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Business trends

Japan Inc. embraces co-working spaces to combat overwork

Outposts near employee homes allow for efficient work schedules

Inside one of Mitsui Fudosan's Workstyling facilities.

TOKYO -- A growing number of Japanese businesses are signing up to make shared office spaces available to employees who hope to work more efficiently by reducing travel times, part of a broader effort to improve work-life balance.

Hitachi plans to offer around 600 seats at 30 co-working facilities run by Tokyo-based Xymax in the greater capital area. The facilities are shared by workers from multiple companies and feature both common spaces and private offices, conference rooms and phone booths to protect confidential information. Some 30,000 personnel at Hitachi and group members including Hitachi High-Technologies, Hitachi Solutions and Hitachi Systems can use these spaces.

The Japanese conglomerate has opened eight satellite offices in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture since the autumn of 2016 to encourage diverse work styles. They total 300 seats and are restricted to Hitachi group employees. Adding Xymax's co-working offices will triple the seats to 900 and add new locations closer to where employees live.

These efforts could help Hitachi meet its goal of reducing employees' average monthly overtime to 19.2 hours in fiscal 2018 from 29.2 in fiscal 2015. The company also aims to have workers take all 20 of their paid vacation days each year.

Road warriors can also benefit from the comfortable environment that co-working facilities offer. From March, department store operator Takashimaya will arrange for around 230 employees, such as buyers, who spend a good deal of time away from the office, to use Mitsui Fudosan's Workstyling co-working facilities at 25 locations around Japan. By having such spaces readily available, the company hopes to cut down on travel times and make work more efficient.

Workstyling's 100-plus clients include mobile carrier NTT Docomo, seasonings maker Ajinomoto and cosmetics company Shiseido. Locations include such regional cities as Sapporo, Sendai, Hiroshima and Fukuoka in addition to the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya metropolitan areas. Mitsui Fudosan is adding additional facilities in such areas as central Tokyo to meet rising demand.

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