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Japan-Update

'Exclusivity' the new trend in shared offices

Users can cross-pollinate with others and have their kids looked after

Mitsui Fudosan is rethinking the shared office to better meet demand from teams made up of employees from collaborating companies.

TOKYO -- Co-working spaces are catching on in Japan, and providers are beginning to cater to certain market niches.

In April, Mitsui Fudosan will add a new wrinkle, allowing customers exclusive use of a portion of a space, even a single seat, so long as they rent the space for at least a day.

The service, Workstyling Flex, will be available at two of the real estate developers' Workstyling facilities in Tokyo. In the fall, the service will be introduced at a space in the Tokyo Midtown Hibiya complex, set to open later next month.

At each co-working space, a dedicated Workstyling Flex station will be set off from the rest of the open office.

The service will be available 24 hours a day all-year-round; monthly fees will start at 130,000 yen ($1,200).

According to Mitsui, there is strong demand for exclusive short-term office space; it comes from employees getting together from different companies to work on joint projects.

These users are reluctant to rent regular office space in Tokyo because doing so usually requires at least a year-long contract. That and buying furniture bring the cost to over 100 million yen.

Renting at a typical shared working space has its own drawbacks, like limited operating hours and the possibility that other users will overhear confidential information or present other risks.

Workstyling Flex is aimed at a niche that alleviates both sets of snags.

Mitsui Fudosan's Workstyling Flex service offers some privacy and exclusivity at shared offices.

Over 100 companies, including food-maker Ajinomoto and mobile carrier NTT Docomo, use the 25 Workstyling stations across Japan. Mitsui aims to expand the chain to 30 locations and 3,000 seats by fall.

In February, WeWork opened its first Japan co-working facility, in Tokyo's Minato Ward. The U.S. company operates over 200 stations in 20 countries, catering to over 200,000 customers.

Chris Hill, who heads the Japanese operation, said the Tokyo facility was fully occupied when it opened. By June, the company plans to have five stations in Shimbashi, Harajuku and other Tokyo neighborhoods. The plan calls for 10 to 12 Japan facilities, including in Osaka and Fukuoka, by the end of the year.

Overseas, WeWork provides a service in which it helps its startup tenants find financial backers to help pay the rent. The company plans to introduce the service to Japan by summer.

As the company attaches importance to clients cross-pollinating and creating new businesses, it also provides a service that connects clients via online chats.

Although WeWork is a late comer to Japan, it provides over 40,000 seats at coworking spaces in New York alone and has a strong global brand.

Another Japanese entry to the sector is NTT Urban Development, which this spring will open co-working stations with attached day care centers in Tokyo's Akihabara and Otemachi districts. In the future, NTT Urban Development plans to use NTT group facilities for the new service, called Lifork.

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