Railroad firms answering demand for ‘third workplaces’

Courtesy of West Japan Railway Co.
A teleworking railcar on the Hokuriku Shinkansen

As the novel coronavirus continues its rapid spread, railroad companies in western Japan are stepping up installations of teleworking spaces at major stations and aboard trains. Many companies are limiting the number of people allowed to travel to the workplace as the omicron variant propagates ever-wider, resulting in a growing demand for a “third location” at which to work, other than the home or office.

Convenient location

“[This space is] very convenient because it’s situated in a station,” said a real estate company employee who uses a shared office on the first floor of JR Osaka Station. “It’s very useful when my company suddenly requests that I work in a different location.” The man, 30, explained that he sometimes uses shared office spaces when visiting customers and having no time to return to his company.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A shared office operated by JR West is seen at Osaka Station in Kita Ward, Osaka, on Jan. 21.

Icoca IC cards registered in advance can be used to enter the Osaka Station teleworking facility, installed by West Japan Railway Co. in December. The room has 25 seats, including private soundproofed booths and unreserved positions. Reservations can be made via smartphone and prices start from ¥300 per hour.

JR West has set up shared offices in and around six stations, including Shin-Osaka, Sannomiya and Takatsuki stations. “These teleworking offices are becoming increasingly popular among local residents,” said a person in charge of the project.

Including box-style private booths, JR West has established about 40 teleworking locations in total. JR West President Kazuaki Hasegawa said, “We’d like to increase the number of such locations to somewhere between 100 and 200.”

The company is also considering mutual use of shared offices and other facilities operated by East Japan Railway Co. in and around the Tokyo area.

Railcar teleworking

Private railway companies, too, are responding to the burgeoning demand for teleworking spaces. Nankai Electric Railway Co. established shared office spaces at Sakai and Izumigaoka stations at the end of last year, while Hankyu Hanshin Holdings, Inc. — owner of Hankyu Corp. — opened a similar space at Kyoto-Kawaramachi Station on Tuesday, and plans to open another at Osaka-Umeda Station on March 1.

Efforts are also underway to facilitate teleworking on board Shinkansen trains. Since last fall, JR West Japan, Central Japan Railway Co. and JR East have set aside certain cars exclusively for teleworking on the Tokaido, Sanyo and Hokuriku Shinkansen lines. The service has proved popular among business travelers as they can make calls or participate in web conferences using their own computers without leaving their seats.

 Plans are also afoot to renovate smoking rooms and install desks and electrical outlets on some Tokaido Shinkansen trains.