The most striking visual feature of the new office is its entrance, which houses a Subaru 360 (a classic Japanese light car that was developed by Fuji Heavy Industries and produced from 1958 to 1970). Originally off-white, the body has been repainted yellow to match the company colors. A well-traveled trunk with a vintage design sits atop the roof. It was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's anime film The Castle of Cagliostro.
"It was a senior employee at the U.S. head office who came up with the idea of putting a car in the entrance! You can open and close the doors, and there are a lot of people who get into the driver's seat and have a souvenir photo taken. Many TripAdvisor offices in other countries place objects that evoke travel in their entrance. For example, at the London office, a replica of an airplane wing has been placed in the entrance. And at the Singapore office, the entrance is designed so that the face of Ollie the owl, the company mascot, is reflected in 3-D in a wall of glass," notes Hinata.
Three arrows, like those found on a highway, are painted on the floor of the entrance, with the words "WORKSPACE," "RECEPTION," and "MEETING" at the end of each. Straight ahead is the reception area, which is partitioned by a transparent glass wall with the company's logo on it. An antique gas pump has been placed beside the door, with an iPad-based reception system integrated into it.
"The iPad-based reception system was introduced at the Japanese office ahead of other countries," explains Hinata. "You can search on the screen for the name of the person who made the appointment and call them directly. At first, we were planning for it to be used only with iPads, but since some customers are not familiar with using them, we later decided to install a telephone receiver as well."
iPad terminals have been included in all the conference rooms; in addition to responding to calls from reception, they can be used for other purposes such as checking a conference room's reservation status and making a reservation. There are conference rooms to the left and right of the entrance. The conference rooms along the right-hand side have been given names that evoke Japan: Fuji, Yuzu, Sakura, and Wasabi. Since they were designed before being given names, they were named according to the interior decor: the pale blue room was named Fuji, the pale orange room Yuzu, the pale pink room Sakura, and the pale green room Wasabi.
"These four conference rooms are equipped with video conferencing equipment," notes Hinata. "Other global offices in our company have conference rooms that are bigger than those in Japan, but they have no more than three rooms with video conferencing equipment. I think the fact that our office has 30 people and was given four rooms equipped with video conferencing equipment shows the higher expectations for the Japanese market."
Meanwhile, taking a somewhat different approach, the small conference rooms set up beside the work area to the left of the entrance have been named after characters of Japanese origin: Kitty and Pokemon. Again, these are familiar Japanese names that are well known overseas. These conference rooms feature designs that combine functionality and playfulness.
"The new office is equipped with seven conference rooms in total, including both large and small rooms," says Hinata. "There were three rooms in the old office, so the number has more than doubled. The floor space has more than tripled, from around 80 tsubo to around 250 tsubo. When it came to the conference rooms, we determined the minimum number and functions that we needed ahead of time, and made that our first priority; after that, we decided on the office flow based on the overall layout, and decided where to put the work area, pantry, etc."
One week before the new office opened, the employees were given a tour. Their initial reaction when laying eyes upon it for the first time was "It's big!" followed by exclamations of delight such as "Amazing!" and "Wow!" Many employees also remarked that the view was great and went over to the window to take photos of it.
Introducing facilities and measures aimed at keeping employees healthy by addressing lack of exercise, etc.
The office windows offer the kind of impressive view that only a skyscraper can, and with the mood varying according to the turning of the seasons or the time of day (sunrise, sunset, night view, etc.), the viewer never tires of looking at it. Combined with the interior design, which has an open feel due to the extensive use of glass walls, the effect is to create a comfortable environment for employees to work in. In the old office, only one wall had windows and, what's more, the air-conditioning was not very effective, so there were marked differences in temperature depending on where one was sitting. In the new office, the building is equipped with new facilities, and the air-conditioning has improved greatly.
"In order to create a work-friendly environment, it's also essential to consider employees' health," notes Hinata. "With that in mind, we installed a bouldering wall in one corner of the office and set aside an area for stretching, and we've introduced easy-to-use exercise equipment inside the office as well as facilities for relaxing, such as hammocks."
Bouldering is a type of free-style rock climbing that involves clambering up a vertical wall using only your hands and feet. It was originally performed on natural rock surfaces, but in urban areas, artificial walls with numerous holds protruding from them are used instead. In recent years, more and more companies have been adopting them; some are little more than simple decorations included for design purposes, but in the case of TripAdvisor, it is an actual bouldering wall strong enough to support the weight of a full-grown man. There is both a vertical wall and a wall overhanging at an angle, with a mat laid down at the foot of the wall to prevent falling accidents.
"We're making an effort to implement safety measures for people who actually use the wall, like having beginners receive guidance from experienced boulderers at the company. When it comes to measures that address employees' lack of exercise, besides facilities like this, we've also organized activities such as inviting a yoga instructor to give workshops at the company," explains Hinata.
During one's day-to-day work, long hours working in the same posture can result in back or shoulder pain. Therefore, at TripAdvisor Japan, employees are allowed to change location from their own (assigned) desk in the work area and work in another place of their choosing, such as the break area adjoining the pantry or an empty conference room. What's more, personal desks are adjustable-height desks whose desktops can be raised or lowered as desired using a single switch.
"If you're tired of sitting all the time, you can make the desktop higher and stand up to do your work," says Hinata. "Finding adjustable-height desks wasn't easy, but I think it was worth the trouble. We've also introduced exercise balls that people can sit on to relax and help improve their concentration."
Establishing a welcoming office for customers that projects a positive image to people outside the company
The break area with pantry is located in a position that is connected to the work area and conference room area. It was situated here in order to encourage diverse interactions between employees and people from outside the company. The pantry is fully stocked with coffee and other drinks as well as various snack foods, so the area is used to hold casual meetings while enjoying some refreshments.
"There are two kinds of coffee machine--an espresso maker and a machine that uses pods--as well as vending machines that provide tea, juice, etc. to employees free of charge. There's also a selection of sweets, dried fruits, and cut fruit, while cornflakes and the like are available for breakfast. What's more, one evening a month, we also hold what we call a 'happy hour,' where employees have the chance to drink alcohol in the office," explains Hinata.
This kind of fully equipped office environment is standard at TripAdvisor locations around the world--there are some branches in other countries that even have beer and wine dispensers. The Boston head office, where there are 5,000 employees working, has a dedicated in-house chef who provides a proper cooked meal every day.
"The head office reviewed matters such as the rent per tsubo and location in detail, but when it came to the design, they basically left it up to us to do as we liked," comments Hinata. "The sales team has told us the new office is a more welcoming environment for customers. It's also easy to move around from place to place, and no matter who visits the office, we can be proud of the design. It has been well received, and the office projects a positive image to people outside the company."