Making sure to have enough space based on a multi-year recruitment plan
SGS Japan's previous office was a high-rise building located in Yokohama's Minato Mirai district. But with the number of employees continuing to grow, the company, realizing that it could not add more floor space within the building, decided to consider relocating its head office.
Makita: "Right before the move, the office was cramped and visibly cluttered. What's more, there were few meeting rooms, and there weren't enough spaces where people could gather in groups."
Suzuki: "When you consider our future management strategy, we will continue to be active in recruiting personnel and expanding our workforce. As a result, we thought we should try to secure an office with a lot of floor space, based on our multi-year recruitment plan."
In July 2014, the company began a preliminary survey of potential destinations for relocation.
Makita: "We promptly received information about various buildings from the office brokerage, Sanko Estate. However, it was quite difficult to find candidate buildings that met our conditions. We, therefore, modified our approach and decided to concentrate on a group of buildings where one of our divisions was already leasing space. When we looked into the vacancy situation, we found that we would be able to secure a large floor space there. We then carefully negotiated the conditions."
Suzuki: "The division that was already leasing space there is a chemical laboratory that conducts testing and analysis. There was a lot of time-consuming back and forth between the lab and the head office, which was one of the issues that we wanted to resolve. Besides the physical distance, there was also a psychological distance, and interaction between employees was limited."
The new offices, while not centrally located, are also located within the city of Yokohama, not far from each other. They also offered significant cost benefits. Location-wise, there were no problems.
In September 2014, the leases were signed, and then the discussion of the interior design began. A number of companies were asked to submit bids for the work, and in October, a contractor was chosen.
Makita: "There was only a limited amount of time until we moved in, so we proceeded with a top-down approach to planning rather than creating a large relocation project team drawn from departments across the company."
Suzuki: "In order to obtain office design ideas, we asked two companies with state-of-the-art offices to let us visit them, and we reviewed a considerable amount of material with examples of cutting-edge offices. We also referred to the State-of-the-Art Office Case Studies on Sanko Estate's website."
Aiming to establish an office environment that facilitates constant communication
Sasaki: "My immediate impression after the move was that the new office was indeed much bigger. In my section, we had run out of space because the number of employees had rapidly increased. Now, we have plenty of space and, naturally, it's become easier to move around within the office, so everyone has a smile on their face, and communication has improved. I think this is not just because the new office is more spacious; it's also more relaxing."
Makita: "The old office had become compartmentalized by the department, which created a situation where horizontal collaboration was difficult. With that issue in mind, one of the concepts of the new office was 'creating circulation.' We aimed to establish an environment that would facilitate constant communication."
In order to achieve this, spaces were set up here and there in the new office that was furnished with tables and chairs which did not have fixed positions, so that casual meetings could be held there. As was hoped, communication within the company has become more dynamic. A "refreshment corner" has also been set up. This space provides an environment where people from different departments can easily gather and which can be used not just for eating but also for holding meetings or taking a break.
Takeuchi: "In the old office, people who brought lunch boxes with them had trouble finding a space to eat and had to search for a vacant meeting room or table, but now that we've set up the refreshment corner, they're able to take their time and relax while enjoying their lunch. It also makes it possible to interact with employees from other departments, and I've noticed that communication has improved throughout the company."
Suzuki: "In addition, we decided to use glass for most of the meeting room walls, so that you can tell whether someone is using the room. This feature is also symbolic of our internal transparency."
Below, we explain some of the office's benefits.
The issue of cluttered space has been improved. To achieve this, the partitions that had been used previously were all removed. This measure was also taken in order to reinforce the company's rule that employees should tidy up their documents. President Suzuki's philosophy is that "improving work processes starts with organizing your desk."
Since employees in the sales and inspection departments are often out of the office, SGS Japan introduced hot desks (i.e., desks not assigned to particular employees) for the first time. Round tables are used to facilitate spontaneous communication among colleagues who don't have the chance to interact with each other every day.
These are tables inside rooms at which employees have to stand because the chairs have been removed. They are used for holding brief, efficient meetings that get right to the point.
This area has been set up at the midway point of the office's north and south sides. People are free to use it not just for eating lunch but also for taking a break. Employees are also drawn here by the various new vending machines, including an "Office Glico" machine selling snacks and sweets.
Each room's design is accented with a different color, but all the walls are a standard white so that images can be projected onto them.
These are meeting areas located next to the windows. They feature areas for people who want to concentrate on their work and family restaurant-style areas for use by groups. In order to clearly demarcate these areas, the carpeting here is a different color.
Customers are often invited to take part in training, which takes places in these two rooms that can accommodate 36 people. There is a movable partition in the middle. If it is removed in order to connect the two rooms, up to 72 people can be seated. If it's a standing-style meeting, the space is big enough to hold all the company's employees, which provides SGS Japan with an in-house venue where the entire company can assemble, with no need to use an external facility. There is also an adjacent waiting area for the use of training participants.