Co-working spaces are trending in Japan

More companies in Japan are turning to co-working office spaces to shorten their employees’ commute times and offer them a better work-life balance.

Shared workspaces are also expected to foster new businesses by providing budding entrepreneurs with opportunities to network with people from different industries and spark 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 raises 2-year-old twin daughters while working at trading house Sumitomo Corp.

“My time has been freed up after 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 wanted to,” Adachi said.

About once a week she works from NewWork Jiyugaoka, a shared office in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward, close to her home. She saves time on a two-hour round trip commute to Sumitomo’s headquarters in Chiyoda Ward in the center of the capital, allowing her to devote more time to work when she needs to or spend some time with her children without cutting into her office hours.

It is one of some 20 NewWork co-working spaces run by Tokyu Corp. The operator of the railway network in suburban Tokyo contracts with companies to offer them satellite shared offices within walking distance of major stations, mainly in the greater Tokyo area.

Employees of member companies can choose where they want to sit but are prohibited from speaking loudly. Cell phone use is restricted to a specified 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 manage their employees’ working hours as an ID card reader records when they enter and exit the office space.

U.S. co-working space provider WeWork Companies Inc touts its support for creating new business opportunities by actively promoting networking among users.

The New York-based firm entered the Japanese market in February 2018 and has since opened more than 10 co-working office spaces in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka and other prefectures.

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

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

Each cozy one-person pod comes equipped with a desk, chair, electrical outlet, LCD monitor with a USB port and free Wi-Fi. A user can book a booth online and is charged 200 yen per 15 minutes.

A Tokyo Metro official said the service makes life easier for company workers after calling on a client toward the end of the business day.

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

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