Business picks up for shared-office operators

Property firm Henry Butcher says coworking space operators may benefit when start-up companies make the leap from work-from-home to renting a shared office centre.

PETALING JAYA: An owner of a coworking space or shared office centre says business operations began to pick up after more business sectors were allowed to reopen.

Albert Chee, who owns Nestspace coworking space, has seen a gradual increase in bookings in June after the end of the movement control order (MCO) period, especially from startup businesses.

“Our business depends more on local startups,” Chee told FMT, adding that the number of memberships had increased to 300 members.

“Starting from July to August, we received quite a good number of sign-ups. We believe business will get better as soon as the market improves which is a good sign. Hopefully, no more MCO.”

In May, Nestspace said revenue had dropped by almost 80% during the MCO period.

However, Albert said he could only accept bookings for events and workshops during the weekends to avoid overcrowding. “We still need to follow the SOPs.”

He also automated Nestspace to minimise operating expenses.

Asked if other coworking spaces are able to survive like Nestspace, he said a few spaces were forced to shut down. “I saw some coworking spaces were for sale (posted online).”

Meanwhile, Tan Sung Lin, who used to own Nomad coworking space, told FMT he had sold his business in July after the MCO period ended. “I had planned to sell it after two to three years of running it. It was not because of MCO,” he said.

He said it did take quite a bit of time to be sold. “Right now, I’m doing wealth planning as my full-time job,” he added.

Property firm Henry Butcher said whether coworking space operators should switch to other businesses will depend largely on the owners’ financial strength and preferences.

“If they are adequately funded they may decide to bunker down and ride out the current slowdown. If they are not financially able to cope with the situation, they may have to close down and relook at what they want to do,” Henry Butcher CEO Tang Chee Meng told FMT.

“Short-term prospects for coworking space operators appear challenging but in the long-term, businesses should recover when things get back to normal, especially when a vaccine is ready to control the Covid-19 infections.

“The increase in lay-offs may result in more people turning to start their own businesses. A good business segment for coworking space operators are the start-ups and so (the business) may benefit when the start-ups do well enough to graduate from work-from-home to a coworking space,” Tang said.

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