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Do We Need an Office?

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As IT paved the way for communication, and is now readily available to most people, a need to work at an office is gradually decreasing. At e-Jan, we already have many people working from home and abroad. So, the question is: "Do we need an office?"

If we do not need to work at the office, we can dramatically reduce commuting time, thus improving one of Tokyo's biggest problems, the rush hour. On top of that, we pay a significant amount of money towards rent. If we can change the way offices are used, it should not only reduce a lot of time and energy spent just to move between home and office, which is beneficial to employees, but also reduce the cost of rent, which is beneficial to business owners.

Let me list up the reasons for working in an office environment:

  1. Availability of facilities, information, and equipment that are required to get the work done
  2. Need for a dedicated working environment
  3. As a boss, wanting to monitor the staff's attitude towards work
  4. Believing that face to face communication is important
  5. Interacting with colleagues; opportunity for socializing
  6. Being valued as a professional in a good environment
  7. Meetings are more productive
  8. Sharing the emotion, of good and bad news
  9. Feeling of togetherness
  10. Seeing others working with seriousness and dignity motivates you to do the same
  11. Feeling the presence of other members
  12. A sense of security that secrets and proprietary information stay in the same room

By having these listed, I would conclude that most of them wouldn't be satisfied with the currently available IT systems. Email, SMS, IP-phone, conference systems, etc. might help to fill the gap between working in the same space and teleworking, but would not fill it 100%. Therefore, I do see the need for an office.

On the other hand, our recently established Singapore office is quite unique. We located it in a shared office space. A co-working space is a shared floor among other company members, with a reception area, common facilities, meeting spaces, and private booths. It is located in one of the prestigious buildings in Singapore, so the atmosphere is quite nice. Let's consider the two of our employees in Singapore who are teleworkers from Tokyo. Then, go back to the list above according to their experiences, working in remotely-located co-working spaces solves 1, 2, 6, 10, and 12, leaving us with 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11.

  1. Availability of facilities, information, and equipment that are required to get the work done
  2. Need for a dedicated working environment
  3. As a boss, wanting to monitor the staff's attitude towards work
  4. Believing that face to face communication is important
  5. Interacting with colleagues; opportunity for socializing
  6. Being valued as a professional in a good environment
  7. Meetings are more productive
  8. Sharing the emotion, of good and bad news
  9. Feeling of togetherness
  10. Seeing others working with seriousness and dignity motivates you to do the same
  11. Feeling the presence of other members
  12. A sense of security that secrets and proprietary information stay in the same room

IT should be able to solve 3, 9, and 11 by choosing or developing the right tools such as a presence management tool combined with SMS functions and something like a social networking service for business.

In conclusion, even with the evolution of IT, I still see the need for an office. Remotely-located offices are good, and even with the headquarters, a nice office would function as a status symbol and a social gathering place for company members. However, workers do not need to be physically there every day nor be there the whole time, so at least we should be able to shrink the size of the office dramatically.

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