Japan breaks the mould, creates workplaces with a difference

Japanese companies are getting rid of space barriers and working towards improving the diversity of working practices.

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With a reputation for strict workplaces, and employees committing suicide from work stress, companies in Japan are now trying to change the rigid norms to create better workplaces, with more flexible work practices.

Japanese firms are now going out of the way to make the workplace more comfortable and fun for the employees. There are ‘outdoor offices’ available in parks along lakes and rivers, in the suburbs, which give the staff an opportunity to escape stuffy buildings and into the fresh air for a change. Many organisations believe that working in the open, amidst nature actually activates the brain and gives rise to better ideas. Meetings held inside a tent under the sun create a more energetic atmosphere for meaningful discussions.

It is now not uncommon to see people sitting on cushions on the pavement with their laptops, inside a camping tent and indulging in serious business conversation. Many employees claim that they get better ideas outside the four walls of their office, in an environment that is different from the usual.

Many people opine, and rightly so, that with the world being taken over by artificial intelligence (AI) and people getting lesser opportunity to interact with each other, such unusual work spots are becoming essential. It is time for companies to focus on the emotional side of the workforce and ensure ways for more personal interaction amongst people.

The latest addition to these unusual workspaces is the teleworking karaoke room. These singing rooms are offered to offices at 33 outlets near the country’s business hubs. The users get the opportunity to display images and graphs on the big screen on the wall, just as karaoke singers display lyrics of songs. These soundproof rooms/outlets, which are available for 600 yen per hour, offer a great way for those who are afraid to speak in public or make presentations, to practice fearlessly and gain confidence. They can rehearse using the karaoke microphones and a white board.

Many Japanese executives end up using the facility several times a week, especially while travelling, with some even using it as a business hub for the convenience and privacy it offers.

Satellite offices are yet another option popular with teleworking professionals. These are available in all the major subway stations near Tokyo. These cubicles, which can be booked online for 200 yen per 15 minutes, have a desk and a chair as well as a computer display screen with wi-fi connectivity. These cubicles allow commuters to attend to urgent work or even make important calls without disturbing people around.

Japanese companies are realising that they will have to offer more flexibility to their workforce in the face of an ageing population and acute shortage of human resources.

The country is also witnessing a growth of the freelancing community. Japan is said to have 11.2 million freelancers presently.

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