Why I ended up building the office of the future

I felt the light cool morning breeze as I trotted along KLCC Park. As I took each step I soaked up  the view around me. Big leafy trees lined up on both sides of the running track with a patch of carefully curated grass that hugged the pathway. On my right sat proudly the multi-million dollar apartments that surround KLCC Park and on my left the majestic Petronas Twin Towers. The sight of the Twin Towers never gets old.

Photo 18-05-2017, 10 40 02 AM

Along the pavements, people dressed in formal work clothes hurried to their offices. Walking from the LRT or the car parks that surround the area. I watched each and every one of them as they walked past me looking at their phones or stared at the ground ahead of them as they took each step forward.

I couldn’t help but notice that everyone shared one thing in common. None of them were smiling.

It was then that it hit me.

Our lifestyles have improved so much in the past 20 years. We used to have just Starbucks and Coffee Bean. We now have over a hundred different coffee brands around KL. We shop differently, we communicate with people differently and we travel a lot more than we used to 20 years ago.

But the one thing that hasn’t changed in the past 20 years, is the way we work. In contrast to the consumer life we live now full of great choices and hospitality everywhere we go, work is still the same 20 years ago and now. We still sit in the same cubicle-like environment, we don’t get to choose who we report to, where we sit, where we work or the laptops we use. Even technology hasn’t improved our working lives, they’ve only made us more productive.

It’s no wonder that we sometimes dread going to work on Mondays.

I then asked myself what kind of environment I would love to work in.

I don’t care for having a bean-baggy office even though I previously had one. I care for the lifestyle that the office can provide me.

Can I work out at a gym during lunch without having to skip my lunch?

Can I have a coffee from a trained barista instead of a coffee machine?

Can I have a private nap room where sometimes I can take some time off and get some shut eye even if it’s just for 20 minutes?

Can I work in a place that is close to malls where I can dart over to buy things I need rather than making a trip over the weekends or even catch a movie after work?

Few offices here in South East Asia allow us to work like that. This is in spite of many HR studies saying that the working environment (among other factors) plays an important role in what a job candidate looks for in a job. No wonder companies find it so hard to find good people.

It’s not that it’s hard to find good people, it’s that we as heads of companies have failed to create working opportunities that attract them.

I then looked at how the working environment is in the most competitive labour market in the world: Silicon Valley. It’s awesome. Offices in Silicon Valley have everything from great food and coffee, to gyms, to nap rooms to even massage rooms.

Now that makes sense if you’re Google or Facebook. But what if you’re a 5 or 10 or 30 or 50 man team in KL that wants facilities like that? It just doesn’t make sense because you don’t have the scale to warrant having a cafe inside your office or a gym.

That’s when it struck me.

There is an opportunity to build an office with all these facilities and rent it to companies who love their staff and want their staff to work in a great environment.

Today we have a team in place and our first of many locations near completion. The company we started to do this is called Colony and our first location is at Vipod, a building right between Pavilion and KLCC Convention Center.

It’s an 18,000 square feet space that houses:

  1. Lounge areas for the millennial who likes working from different places at different times of the day.
  2. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meals by the Healthy Food People.
  3. An Espresso Lab outlet.
  4. Nap rooms.
  5. Massage rooms.
  6. Access to a rooftop swimming pool and gym.
  7. A lactation room for breastfeeding moms (It surprised me how few offices actually have this).

…and more, like a kids play area for working mom or dads who need to bring their kids over to work and let them hang out somewhere while they warrior away on their laptops. There’s a lot more to it but I’ll save that for future articles.

Our purpose at Colony is to raise the standards of what working should be like in the region. That we don’t have to sacrifice having a life for a job. We can have both.

My little dream is that 5 years from now, when someone asks where your office is and you say “At one of those Colony spaces…”.

If your friend responds to that with a “Your company must really love you”. Then we’ve done it.

I told a friend of mine this whole concept and he loved it but he said one thing “Once you go out with this… won’t all the other co-working spaces or service offices copy you?”.

My response was in two parts.

First “My competition is not co-working spaces or service offices. My competition is OFFICE”.

Secondly “if everyone replicated my ideas and this became the new standard of office for people who work in South East Asia, then we have truly achieved our purpose”.

If you’re looking for a service office or co-working space in Kuala Lumpur, you can check out the great space we have built up at Colony. Go to our website to check out how the place is going to look like: www.colony.work

Note that we’re still making some changes and tweaks to this but it’s more or less there.

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