many coworking spaces boast a key feature setting, focusing on lighting, furniture, layout, and design. Then there are the additions of high-speed Internet, great location and free flow of refreshments... what’s not to like?
But then, as Brad Hargreaves, one of the founders of General Assembly (a campus for technology, design, and entrepreneurship), said: “It’s all about the people! Decorations and furniture are nice, but it’s really about the community around you in the space.
“As a full-time employee who’s been working in a traditional office structure with cubicles and fluorescent light, I wanted to find out just how conducive this concept is for productivity.
“So, having selected two coworking spaces, which piqued my interest, I spent a day immersing myself within the ‘community’ to experience what the buzz is all about.
Incidentally, many spaces offer a free trial to help you choose your ideal workspace.
WORQ-ING IT OUT
THE words “Welcome to the community at WORQ” is written on the wall, set against a floral backdrop. It’s hard to miss it as it’s the first thing you see when you step into this award-winning coworking space at Glo Damansara Mall in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
As I make my way in, I notice an animated discussion taking place between two people in the lounge area.Meanwhile, another two are glued to their laptops placed on work desks located against the window, which overlooks a residential area across the street.
It’s neither quiet nor noisy here, and this balance is exactly what WORQ wants.
My curiosity is piqued by the sight of a blue police box by the entrance to the members-only area. The box will definitely resonate with fans of the British science-fiction TV series, Doctor Who. Remember the time machine knownas the Tardis?
The members-only area allows its members to utilise all the amenities, which include shower rooms, games room complete with gym equipment, fully stocked pantry and even sleeping pods!
There are few people in the games room engaged in what appears to be a lively discussion.
I later find out that it’s a “bonfire” session initiated by one of the members. Here, a group of people from different companies but with the same expertise get together and share input. What I’m witnessing is a session for techies. Suffice to say, there are also sessions for other groups, such as writers or even gamers. And this is precisely how communities are built here at WORQ.
“It’s like a kampung where everyone knows everyone, helps each other andlooks out for one another,” explains Stephanie Ping, WORQ CEO and co-founder.
“You can get more ideas when you come in contact with different people. You end up becoming more productive.”
Last year, WORQ was awarded the best coworking space in the country during theMalaysia Rice Bowl Startup Awards. It’s a recognition that has certainly given WORQ the boost it needs. Currently, there are about 230 members in this space and there’s still a long waiting list comprising various entrepreneurs who want to be a part of the WORQ community.
WHERE Unit 3A-01A, Glo Damansara, 699, Jalan Damansara, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL
PLUS POINTS Sleeping pods and the bonfire sessions
CHOOSE YOUR SANDBOX
LOCATED at the corner lot of a row of shophouses in Jalan Raden Bagus 3, Sri Petaling, this space boasts modern furnishing and floor to ceiling windows to allow natural light to filter in.
The pastel-coloured wallpaper is the canvas for some very Malaysian landmarks and cultural elements such as the Twin Towers, the gold Lord Murugan statue in Batu Caves, the wau bulan and gambus.
Lending a cosy vibe are a couple of swings hanging from the ceiling in one corner, with a bench and beanbags strewn on an area of artificial grass.
The space, which draws predominantly freelancers, digital nomads and remote workers, was founded by two good friends, Casper Foo and Yu Min, who were inspired by their favourite cafe where they liked to do their work.
But it eventually closed down without any notice so the duo, after much research and discussion, decided to jump on the coworking space’s bandwagon.
“What we noted about this trendy town is the fact that there are many freelancers who don’t have a proper working space. They normally end up hanging out at cafes. So I thought, why not build a space for them since I was also in need of a working space,” explains Foo, 31, as he takes me on a tour of this place.
Members, adds Foo, can choose the space they’re comfortable to work form.
The rates are affordable, beginning from as low as RM28 per day, or RM208 for any 10 days within a month. There are also private offices for small groups to rent as their “company space”.
One of the things that strikes me almost immediately about the set-up here is the tightness of the security and efficiency of the administrative app.
For example, instead of giving members an access card which could be abused, the security system (which is imported from the US) will auto-detect their presence and allow them entry, even with the app being inactive and the phone in the pocket. Think of the app as their punch card.
“We don’t take security lightly,” says Foo, a financial planner by profession, before proceeding to show me the next app on his phone.
The administrative app is used for members to reserve their desk, make early bookings, and even report any issues regarding the space.
Is the air conditioner too hot for you? The WiFi too slow? Just click “send report” and the team will take care of it without you having to get up from your desk. How cool is that?
I make my way to the back of the premises and the bunting in front of the occupied meeting room catches my attention.
It reads “Mobile videomaking workshop 100% using smartphone”. Intrigued by the workshop, I shamelessly ask if I can stick around to learn as well.
Thankfully, the group is more than happy to share their input with me. And just like that, I am suddenly a part of this community.
“And that’s what the coworking space is all about,” says Foo, smiling contentedly.
WHERE 22-1, Jln Radin Bagus 3, Sri Petaling, KL
PLUS POINTS The cool security and administrative apps. And the swings!