Every day you learn something new.

Today, for instance, I learned of the glorious joy in sleeping an uninterrupted 9 hours, and I don’t know why I don’t do this more often. Also today, I learned of co-working spaces, of which everyone should know.

The ‘jakun’ that I am, when I first heard of ‘co-working spaces’, I thought, “But isn’t every office a co-working space?” Because the logic follows that if you work with others, you’re co-working (hence “co-workers” in reference to people you work with); and if you’re co-working in the same space, that makes it a co-working space. But I was wrong.

So…What exactly is a co-working space?

To put it simply, think about the office towers omnipresent in city centers, like Menara AmBank or Wisma Lee Rubber. One company owns the whole building, but rents out offices or entire floors to other companies. Now downscale that operation to the size of an office – that’s what a co-working space is.

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Picture an open-plan office, but instead of one company occupying that whole space, it’s shared by freelancers, entrepreneurs and lean work groups.

 

Yes, It’s A Space, A Rented Workplace

Instead of renting out office spaces and conference halls, co-working spaces rent out work desks, meeting rooms, power plugs, sometimes even free WiFi. That’s the bare bones of it. From that point on, it’s up to the imagination and ability of those who run the space to make it so much more than just a space – from exercise rooms to swimming pools, stocked pantries to fully functional kitchens, performance spaces to skill-building seminars…the sky’s the limit (all within budget of course).

More than just a space to work, co-working spaces are offering a holistic developmental experience for everyone, from the overworked freelancer to the latest greatest startup team.

With an average one-time fee of RM50 and monthly rentals ranging from RM100 to RM800 per month, you might be saying, “Walao, so expensive! Might as well work from home. Don’t even need to change out of your underwear!” (I’ve been told that this is exactly how one editor on this site works.) But let me clue you in on a secret, all of you who think that working from home alone must be the best thing ever:

“You are actually much, much more productive when you work together.”

 

You Will Feel Like You Are Part Of A Community

Each co-working space possesses its own vibe and character. This leaks on to you and creates an environment that can make you work at your most optimal level. If one place does not emit the same positive, creative energies that you could benefit from, there is always another place to run to. You can’t do that in a fixed office where you are basically stuck with the same people and at the same desk day-in-day-out.

Also, in a fixed office you would sometimes feel the need to put on a façade to ‘fit in’ to the company’s culture. In a co-working environment there is little direct competition and also no terrible internal politics, because it is a space that consists of people ranging from many different companies, personal pursuits, or business ventures. There wouldn’t be a need for you to deal with all the negative aspects of working (ok, maybe except that one person who talks too much, but I guess all work related places have ‘em).

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Bunching individuals of different unique skills and talents allows for the opportunity to provide the community shared knowledge and collaborative opportunities. It can also allow you to portray a more distinctive work identity (“Oh Hi! You are the guy that’s really good at tying knots right?”); suddenly giving more meaning to the work you do.  While that statement sounds like it belongs on an ad, I’m saying it because it’s well and true.

There’s no telling who you might meet in a shared space! From designers to writers to underwater basket-weavers; it’s the perfect chance to connect and do that mystical thing we call “networking”.

 

Why Is It So?

No, it’s not some new-age “let the energy of other living things flow into you” mumbo-jumbo. It’s that when you’re out working with other people, when you hit a snag you can’t just give up and go rub one off like how you would if you’re at home.

Some of you might have heard of Coffitivity, which was built based on one research’s finding that our brains naturally function more creatively and efficiently when we’re immersed in a busy ambience. Also, there’s this thing you psychology majors might have heard of called “Conditioning”.

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No, it’s not the stuff you put on your hair after rinsing off shampoo. It’s the reason why the new treadmill in your house will be used religiously for the first month, then left to collect dust until you get rid of it 3 years later. It’s the reason why you should not read articles on your smartphone/iPad/stone tablet when you’re lying in bed at the end of the day. It’s why some people feel stressed the moment they step into their offices.

When you’re at home, your brain goes, “Oh, home sweet home! Time to flip the switch from work hard to chill out!” I would know this, because if I had been working in my office, I would’ve finished writing this article in just under 2 hours. But if you could see me now, sitting on a sofa in my comfy shorts, hunched over a laptop that’s perched on a coffee table, you’ll understand how it has been 2.5 hours since I’ve started writing but am only halfway done.

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It’s an exciting new world to discover. Try it out for yourself, and see if it works for you. Maybe the underwear and lone ranger status could have a rest. Maybe it’s time to collaborate and say hi to your fellow man. Who knows? In that very co-working space you might meet your future business partner of a multi-million dollar scheme to sell rocks with googly-eyes to the masses.

 

For those of you in the Klang Valley, check out Poskod.my’s excellent list of co-working spaces in KL or Jay Chong’s Top 10 list. If you’re up north in the land of Char Kuey Teow and Asam Laksa, I have it on good authority that Regus, the OG of co-working spaces, operates at least two locations on the island.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find me my own co-working space to write in.

 

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Posted by Joseph Ng