Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, corporate philosophies regarding the role of the office are changing, particularly with the introduction of remote working practices. This report analyses the current state of remote working in Japan based on the results of CBRE’s latest office occupier survey, and attempts to predict what the future of the office may look like once the pandemic is eventually brought under control.
The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst to accelerate the introduction of remote working practices, with 90% of respondent companies now having remote working systems in place. In terms of actual implementation, however, Tokyo-based offices far outstrip their regional city counterparts, meaning that any impact on the office market as a result of the expansion of remote working practices is most likely to be felt in Tokyo. That said, even in Tokyo 23 wards, the potential net decrease in office space as a result of remote working is estimated to be just 1.8%.
With the proliferation of remote working practices, the standard conception that “work is to be conducted in the office” has been dispelled, and the role of the office is being re-examined. As communication, management, and care for workers’ well-being have proven to be issues that are difficult to handle via remote working, an increasing number of companies view their offices as a place for the strengthening of interpersonal connections. CBRE expects that in the coming years, “borderless work”, in which both office-based and remote working are combined depending on the tasks to be undertaken and the individual circumstances of workers, is likely to become more widely adopted.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also prompted companies to reconsider office layouts. With the number of workers in the office at any given time becoming much more fluid, it is anticipated that Activity-based Working (ABW) and free-address systems are likely to become much more widely used. With the role of the office being re-evaluated, more companies are also keen to establish spaces that would enhance communication among employees and with clients.
At the same time, the key factors prioritised by companies when relocating remain unchanged from prior to the pandemic: transport convenience, cost, and location remain at the top of the list. Although workplaces are becoming more and more dispersed, places where large numbers of employees can easily gather are still valued as office locations. The companies also continue to see value in locations where particular industries are concentrated, for direct communication with clientele.
In addition, the “environmental, social and governance (ESG)” criteria also appear set to occupy a position of increasing importance in the selection of office buildings in the future.