Work environment makeover

Houses are spruced up to double as offices as more opt to work from home

23 Sep 2020 / 10:43 H.

PETALING JAYA: The work space, the centre of every working person’s life, is seeing significant changes.

They are getting smaller and more dispersed as social distancing requirements to curb the spread of Covid-19 push people away from the traditional office setting to their own homes or shared work spaces.

This has upended the commercial property market. The demand for big offices is dropping as homes are spruced up to double as workplaces.

At the same time SoHo (small office home office) units, which can serve as a work space and a home simultaneously, are seeing a new demand.

For interior designer Mohamad Hafiz Sapri, the demand for his services has almost doubled.

“We focus on refitting homes to make them more conducive for work. We usually get three projects a month but lately we have been handling five or six projects each month,” he told theSun yesterday.

“We usually give the living room or bedroom a makeover,” he said.

Hafiz pointed out that with the country still fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, people are spending more time at home rather than in the office.

“Many people end up working at the dining table or the bedroom but they do not serve well as work spaces,” he explained. His speciality is to give these areas an “office environment”.

However, that is a very niche market. Hafiz said one such project he handled for a condominium cost RM500,000.

“Another similar project for a house came with a RM700,000 price tag,” he added.

Admittedly only the very rich can afford such luxury especially at a time when the country is experiencing a major economic fallout brought on by the pandemic.

Most of his clients are among the richest 20% (T20) of the population, he added.

“More Malaysians, particularly the urbanites, understand the importance of having a feasible work space at home,” Hafiz said.

For those whose presence at the office is still essential, their employers are now opting for smaller spaces to cut costs.

Michael Kong, the president of the Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector Malaysia, said many companies are opting for a downsized presence that could be limited only to the reception as well as meeting and presentation areas.

“Many businesses are relocating backroom services to homes or lower-cost locations,” he said. “Think virtual and shared office.”

Real estate negotiator Azima Rahman said there has been a 20% increase in the demand for SoHo and share office spaces.

“Before the pandemic, the demand for SoHo units was lukewarm but now small businesses and start-ups are opting for such spaces,” he said. This has led to a 20% rise in the demand for SoHo.

Azima added that more foreign direct investments from countries such as China would be needed to revive demand for the otherwise redundant office spaces in Malaysia.

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