Japan reassesses office use as more people work from home

TOKYO – Japanese firms are reconsidering using offices as 65% of firms allowed or encouraged employees to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey showed that office use fell 10-20% in early August from a year ago and firms were giving workers more flexibility during the pandemic and were starting to rethink the traditional office in a possible departure from the long hours and packed commutes that have come to symbolise Japan’s strong work ethic.

Out of those, 48% were considering establishing satellite offices – the most popular choice – while 33% were thinking about downsizing by cancelling leasing contracts and 10% were eyeing shared workspaces.

“Reviewing office workspace would boost social benefits as a whole as it helps ease the commuters’ ordeal and resolve office shortage,” a manager of a paper and pulp maker wrote in the survey on condition of anonymity.

Until 2020, there was growing demand for office space in Tokyo from firms seeking to expand or upgrade, but the vacancy rate has worsened for a fifth month running in July.