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What do dogs have to do with workplace productivity?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​10​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ Oct 2014

What do dogs have to do with workplace productivity? 

Play pens, climbing walls and rooftop bars are just some of the novelties creeping into Japanese offices. Unusual as these office perks may seem, Neil Hitchen, Head of Markets, JLL Japan, explains why companies in Japan are starting to realise that new workplace strategies deliver very measurable benefits to the bottom line.

dogs-and-workplace.jpgOne of the more interesting requests I've put in front of a Japanese landlord is asking whether they'd allow dogs in their building. The US-based tenant was keen to introduce their 'dog friendly' workplace concept to Japan.

Quite often I hear that new workplace formats don't work in Japan – employees value their privacy and managers aren't prepared to part with their own personal space. But in truth, executives are curious about new ways of working.  

Many companies who approach us to consult on real estate strategies often put workplace solutions right at the top of their agenda.

While cost savings is a key driver, we've seen the conversation shift to productivity, employee engagement and innovation in the last few years. In fact, the office is no longer just a real estate consideration – it's also closely linked with HR and marketing. A great office not only boosts team morale but also attracts a wider talent pool, enables a mobile workforce and boosts branding.

What's interesting is the strong link between workplace strategy and productivity.

According to a recent poll organised by JLL, working professionals spend most of their time on e-mails, phone calls and formal meetings. Yet, 74% of respondent indicated that thinking, talking and brainstorming create the most value for an organisation, though only 24% of respondents focused their time on these high-value activities.

The way that traditional offices are set up – including fixed desks, meeting rooms and executive offices – only serve to widen this disconnect.

So what happens when we configure office spaces to support the activities that drive greater value for businesses?

Well, we delivered just that for our client AstraZeneca with their relocation to a three-storey office at Grand Front in Umeda, Osaka this year. The new office has injected fresh energy into AstraZeneca – the new layout encourages more informal meetings which mean that decisions are made a lot faster and ultimately this results in less overtime work and happier staff.

You can read more about our work with Astra Zeneca in the Financial Times' Global Property Insight, which was published this week.

While we're unlikely to see dogs in every workplace anytime soon, certainly rethinking the workplace is one tangible approach companies can take in tackling the issue of productivity.  In doing so, they may be pleasantly surprised by the knock-on effects on attrition, staff morale and ultimately the bottom line.


Neil Hitchen
International Director and Head of Markets, Japan