Jun 2 2020 Why we have decided to move to a smaller office
Back in 2013, when Active Connector was founded, our office was a tiny small apartment room in Hongo 3-chome.
In 2017, as the company grew, we moved into a bigger proper office building
However, because of COVID-19, we have decided to let go of the office and move to a smaller sized workplace. This decision was not made due to the economic situation, but rather in consideration of our employees’ feelings, as well as the change in expectation we have for our office space.
Back in 2013, when Active Connector was founded, our office was a small apartment room in Hongo 3-chome. The room was quickly filled with the smell of somebody’s lunch. Everyone could hear all kinds of noise, so much so that we all had to go to nearby convenience stores every time we wanted to go to the restroom.
In 2017, as the company grew, we moved into a bigger proper office building and I still remember the excitement we shared as a team when we first stood in the middle of a huge empty new office space. I still remember the immense joy I felt every time I saw the number of chairs and desks increase. Seeing the office become a proper place and seeing the team grow fostered a great feeling that we all shared as a team.
However, because of COVID-19, we have decided to let go of the office and move to a smaller sized workplace. Before making this decision, we have decided to commit our resources and energy to support our team in creating a better “home office” for each and everyone. Hence, this decision was not made due to Active Connector’s economic situation, but rather in consideration of our employees’ feelings, as well as the changes in expectation we have for our office space. And so, despite the attachment and memories we have with the space, this time, we have decided to let it go.
I would like to share the background of our decision here in this blog article so that our decision will be properly understood and hopefully can inspire some other companies.
Understanding people’s concerns and anxiety
Through having dialogues with our team members about how they perceive COVID-19 risks and how much anxiety it causes, we have come to the conclusion that everyone has certain levels of concern regarding their commute to the office while the risk of COVID-19 still exists, although the extent of the resistance somewhat varies from person to person. Having discussed the issue with the team, it also became clear that unless we clearly put work from home (WFH) as a default, some people will decide to commute to the office because of a sense of responsibility.
Taking those points into consideration, we have decided to make WFH the default and allow working in the office only for those who express such desire and receive approval from the manager in order to maintain social distancing. This will continue for one year or longer until the society/scientists conclude there is no longer the risk of COVID-19 endangering our team and the people around them.
Redefining our office space
It has been about three months since we started full remote work. This unexpectedly prolonged WFH proved that our day-to-day work is still functionable without going to office. Therefore, we found ourselves needing to start questioning and redefining why we have our office and what for: what kind of function should we still expect the office space to carry.
At this moment, there are two hypotheses that we would like to further investigate for the effectiveness that only office spaces can provide (or rather office space is better at providing): fostering innovation and onboarding for new members. We are still at the beginning phase of looking deeper into those points, but after careful investigation, we will calculate how much space is necessary to fulfil those purposes.
However, even at this stage, we have concluded that the office space does not need to be as big as the one we have now, as the space no longer needs to cater to the needs of people conducting their day-to-day jobs and responsibilities.
Company’s commitment to create a “home office”
Before making the decision of going on full remote work as a default, we had discussions and clarified the obstacles that everyone is having in order to continue work from home. Through these discussions, it became clear that people needed to set up their “home office” through investing in better wi-fi subscriptions, purchasing desks and chairs, and so on.
Previously, in order for the company to provide a better work environment, so as to maximize everyone’s comfortableness as well as performance, we needed to invest in creating a better office space. But now we have decided to commit to help people create a better home office.
We implemented a flat-rate work allowance of ¥ 20,000 per employee so that they can purchase necessary items to improve their work condition in their respective homes. We also started a monthly allowance of ¥ 5,000 each for full-time employees and ¥ 3,000 each for part-time employees to support the utility costs that are increasing due to working from home.
“Embrace the unknown”
One of our corporate values is “Embrace the Unknown”.
Moving from our current office to a smaller sized space does not simply signify a physical change. It also means that the way we work and the way the team functions will need to be transformed.
All of us in Active Connector have to be ready and be a part of creating new changes in how we work and how the team as a whole works. We have to accept that all of us gathering in the office altogether on a day-to-day basis will no longer be the norm in our current foreseeable future, but instead shall remain a memory of our past.
Without neglecting the beauty of our past work style, we will have to stay positive and have a forward-looking mindset in what kind of exciting future we can create.
Embrace the Unknown. This is a new chapter for our new beginning: a new team and a new workstyle.
Author: Asami Matsumoto (CEO/Founder of Active Connector) Edited by Paulyn Ompico
Born in Japan, but had been moving around the globe and has experienced living in different parts of the world, Asami has lived in the United Kingdom, Canada, Ghana, and even Pakistan. She is a traveller with a passion for bridging cultural differences through respect and understanding. Asami’s Interview Linked in
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