Business

Shared work spaces catch on with urban Japanese seeking a better work-life balance

Kyodo

More companies in Japan are turning to shared office space to shorten employees’ commuting times and offer them a better work-life balance.

Shared spaces are also expected to foster new businesses by providing budding entrepreneurs chances to network with people from different industries and come up with fresh ideas.

“Before, I was forced to cut the time I spent working whenever I had to take my children to see the doctor,” said Mami Adachi, 35, who is trying to raise twin daughters while working at trading house Sumitomo Corp.

“My time has been freed up since I started using a co-working space. I no longer have that feeling of irritation that comes from not being able to work even when I want to,” Adachi said.

About once a week she works from NewWork Jiyugaoka, a shared office in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward, close to her home. Slashing the two-hour round-trip commute to Sumitomo’s headquarters in Chiyoda Ward in the center of the city allows her to devote more time to work when needed or spend time with her 2-year-olds without cutting into office hours.

NewWork Jiyugaoka is one of some 20 co-working spaces run by railway Tokyu Corp. The railroad contracts with companies to offer shared satellite offices within walking distance of major train stations mainly in greater Tokyo.

Employees of the participating companies can choose where they want to sit but are prohibited from speaking loudly. Cellphone use is restricted to a designated area.

“The atmosphere is like a library so I can really make progress with my work,” Adachi said. “There’s no colleague trying to talk to me and no business phone calls interrupting me.”

Companies can also keep track of employees’ working hours because an card reader records when they enter and exit the facility.

New York-based WeWork touts its support for creating new business opportunities by actively promoting networking among clients.

WeWork Companies Inc. entered the Japanese market in February 2018 and has since opened more than 10 co-working spaces spanning Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka and other prefectures.

Its open-plan offices display notices for workshops on various topics ranging from the ABCs of virtual currency to South African wines. Tea, coffee and light meals are available in the kitchen area, where people can easily interact.

Offering its own take on the trend, Tokyo Metro Co. launched a Satellite Office Service in June 2018 that provides work booths in four subway stations, including Tameike-Sanno.

Each cozy, one-person pod comes with a desk, chair, electrical outlet, LCD monitor and free Wi-Fi. One can book a booth online for ¥200 per 15 minutes.

A Tokyo Metro official said the service makes life easier for people to call on a client toward the end of the day.

“Many people go to the trouble of returning to their office to complete some simple task after visiting a client,” the official said. “Now they can go home directly if they finish their jobs quickly and easily in the station.”