ITOKI Adopts Activity-Based Working in their New Tokyo HQ

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Alexis Ramos
Alexis Ramos
Alexis Ramos is a Content Creator and UX Consultant at Work Design Magazine. As someone who is naturally empathetic and creative, Alexis is passionate about leveraging technology to create positive change in the world. When it comes to "work design" topics, Alexis' interests lie heavily in biophilia and user-friendly technology that help make the workplace a seamless and stress-free place to be. When she's not generating SEO-optimized, witty pieces for us, you can usually find her spending time with her rescue greyhound, Cairo.

A Japanese furniture company, ITOKI, established a new HQ in Tokyo by consolidating four sites and relocating into one space that empowers employees to stay productive and creative.

The term XORK is coined to express, “evolving the work-style to the next level” with the way the “W” in “WORK” is replaced with “X”, to showcase the next letter in the alphabet. Itoki’s new HQ is designed and integrated with 2 functions. One is for the office to empower employees with trust and choice in order to increase productivity and creativity through the adoption of Activity-Based Working, the other is for the office environment to support employee’s physical and mental well-being through the adoption of wellbeing policies and the adoption of WELL Building Standard.

When was the project completed?
The new office was completed in Dec. 2018 but the project is ongoing. The adoption of ABW implies not only a physical space change but also a change in mindset, behaviors, leadership style and ways of working.

How much space?
76,531 SF Net

Was this new or renovated space?

SF per person?
91.1 SF per person

How many employees?

What is the average daily population?
Approximately 80-90% of the employees enter the building daily

Is there a mobile work or work from home policy?
Yes, Itoki has a mobile work policy but it is applied to permanent employees (not temporary and not under probation) who have been working ITOKI for more than 2 years as a general rule. It depends on the workers’ capability and degree of trust.

Describe workspace types.
The entire office is designed following the Activity-Based Working principles with variations of relevant settings available for employees to choose from, based on their specific activities throughout the day. Variations include high focus areas, individual work low focus areas, call and video call settings, open and semi-open collaboration areas, meeting spaces, relax and recharge zones, etc.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?
A variety of meeting spaces (some enclosed and some open/semi-open) that are supporting different collaborative activities such as brainstorming, project work, knowledge sharing, as well as different levels of confidentiality.

What other kinds of support space or amenity spaces are provided?
A large sunny cafe space (which doubles up as an inviting space for meetings and for individual touch-down work) to bring everyone in the office together including customers, few other café areas on various floors, mind- fitness space for ZEN and meditation, quiet reflection and relax areas, an internal staircase to promote movement and support ad-hoc encounters between various employees/teams.

Has the project achieved any special (i.e. LEED, WELL, Living Building Challenge)?
WELL Certification Gold (Pre-certified)

What are the projects location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?
This office is located in central Tokyo with easy access to the Shinkansen and subway network of Tokyo. It is also one of the first offices in Japan to implement a full ABW way of working, with all employees having the choice to work from anywhere in the office, based on the nature of their activities at any moment in time, with the right IT tools and behavior change, to support the business aspirations of increased flexibility and collaboration.

Was the “C” Suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?
From the very beginning, a number of senior directors have been actively joining the co-creation process for both the design and IT but also for the behavioral concept. It was important to get the leadership buy-in at senior level but also to ensure the mid-level managers were strongly involved in order to be able to drive the transformation within the organization. The team looked at the adoption of ABW not as a physical office relocation only, but as an opportunity to embrace a new way of working, new behaviors and new processes throughout the organization.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?
Leadership Workshops, Leadership Aspiration Sessions as well as a lot of co-creation activities with employees: the physical, IT and behavioral concepts (all 3 concepts being vital for a successful ABW implementation) were co-created with employees and with mid-managers from very early on in the process.

Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?
Yes, Leesman* + Veldhoen employee surveys were conducted with all employees as well as careful employee observation and utilization studies.

*Find the latest Leesman executive summary, here!

Was there any other kind of employee engagement activities?
Veldhoen + Company facilitated employee validation sessions of business aspirations, employees co-creation sessions for the physical concept before the design was initiated, and employee co-creation workshop for the behaviors, etiquettes, and agreements on new ways of working.

Were any change management initiatives employed?
Employees were involved in the co-creation of the entire physical, IT and behavioral concept from the early days. The company used a mix of classroom sessions, workshops, and e-learning modules in order to support the employees through the change but also to be able to gather ongoing feedback. Since a deep organization transformation was triggered by ABW, ongoing training and co-creation sessions are scheduled now and also for the future as well. New employees are on-boarded with the support of the e-learning modules too.

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.
In order to achieve both the ABW implementation and WELL certification acquisition, design ingenuity that balances both design requirements were required.

Furthermore, given the very large size of the floorplans (‘mega floorplate’), Itoki together with Veldhoen+Company used behavioral insights to create human-scale settings and promote a flow of people through the floors that would allow for a gradual positioning of collaboration and focus zones. The creation of an internal vertical connection between the various floors demanded a lot of special requirements for designing the right approach for internal staircases.

Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?
Yes, totally. Wellbeing (employees’ holistic health) was one of the aspirations identified early on for the entire project. The office concept was created based on compliance with WELL certification, and various equipment measures were taken to cope with it. But more importantly, the holistic angle meant also that changes to the HR policies, dress code, flexibility entitlements, reduction in working hours, etc were in a discussion from the very beginning.

Were there any special or unusual construction materials or techniques employed in the project?
Introduction of high-performance filters and activated carbon filters for air conditioners. In Japan, it’s rare for the tenant in the building to add filters.

Internal staircases are also very rare in Japan (due to very strict fire regulations), however, this was a workspace addition that was crucial to connect the various floors and to promote/support employee wellbeing.

For specific examples, please describe the product, how it was used, and if it solved any specific problem?
Amounts such as PM2.5 are far below the air quality standards of Japanese buildings. As a result, the air quality in the office has improved and the employees can feel more comfortably work in the office.

For the internal staircase, an innovative solution was created with by encapsulating the entire staircase in glass and glass doors to secure the right fire code protection while at the same time, offering a welcoming and transparent connection between the floors.

What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?
Size and height-adjustable furniture to support the individual ABW activities; a variety of individual or 2 persons enclosed focus and enclosed call spaces; the large variety of open and semi-open collaboration spaces to support different collaboration styles, the café space which is highly used. All furniture used is by Itoki or Knoll.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?
Itoki’s aspiration towards the new way of working (called XORK) is reflected in the logo design and graphics.

In accordance with Itoki’s vision statement “Vibrant People, Beautiful Planet.”, solid wood used are from sustainable local sources and a lot of natural plants were placed in the whole office.

What is the most unique feature of the new space?
Collaboration areas in XORK have nearly 20 different work settings that are suitable for ABW activities requiring different collaboration settings. This is quite unique compared to other Japanese offices where most employees just work in an open plan – everyone visiting is surprised by the amount and diversity of enclosed and semi-enclosed spaces as well, allowing for focus, for calls and for various types of collaboration.

Are there any furnishings or spaces specifically included to promote wellness/wellbeing?
Mind-fitness room for ZEN and/or meditation, internal staircases for increasing activity amount, lights in enclosed rooms with dimming and color-mixing function, sphygmomanometer and body composition meter for providing workers opportunity to be aware of their health condition.

What kinds of technology products were used?
In order to promote the way of working based on the ABW, Itoki’s developed its own app. Employees can share location information with their team members using GPS and geomagnetic sensor. In addition, they can trackback to their activities in the past and visualize the movements/activities to understand patterns in activities.

If the company relocated to a new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?
Information sharing, knowledge, and ability training to embrace ABW, that are not familiar in Japan. Many people confuse the concepts of ABW with free-address or open plan, so our employees and managers had to spend time and effort to understand the philosophy behind ABW and apply it for themselves to become more productive and with a better work-life balance. Workflow and IT devices were deployed to align with the ABW concept to be paper independence with no fixed phone lines and a lot of old processes moved to (almost) fully digital processes.

How did the company communicate about the changes and moves?
Co-creation sessions employees held with meant the start of the change management early on with involvement of 10-20% of the organization. Further sessions were organized both for employees and managers before the move actually happened and in addition, 6 e-learning modules available for all employees were designed by Veldhoen + Company specifically for Itoki to provide an interactive and accessible in own time platform for discovering and understanding new ways of working. The process of change continues, with additional discussions sessions.

Were there post-occupancy surveys?
Yes, a full Leesman + Veldhoen post-move survey was carried out with all employees. In addition, interviews with employees, focus groups reviews and an ethnographic observation are carried out by Itoki together with the support of Veldhoen + Company.

If so, what were the most surprising or illuminating or hoped-for results?
The LMI index which measures workplace satisfaction has shown a significant improvement vs pre-move. Anecdotally, managers indicate that they are able to concentrate more on their own individual work so they mention they have more time to listen to and focus on his/her team members’ issues/questions. Managers in Japan often need to balance managing their team members& work while being responsible for their own individual work. Many come to realize this way of working can be well supported by ABW.

If a change management program was in place, what were the most successful strategies?
Understanding the local cultural norms; involvement of HR in the change for the long term; cross-functional project-team

Tell us more!

Workplace Strategy and Change Management Advisor for ABW: Veldhoen+Company

All articles and tweets are in Japanese.

Images courtesy of Veldhoen+Company

Alexis Ramos
Alexis Ramos
Alexis Ramos is a Content Creator and UX Consultant at Work Design Magazine. As someone who is naturally empathetic and creative, Alexis is passionate about leveraging technology to create positive change in the world. When it comes to "work design" topics, Alexis' interests lie heavily in biophilia and user-friendly technology that help make the workplace a seamless and stress-free place to be. When she's not generating SEO-optimized, witty pieces for us, you can usually find her spending time with her rescue greyhound, Cairo.
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