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Is there room for the office in the post-pandemic world?

Many companies say they are ready to continue the work from home trend although the traditional office space may never completely disappear.

Yee Hans Ng
2 minute read

With work from home orders now the norm for many industries operating in the shadow of Covid-19, the future of the traditional office space appears up in the air with some organisations saying a return to the physical workplace is unlikely.

The arrival of Covid-19 in the country early last year saw the beginning of a shift away from brick-and-mortar buildings as businesses and companies scrambled to find ways to continue operating under the government’s movement control order (MCO) which shut down all but essential services for three months until June.

While businesses were allowed to resume normal operations under the conditional and then recovery phases of the MCO, some appear more than happy to keep things online as they have been for the better part of a year.

“We’ve been working from home since last year and we don’t really plan on going back any time soon,” the CEO of a start-up in Kuala Lumpur told MalaysiaNow.

“Our office is rented in Mid Valley so we have decided to forgo it since it’s just been sitting there collecting dust for the past year.”

According to a study by JLL Property Services, 81% of millennials feel that they are technologically ready to work from home while 52% said they are comfortable with such an arrangement.

“We’ve been working from home since last year and we don’t really plan on going back any time soon.”

At the start-up in Kuala Lumpur, all 12 employees have been working from home for more than a year.

And with hashtags like #WorkFromHome and #WFH trending across the world, the arrangement looks here to stay.

“A lot can be done with good communication,” the CEO said. “That’s why we are choosing to work from home even for the rest of this year.”

For this company as well as many others, technology has helped bridge any gaps in communication left by the pandemic. Discussions are held on Slack and and daily briefs are conducted through Google Meet.

“We even have one of our employees in Syria and we adjusted to suit his time zone as well,” the CEO added.

“They don’t want to pay for nothing.”

At a nearby office building, an administrator told MalaysiaNow that several tenants had pulled out from their rental deals for the next six months as they are unsure of how long the uncertain situation will last.

“They don’t want to pay for nothing. When the MCO started again, they just went with the easiest option of operating from home,” she said.

But while millennials and those able to adapt to remote working may be moving away from the office, the JLL Property Services study adds that these spaces will likely never completely disappear.

Offices have a reputation for being the “optimal working environment for socialising and providing an irreplicable culture”, it said.

It also spoke of a post-pandemic push for “re-purposed or re-designed work areas” to provide “infrastructure and collaboration among the teams of remote and on-site staff”.

For now, though, companies such as the Kuala Lumpur start-up are ready to go remote for the long haul.

“We did this for so long and it works, so why change?”