Of the many changes that have occurred since the pandemic, one of the most heralding trends that has emerged in Malaysia is the rapid adoption of the hybrid work model.
Many companies are shifting to a flexible working model that sees employees work remotely from anywhere they choose for part of their work week and only coming into the office for specific periods that require face-to-face communication. This has given rise in the demand for coworking spaces, as companies no longer require as much traditional office space.
At the forefront of innovation and sustainability in the coworking space industry stands WORQ. The brainchild of co-founder and CEO Stephanie Ping, her expertise in the real estate industry with Axis REIT saw her create WORQ by applying a mix of traditional real estate principles and innovative solutions to the coworking industry.
For Stephanie, establishing a startup was always a subconscious dream of hers. Though she never would have imagined that dream would manifest itself in the form of a coworking space, her time at Stanford University's Entrepreneurship School, and experiences witnessing the dotcom boom and bust taught her all she needed to know about what it takes to succeed.
Having lived and worked in the US for 14 years, the entrepreneur decided to return to Malaysia, fully intent on finding a purpose of her own that would light her entrepreneurial spirit.
After taking the time to fully immersed herself in learning about the Malaysian landscape, her efforts eventually paid off when she was appointed as the Head of Business Development and Investor Relations at Axis REIT, an innovative real estate investment trust.
Driven by a passion for innovation, Stephanie decided to push the envelope even further by exploring the world of coworking, ultimately paving the way for exciting new possibilities in the real estate industry. “I was willing to take the risk of leaving a stable job to start my own venture, feeling fully prepared and confident that my strategy would lead to success.”
Having experienced sustainable growth and profitability from the start, Stephanie admits that the company’s continued success is attributed to their focus on maintaining financial stability, applying real estate fundamentals to maximize asset utilization and achieve sustainable profitability.
In recent years, the concept of adopting remote or hybrid working has gained significant relevance, and co-working spaces are currently in this unique position of being exactly what people need right now.
According to a Knight Frank’s Real Estate Highlights 1H2022 on the real estate market during the first half 2022, the pandemic gave way to renewed interest in co-working spaces as it presented occupiers with highly flexible options to scale their operations up or down depending on their needs.
The report goes on to highlight that the overall occupancy rate of purpose-built office space in KL City came in at an impressive 67.2% during the first quarter of 2022 as compared to 2H2021 at 66.0%.
When asked what makes for a successful coworking environment, especially for her own business, Stephanie shares that, in her experience, it’s the culmination of several touchpoints such as space design, price point, community, location and amenities that need to work seamlessly together.
“Replicating this model requires significant attention to detail over time, but WORQ has achieved a model that is easily replicable now after years of refinement,” says Stephanie, going on to state that their goal is to create a world where people thrive through collaboration.
“Besides the design of the space, we firmly believe in the potential of collaboration, where sharing experiences and connections can ultimately increase productivity and efficiency.”
At WORQ, they look to foster teamwork between departments and with our customers by encouraging a “rukun tetangga”—akin to a neighbourly community—workstyle throughout the company and its outlets.
“Encouraging a community workstyle culture within our company has proven to be beneficial in increasing productivity without sacrificing work-life balance. This culture helps achieve great results without having impossible standards of output or spending countless hours on execution.”
Another key concept that Stephanie has incorporated into WORQ is the design thinking model, which she was introduced to from Stanford. The method involves continuous learning, testing, data collection, assessment and solution tweaking until it is perfected, giving way to continuous improvement and innovation within the company.
“I firmly believe that the community workstyle is essential in enhancing productivity and maximizing potential, as I have witnessed first-hand in the vibrant community at Stanford.”
Though flexible working spaces have become the norm now, WORQ’s beginnings were far from smooth. At the time, the concept of flex spaces was unfamiliar territory, leading to misconceptions that Stephanie’s business had to overcome in explaining its purpose.
Additionally, coming from a male-dominated industry like real estate, there has been a longstanding subconscious bias against young female entrepreneurs. This meant that it was necessary to work twice as hard to prove oneself.
Despite these challenges, Stephanie proved to be steadfast in her endeavours and, thanks to the support of investors who were forward-thinking and believed in their business model, WORQ managed to find its footing.
Fast forward to now, WORQ is one of the largest coworking and flex space providers in Malaysia with a profitable track record that spans years back since its founding in 2017.
Looking forward to the coming years, Stephanie envisions for the company to build on their vision of facilitating a collaborative work environment that fosters prosperity through teamwork. “My ultimate goal is to liberalize real estate in Malaysia in the same way that Amazon revolutionized e-commerce and made cloud services accessible.
“I envision a future where all Malaysians can prosper by working together in a community-driven, “rukun tetangga” style, much like the robust community I experienced in Silicon Valley.”
Penny For Your Thoughts
If you could be anyone in the world (fictional / non-fictional) - who would it be and why?
Maryam Mirkhazni, the first and only female winner of the Fields Medal, the highest honor in mathematics, often compared to the Nobel Prize. She was a brilliant Stanford theoretical mathematician who worked on complex problems, and was known for doodling on large sheets of paper to solve them.
She serves as a role model for young girls everywhere, demonstrating that with imagination and passion, they can achieve great things regardless of their background. Although she was not present when I visited her office while she was a professor at Stanford, her story of being a “slow” mathematician who found her passion later in life and eventually winning the Fields Medal, inspired me.
Advice you would give your younger self.
I would advise my younger self to have faith in the journey, even if it’s unclear where it may lead, as it will ultimately contribute to one’s life purpose.