‘Telecubes’ pop up as Japan’s workers seek spaces to concentrate

More companies are introducing telework amid the coronavirus outbreak and as part of work-style reforms, but not everybody is finding their home or, for instance, a nearby cafe to be a comfortable workplace.

For some, home is not always an ideal place to concentrate with other family members present, while cafes tend to be a problem when one wants to make a confidential phone call.

Some companies see a lucrative business opportunity, offering cubicles that can be placed at offices and train stations so that workers can concentrate without outside distraction or fear of being overheard. Others are matchmaking rental space operators and teleworkers who need a quiet place to work.

One company, V-cube Inc., is offering cubicles that can be placed at an office or at a corner of a station for people to use.

A one-person cubicle is 1.2 meters by 1.2 meters with a desk, chair and a power outlet. It’s soundproof and anti-bacterial, offering users a sense of security and safety. Users first register themselves online, choose the date and cubicle location and unlock it with a QR code. Workers can use it in their spare time between client meetings or when they have time on their hands before picking up their child from day care, for instance.

The cubicle, dubbed “telecube,” was first targeted at businesses rather than individuals. With many companies holding more meetings with their employees, as well as online video meetings, demand for more meeting rooms are on the rise, but not many have the luxury of being able to create new spaces.

But if they have a space to place the cubicle, which is also offered for up to six people, companies can set it up regardless of their size or location.

As of the end of last year, 384 cubicles had been set up mainly at offices. But telecubes have also been placed at public places like key stations in Tokyo and the surrounding area, as well as Osaka and Hyogo prefectures.

“We want to place them at commercial complexes near residential areas as well, in hopes they will be used as infrastructure for things like online education and places where people can retrieve administrative documents,” said Naoaki Mashita, president of V-cube.

Students who are looking for jobs are also in need of a place to hold online interviews since their universities have shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Tokyo-based Spacemarket Inc., which matches operators of rental meeting rooms and venues for events online with users, started offering the service for teleworkers in March.

“The business is growing with the rising demand,’’ said an official at Spacemarket.


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