BCN-08,09,10 Karaoke office: Japan inc. shifts to unusual workspaces





Karaoke office: Japan inc. shifts to unusual workspaces

TOKYO, Oct 14, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – From tiny one-person cubicles in
underground stations to camping tents under towering skyscrapers and even
karaoke clubs: in workaholic Japan, salarymen are never short of a place to

Unusual work venues are popping up all over Japan as firms try to move
from chaining their employees to their desks towards offering staff more
freedom in their working practices and as the gig economy spreads even to
this temple of corporate culture.

On the pavement in Tokyo’s Marunouchi financial district, groups of
businesspeople clutching laptops sit on pillows around a low table… in a
camping tent surrounded by shimmering glass buildings.

These temporary “outdoor offices” created by Snow Peak Business Solutions
are also available in riverside parks in Tokyo suburbs and are proving a hit
with firms keen to get staff out of the stuffy office.

Yasuyuki Minami, who works for the Japanese arm of software giant SAP,
said the unusual surroundings sparked “new business ideas” in their meeting
held in the shade of the tent under the blazing sun.

His boss Tsutomu Ushida, an SAP Japan vice-president, agreed. “We tend to
have fixed and stereotyped ideas when we are in the office. This was a good
experience of working in the open air — something we don’t experience every

Ryo Murase, the head of the company promoting these open offices, said
people enjoyed working “under the sunshine and feeling a gentle breeze”.

“We live in a world where AI and robots are taking over. I believe we
humans should do something more emotional, inspiring, compassionate and
exciting,” he told AFP.

– ‘Very convenient’ –

Still inside but a long way from a conventional office is the teleworking
karaoke room offered by Japan’s biggest karaoke operator.

Daiichikosho started the new service in April last year and now opens up
its singing rooms for office space at 33 outlets close to business districts
in big cities.





For 600 yen per hour ($5.30), users can display images directly from their
laptop computers onto the big screen on the wall usually used by karaoke
singers for lyrics.

Shy public speakers can also practice business presentations using the
karaoke microphone and a white board — all in a soundproof room.

Hideyuki Aoki, an employee at NTT Communications, uses the service several
times a week while he is on the road.

“At first, I felt uncomfortable but once I used the room, I found it very
convenient,” Aoki said.

“Now I’m using it as my business hub.”

Takayuki Suzuki, from Daiichikosho, says many travelling businesspeople or
freelancers use cafes for work but are worried about opening sensitive
documents with others around.

“You can have your own enclosed space at a karaoke club, so you can work
without worrying about information leaking or people peaking onto your desk,”
said Suzuki.

– ‘Trend of the times’ –

Also catering for teleworking professionals, Fuji Xerox and the Tokyo
Metro system have installed “satellite offices” in major subway stations
around the Japanese capital.

The black-and-white cubicles are equipped with a desk and a chair as well
as a computer display and wifi and can be reserved online for 200 yen per 15

Unlike in many major cities, commuters in super-polite Japan rarely use
their mobile phones to avoid disturbing others and the cubicle offers an
opportunity to make a business call without hesitation.





“The conventional office space will not disappear, but we want to get rid
of space barriers and improve the diversity of working practices,” said
Yasutaro Tanno, an official at Fuji Xerox, at a cubicle set up at Tameike-
Sanno station in downtown Tokyo.

Experts say a shrinking labour force and ageing population will
increasingly force companies to shake up their working practices and offer
hard-pressed staff more flexibility in where they work.

Furthermore, freelancing, which has been popular in the United States and
other developed nations for some time, is gradually spreading in Japan as the
nation’s corporate culture with its job for life and seniority system falls
into decline.

The number of freelancers in Japan, including those who work a second job,
was estimated to have reached 11.2 million this year, up from 9.1 million in
2015, according to IT and staffing agent Lancers.

Offering different places for both independent contractors and employees
to work in is “a trend of the times,” said Kentaro Arita, senior economist at
Mizuho Research Institute.

“The working environment will increasingly change as working practices
evolve,” he added.