Demographics influence properties Location of offices may have an effect on staff

  • Business
  • Saturday, 18 May 2013

WHERE one works may not say a lot about us, but where one hangs out will. Which takes us to the next level. Does demographics have an influence over how office buildings are planned and designed?

Property consultant YY Lau, the principal of YY Property Solutions, says the Klang Valley’s changing office environment says a lot about our lifestyle and how we like to spend our time.

Let’s take public transport versus private cars. Because of the poor public transportation system, most of us drive to work. So the availability of office parking is an issue.

Consider KL Sentral. That is supposed to be a transportation hub, but how often do people going there opt for public transport? Chances are, one will take the car.

So when a company chooses a location, several factors come under consideration.

“Branding, perception, budget and talent retention are important issues they have to consider,” she says.

After years of helping her clients to find their dream office space, she has learned a few things about demographics and what people want.

“The Gen-Y (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) group likes to go into prestigious offices. The older workers, the baby-boomers (1946-1955) and Gen-X (1965 and 1980) consider day-to-day issues like ease of parking, picking up the children, the cost of food around their office, the cost of commuting and the time taken.”

Lau says it is common for a job offer to be rejected or accepted based on what’s around and available in the office premises, or what the office looks like.

Gen-Y’s preferences for prestigious glass and steel buildings may also be an indication of where they like to hang out during and after office hours. Today, the imported coffee culture – Starbucks and Coffee Bean – is within the office premises, having found their way from the shopping malls to the work place.

Lau says the shortage of car parking facilities is another long-standing issue across the demographics.

A lot of young people drive. Lau says every 500 sq ft of office space is provided with one car parking bay. Sometimes, it could have one car parking bay for every 1,000 sq ft. Three to five people can occupy a 500 sq ft office. “So if your office is located near a mall, that helps,” she says.

Depending on the sector, a company may not need as much space as before. With the convenience of technology, a lot of Gen-X and Gen-Y carry that technology around today.

“If you have 20 staff members, you need 20 seats. But for consultancy work, a number of the staff may not be in the office during any part of the working day. But there is this Asian mentality – they like to have ownership of a place. But we have seen how people in other countries work – everybody has a trolley. And you log in.

“Some work from home. From the company’s point of view, they will save in terms of phone calls and the staff will be happier but it cannot be a habit.

“The issue about not going into the office is, after a while, you lose touch and no longer feel connected. These are the issues that need to be worked out between employers and employees,” she says.

Quite a number of office blocks today also come with gym and sports facilities. Some have a pool. These are amenities enjoyed by the working community in that area and help to reduce road congestion as they do not need to drive to the gym.

Lau says the provision of a child care centre has been talked about for a while. Today, there are a few offices which provide this facility.

“The year 2012 was a dragon year which naturally saw a baby boom. Working mothers are having a hard time getting help to look after their babies. Hence, the trend today among building owners is to have a child-care centre within their premises which they outsourced to an operator,” says Lau, adding that from her conversation with employers, their preferences and need for a work-home balance have result in them giving up a lucrative job offer.

MGPA (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd general manager Patrick Liau says people want conveniences irrespective of demographics. Liau manages The Intermark, a mixed integrated development located at the intersection between Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

The development is anchored by a hotel, a mall and two office blocks offering more than 1.3mil sq ft of office space. There are six retail floors of about 200,000 sq ft with a carefully selected mix of tenant to provide conveniences and services to the working and visiting community.

Jaya Groccer will provide added conveniences and the lower concourse and concourse floors provide the services. The space and how it is used, says Lau, has been carefully planned and thought out.

It’s a story about transformation, not only of this place, but how an integrated development, with the office component, should work, he says.

Liau says the office floor space can be as large as 23,500 sq ft, and without columns, big enough to accommodate more than 200 people on one floor.

Studies done have shown that productivity increases when the different departments that need to work each other are located on one floor, he says. Time may be lost taking the stairs or in lifts.

Within the building, excluding external factors like location, Liau says tenants today look for three things – air conditioners that work, clean toilets and well-maintained escalators and lifts.

He says the lifts at The Intermark travel at 7 metres per second, one of the fastest in Kuala Lumpur.

“You need this, when you are travelling 62 storeys,” he says.

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