New tools for hybrid working fill pandemic demand

More and more companies are introducing hybrid working, in part to prevent a loss of personnel.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Japan News


Sound Parasol, a piece of office furniture designed by Itoki Corp. for teleconferencing, features a large umbrella-shaped speaker. Courtesy of Itoki Corp.

September 27, 2022

TOKYO – Due to the prolonged novel coronavirus pandemic, there has been a proliferation of products and services to support hybrid working, a way of working that combines remote work and commuting.

Particularly popular are products that make it easier for those working in offices and those working from home to communicate.

Major office furniture manufacturer Itoki Corp. will release a desk for teleconferencing with seats for four people at the end of this month.

The desk, branded “Sound Parasol,” is equipped with a large, umbrella-shaped speaker, from which the voices of individuals working remotely can be heard. The speaker is fitted with soundproof felt to ensure the voices are only heard by those seated at the desk. A monitor display is attached to one end of the desk. Those teleconferencing from the office can see the faces of remote workers on the display and talk with them without having to be concerned about whether they are causing unwanted noise or being overheard by other people in the office. When I tried using the desk, I could not hear any sound from the speaker after taking a few short steps away.

Startup company oVice, Inc. provides virtual offices on the internet. Since the company started the service two years ago, it has been adopted by more than 2,200 companies, including Toyota Motor Corp. and Ricoh Co.

Employees can “go to the office” by accessing their virtual office in cyberspace, and they can work with colleagues through video and audio calls. The virtual office system allows users to hear sounds and conversations occurring around them, as in a physical office. This makes it easier for virtual commuters to have a casual chat.

“It’s very close to reality, so you won’t get tired of it even if you use it for many hours,” said Jung Sae-hyung, the chief executive officer of oVice.

Zoom Video Communications, Inc., known for its Zoom teleconferencing system, provides the Zoom Phone cloud phone service, which can transfer to a cell phone outside an office phone calls going to the office and switch phone calls to video calls. Users can share phone logs, too. The company started the service, which has been adopted by more than 60,000 users, in summer last year.

More and more companies are introducing hybrid working, in part to prevent a loss of personnel. According to a survey compiled by Persol Career Co. in August, about 80% of companies surveyed have introduced or are planning to introduce hybrid working. About 60% of individuals surveyed said hybrid working leads to increased motivation to continue working for an employer.

On the other hand, since employees work at many different locations under hybrid working, there are concerns that this can lead to insufficient communication.

“Even with hybrid working, you can create a work environment that is close to reality by using a variety of tools. Then it becomes possible to efficiently get on with your job while making the most of the convenient nature of remote work,” said Yuji Kobayashi, a senior researcher of Persol Research and Consulting Co.

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