Alternative Workspace for Creative Work
Not a solution, but it addresses an important question
In the bright sunny morning of Chiba, my daily routine ride on conventional bicycle is underway for years. In a few minutes, I hit the road to the Bridge of Edo River into Katsushika Ward, one of 23 districts of Tokyo. Every time I pass through the Bridge, the scenic view comes to my eyes and I appreciate the beauty of nature. The natural photographic views include Mt. Fuji and Edo River Golf Course along with the ever-lasting sounds of birds. Merely 30 min. of ride, I reach the parking complex in the basement of a modern public library of the Ward. The small and packed elevator brings people from the basement to the library on the third floor. It will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year with record 12m visitors, 3,200 people per day and 10m check-outs, 2,850 books per day. A large number of library goers come to visit this central library. I have used the space for my research since 2011. This is an alternative solution to open-office plan.
The library opens at 9:00 am and closes at 22:00. At night, nobody is there in a quiet space plan but in the early morning retired pension recipients often come to spend their time reading morning newspapers and Japanese novels. The open-office plan has expanded rapidly in Tokyo but the business is nothing but a failure. The original aim has been yet achieved to produce realistic success and the creativity is undermined and the productivity is lessened.
The story of the Economist, published on September 28th 2019, illustrates the issue of workplace in central city of London. In Tokyo, the situation is more or less the same. The modern work consistently demands the high level of creativity, which is more like a creation of art like music and drawing. Once the budget in the project is set and the organizational structure is built, the project members face the tough challenge to increase productivity of creative work and produce the output on time. City residents are fully aware that the office environment is not best fit to the productive work, rather in some cases, the open office plan works against the intention of better work. The office is often dark, densely populated, rusty meeting rooms, noisy people and unproductive workspace. People want to work outside the conventional office to stay away from the distractions.
A lot of distractions are present in the metropolitan office. Creative thinking is rarely under way. The weekly output of the project is non-existent. On Thursday, consultants work hard to produce something to write or create the slides but the body and the mind are painfully exhausted to work on completing documents. One of the issues surrounding this kind of environment is the old-fashioned layout of the office. Some will say, “What if our office is like that of Google, Starbucks, and Disney Studios.”
The workspace has been reshaped very slowly. It is perhaps too slow to adapt to the ever-changing business requirement in Tokyo. Nobody likes the current office layout of the packed room in skyscrapers.
Modern work, such as consulting, which often involves a lot of data analysis such as data science, and due diligence with M&A requires statistical analysis of corporate valuation. This must be conducted in a comfortable environment with easy access to light exercise, frequent coffee and tea breaks, and even a place to rest or sleep in a sofa. The current office is still an extension of factory layout. It is a factory occupying machines, not curators’ studio for artistic decorations. Knowledge workers need studio for creative work in the alternate workspace.
Alternatives to open-office plan are in short supply. I have tried a numerous places to work creatively and productively, developing the research paper with documentation on time. Many people spend their time working places like espresso café, city-run libraries, shared spaces. Starbucks can be found almost every corner of the central city of Tokyo. In Ginza, within 10 minutes of walk, more than three Starbucks stores are adjunct with each other. Tullie’s Coffee and Dotor Coffee, a cheap standing coffee chain store are pretty much crowded in the central city.
Libraries are almost everywhere in the 23 Wards of Tokyo, which runs from 9:00 to 22:00. Private property firms renovate the old office space into co-working space. Some co-working space is run by the city. But the problem of those areas is unwelcome visitors and their behaviors are extremely disturbing. Chewing gums, whispering, coughing, yelling at librarians are common among the most disturbing behaviors of city residents. University libraries are good options but students are more or less the same as kids don’t behave themselves.
Fed up with those destructive manners, I started to explore into the different ideal space in the city. It is not the perfect choice but remote hospitals can offer a quiet space for up to two hours in the morning. But old and ill retired seniors are frequent visitors to the hospitals and the depressing appearances of sick people are not good for creative thinking. Two hospitals are my choices to stay for a brief period of reading books and doing some research with books.
Back in a ride, the open-space plan for creative work is still a critical issue. But everyday I feel the breeze in the open air. I do sketch the structural outline of my research for self-brainstorming. I sometimes forget about the unpleasant experiences in the underdeveloped workspace in Tokyo.