Japan, notorious for their legendary salarymen working long days and nights have had to shift their long office hours into the four walls of their home. Famous for their diligence and commitment to their company, the work-from-home scheme is a culture shock for many. Yet over time, the new normal evolved Japan’s working culture where 70% of workers would want to continue teleworking as it relieves stress from commuting and are able to live at locations with cheaper housing costs.
In response, Japanese technology company Fujitsu has recently announced to halve its office spaces and introduced a permanent work-from-home scheme for its 80,000 workers in the country. The company will partner with shared workspace providers and launch satellite offices to provide flexibility for their employees.
Meanwhile, Japanese lifestyle retailer Muji (Ryohin Keikaku group) is launching a furniture subscription service, under its interior design brand IDÉE. Originating in the 1980s, the brand went from selling Western antique goods to furniture production inspired by the designs and culture of Japan. Aligning with the group’s sustainability ethos, IDEE holds the philosophy of “considering the importance of existence” – thus, focusing on product quality and designing for long-term solutions to minimise waste.
In the rise of work-from-home schemes, the group will be offering a monthly furniture subscription service with a core focus on home office sets, starting at 800 yen ($7.5) per month. Other furniture ranges for the bedroom and lounge areas will also be available to rent at an affordable monthly flat rate from one to four years maximum. Ideally, the furniture rental scheme is to bring about the concept of “to use, rather than to possess” philosophy. Customers can choose to either return, extend or purchase the furniture at the end of the contract. Currently the scheme is available to consult with its interior advisors across 115 of its Muji stores nationwide, however in light of the pandemic, consultations will be held virtually through video calls.
Tailoring for the Asian Fit
Furniture leasing is not a new arena with Ikea hopping on board with the trend last year across its Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Poland markets. Start-ups in this field have also emerged as winners during the pandemic. US-based furniture rental company CasaOne raised $50 million from Credit Suisse last month, atop of its $16 million Series B funding led by Accel along with Quiet Capital, HNI Corporate and WeWork. Another DTC furniture rental brand Feather had also increased fourfold in its work-from-home product lines.
With limited home space, the demand for flexible furniture rental leasing options are on the rise in addition to remote work situations. Especially in the case for Japan where city apartments in Tokyo are small with an average size of 710-square-foot, only a little more than half of the space available as a dwelling and relaxation area. In June 2020, Ikea debuted its first downtown concept store selling homeware dedicated to small living spaces where 9,500 products are on display but only 900 SKUs are readily available for purchase on the spot.