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Japan’s legions of “salarymen” were notorious for working long hours in the workplace. Now, one digital behemoth is attempting to make the experience more cuddly by allowing dogs to enter.
Fujitsu Ltd (6702.T), which manufactures everything from air conditioners to supercomputers, inaugurated an experimental “dog office” in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, in July.
Yuka Hatagaki, a Fujitsu employee who teleworked throughout the COVID-19 epidemic, was tempted back to the workplace a few times a month with her five-year-old Maltese-poodle cross, Noel.
“As remote working became the norm, communication became more difficult,” Hatagaki told Reuters. “So I thought this would be a terrific location to come and communicate with other people using our pets.”
The approach resembles Silicon Valley more than corporate Japan, but the COVID-19 epidemic has hastened a fast transition in work routines. According to OECD data, teleworking in Japan climbed from 10% to 28% between December 2019 and May 2020, but remains lower than in many other large economies.
Dentsu Group Inc (4324.T) and logistics provider Nippon Express Co are two firms that have considered selling their central Tokyo offices in order to save money as more people work from home.
However, after more than two years of the epidemic and as infections recede, there are evidence that the pendulum is swinging back to in-office employment. According to polls conducted by the Japan Productivity Center, teleworking among adults in their 20s and 30s has declined fast.
Fujitsu’s dog office, which is distinct from conventional working spaces and is on trial until the end of the year, features workstations for three employees and room for up to six dogs at a time. It also has stain-resistant carpets and a variety of pet products.
While the prospect of working with her dog drew 30-year-old Hatagaki back to the workplace, Fujitsu says the project’s goal is not to bring staff back inside the building. Fujitsu and financial services major Nomura Holdings Inc (8604.T) were among the firms that said working from home will become a permanent option even after the epidemic.
“Working life and our personal lives have seen huge changes since COVID,” said Mitsuya Akamatsu, Fujitsu’s head of work style planning. “We are always considering what kinds of modifications are required.”
“We can’t tell if we’ll remain with this approach of working with pets in the long run because it’s still an experiment, but I believe it’d be fantastic to see it expand across our society,” he added.
Mayumi Inoue, another dog office user, became a pet owner during the epidemic. She said that coming to work had certain advantages for her dog, Toramaru, a six-month-old Pomeranian.
“Compared to being at home, your dog gets to meet other dogs and humans, so there’s a big motivation for them as well,” Inoue added.
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