With thousands of employees relocating to our sunny island to form part of Malta’s rapidly-growing iGaming industry, it may come as no surprise that expectations are high when it comes to what they’ll find here. But that doesn’t end with the sparkling seas, blue skies and Mediterranean lifestyle beyond their office doors – it starts right there, within their workspace.
When it comes to their offices, iGaming companies excel at making the workspace a place which their employees enjoy spending time in – a home away from home that is oftentimes a whole lot more fun!
“Operators in this industry are mainly after wide open spaces which are filled with natural light,” explains Rita Schembri, Commercial Property Division Manager at Frank Salt Real Estate. “They want a space that can accommodate plenty of chill-out areas, balconies and terraces, and ideally situated in pleasing surroundings. They want their employees to be able to socialise with their colleagues in an informal way around the office and then go on to enjoy themselves after hours too, such as shopping, dining or after-work drinks.”
Michaela Tabone, Assistant Regional Letting Manager at RE/MAX Malta is in agreement, affirming that companies within the iGaming sector generally “require an open-plan layout and a space that offers plenty of natural light,” and differ from ‘normal’ offices in that they strive to make their work environment a fun one. “They ensure that the recreational area for their staff is sizeable, allowing their staff to break and unwind in a ‘cool’ environment,” she says. “We have seen some offices being equipped with ping pong tables, billiard tables, PlayStations and more.”
And they’re so popular among employees that as time goes by, the gap between the ‘regular’ office that has become the norm across other industries and these new spaces is being bridged. Indeed, “employers from other industries are very much buying into the model of providing a pleasant environment for their staff,” explains Ms Schembri, maintaining that staff retention is a priority across all industries, and this model contributes towards the happiness of employees.
So it’s no surprise, then, that such companies invest so much in making the workplace a fun place to be. “They invest heavily in order to make their workspace attractive – the cooler and more luxurious the office, the easier it becomes when recruiting new staff,” Ms Tabone affirms.
“It is a well-known fact that the happier your employees are, the more motivated they are to work and give results,” continues Ms Schembri. “Their working environment contributes immensely to this happiness and state of well-being,” she adds, pointing to Google’s offices which are globally renowned for their creativity and quirkiness. “Google employs more than 88,000 people from around the world and their outstanding talent management aimed at nurturing innovation has won them several awards. Of course, not everybody has a Google budget, but we are seeing an increasing trend in company stakeholders hiring top designers and project managers to ensure their offices are of the highest standard,” she maintains.
And as the sector gets even larger, I ask, are demands changing? According to Ms Tabone, RE/MAX Malta are now receiving a number of requests for offices with outdoor space and views, indicating that the focus is not just what’s happening inside the office, but what’s outside too. “In fact, a number of new developments have now started to take these requests into consideration by making their buildings more attractive to the current market trend,” she says.
Ms Schembri also points out a change in location as a developing trend within the sector. “We have seen a shift over the years – many of the more established companies have grown in size to such an extent that they have opted to set up their offices in central areas as opposed to coastal areas. Larger spaces are hard to come by in typical coastal localities such as Sliema, St Julian’s or Ta’ Xbiex, and central areas also tend to be a cheaper option,” she explains. Additionally, she adds, several companies have purchased their own premises, as opposed to leasing them, in order to be able to design them and customise them to their needs.
And with such high demand for premium office space that meets these companies’ criteria, the biggest challenges, they agree, are to do with supply.
“Location is always a big problem,” says Ms Tabone, explaining that traditionally, most companies within the sector insist on remaining located around the more sought-after areas of Sliema and St Julian’s. “When they are looking for very large spaces, their demands cannot always be met,” she posits, adding that several companies have adopted a novel approach to ensure that their needs are met. “With a number of new developments having come on the market in the last couple of years, the bigger companies are renting more space than they actually require, and subleasing the space until it is required.”
Another approach is of course looking elsewhere, and as time goes by, it is becoming a more popular tactic. Echoing Ms Tabone’s sentiments that substantially-sized offices are very rare in areas which remain popular such as Sliema or St Julian’s, Ms Schembri explains that while developers are aware of this lack of space and continue to plan for this demand (with many projected developments in the pipeline), others are looking inland to provide ample open-plan offices, not least because it is less costly to source central land, which ultimately allows them to offer cost-effective leasing rates.
“iGaming companies also demand locations that provide suitable accommodation for their people. They want short commutes, easy accessibility to shops, restaurants and public transport; in short, they want their employees to be comfortable and enjoy a better quality of life,” she concludes – and whatever the approach they choose to adopt, it seems clear that they’re willing to give their all to make it happen!
This article originally appeared in iGaming Capital