Though the economy is reopening in Malaysia and many companies hope that their employees will return to the office, the reality is that the idea of a “normal” office has changed.  A lot of employers have experimented with hybrid workplaces which involve employees both working remotely as well as working in the office, and this success coupled with a newfound love for working from home means that this trend is set to stay. 

Why the hybrid culture might be here to stay

A study conducted by EY, known as the “EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey,” showed that 8 out of 10 Malaysian employees showed a preference for flexible working arrangements. 3 out of 10(29%) of respondents wanted to work full-time remotely, and a sizeable minority of employees wanted to work in a hybrid setting(25%), and one out of four(23%) of the respondents expressed the desire to work from any location that they preferred. According to Malaysia’s Department of Statistics, about 44% of the participants mentioned that they worked from home during the MCO.

In addition to this, most of the employees surveyed believed that the hybrid working arrangements would help facilitate work efficiency (67%) and foster creative thinking 71%).  Furthermore, the majority of the respondents felt that tangible and measurable benefits to company culture were implemented, such as the use of tools to enhance productivity(46%),  having a greater sense of work-life balance (45%), shorter meeting times (35%), having time to work alone without distractions (45%). Naturally, when employees have shown a clear predilection for working from home, most employers have to adapt and listen to their employees or risk them leaving in favour of companies with more flexible working arrangements.

A digital hybrid culture has its complications

Despite this, working from home does come with its own set of challenges, as businesses and managers wish to retain both the benefits of a physical office as well as a remote working culture. 

They would need to reconsider the way employees interact with each other and how they work together as a team, and invent new standard operating procedures (SOPs) as well as protocols. 

Communication can be quite asynchronous as employees may be working from different time zones. So there is a need to make use of scheduling tools and to-do lists as well as find an ethical and easy way to manage your employees wherever or whenever they are.

However, there needs to be a realistic way to manage teams without micromanaging or using invasive tools like surveillance software. It is imperative that managers would have to wear multiple hats, taking the lead in facilitating effective communication, and providing guidance and mentorship where necessary, to improve work productivity in hybrid workplaces. Channels of communication should be constantly kept open, and feedback should be clear and transparent and provided in a timely fashion. Using platforms like Slack and organising virtual meetings will help employees stay on track.

A good manager would have some awareness of how to engage their workers in the digital world and possess good interpersonal skills as they have to manage the remote workers from the gig economy as well.   

However, some of the other struggles that may impact employees and your business include the difficulty in establishing new working relationships with other colleagues and not being able to socialise with them which has been exacerbated by COVID-19. The lack of bonding and interaction between the employees who work in the physical office, and those who work from home may lead to conflict, misunderstanding as well as social isolation.  Therefore, some employees may feel disconnected from the rest of their team members, affecting their morale and productivity. Having a supportive work culture where employees can build rapport with one another is important, through inclusive team bonding sessions.

The rise of the gig economy

As companies have adapted to remote work, the likelihood of an increasing gig workforce gets stronger everyday. This is both a positive and potential challenge, as a wider pool of talent is now available to companies, but having the tools and identifying this talent can be difficult.

To stay ahead of the pivot, we recently launched SPARQ, an app that helps to facilitate collaborations between companies and Malaysian workers in the gig economy. The aim is to build a thriving and collaborative ecosystem that can be scaled with us acting as a 24/7 digital community manager. 

The rise of digital tools to address the gaps faced by businesses is an ever-growing space with new developments unfolding over time.

The changing infrastructure of an office culture

Some of the changes that would need to happen include, introducing a flat hierarchy as opposed to an organisation with a lot of bureaucracy and red-tape when it comes to getting things done. Thus, larger companies need to rethink the company’s hierarchy and structure, as well as the various roles and responsibilities within the organization.  

To break down the barriers between employees and managers, hot desking, where employees can choose to sit at any desk or seat, is becoming increasingly common. This allows people to form friendships organically, as well as facilitate the exchange of ideas and information. 

WORQ KL Gateway
The WORQ outlet at KL Gateway

At WORQ, some of the lessons we learned during the pandemic include providing an opportunity for employees to still experience a conducive office culture. This means introducing new benefits like hot-desking while maintaining a bright, open and collaborative work environment for when they do need to come into the office. We aim to offer flexibility, without removing the positives of an office work environment. 

When companies deal with the hassle of renovating their office, it begs a question. Why not consult a Flexi-space provider to create a hybrid work solution? Companies like WORQ holds the belief that practising agility and flexibility is called to service the changing needs of an organisation. Workers need to feel empowered, connected and engaged with their environment as this helps boost productivity.

This article was contributed by Stephanie Ping, CEO and co-founder of WORQ

About the author

Stephanie Ping WORQ

Stephanie Ping is the co-founder & CEO of WORQ, a hyper-localized community workspace founded in March 2017 with a vision of helping individuals achieve greater results by working together. WORQ aims to bring new opportunities to businesses and entrepreneurs by fostering meaningful connections for its members and the surrounding community. She graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Management Science & Engineering, where her experience with Stanford’s entrepreneurship community played a significant role in
shaping her vision for WORQ’s entrepreneurial community. Stephanie is the award recipient of the Malaysian Venture Capital Association’s Outstanding Female Entrepreneur of 2019. Till date, WORQ has bagged 5 prestigious awards, including the coworker member’s choice awards for two consecutive years.