Who let the dogs in? Japan offices welcome canines to keep workers happy

Fujitsu is trialling its new dog office until the end of the year at its building in Kawasaki, about a half an hour by train from central Tokyo, as a way to improve employee well-being and productivity. — Photo by Pavel Herceg on Unsplash

Hime is an 11-year-old black and tan Shiba Inu who commutes 30 minutes everyday in Japan with her owner for a full day of work – which includes plenty of sleep, snacks and play time. She’s one of dozens of canines accompanying employees at IT firm Fujitsu Ltd’s experimental dog office.

“I just love watching her get all the love and attention from everyone,” said Hime’s owner Mayumi Shioda, an associate in the corporate affairs division, as she sat down next to the dog on a couch.

Fujitsu is trialling its new dog office until the end of the year at its building in Kawasaki, about a half an hour by train from central Tokyo, as a way to improve employee well-being and productivity. A 2021 study published in the journal Animals found that having dogs in the office leads to more social interaction and cross-department exchange, and contributes to greater well-being and job satisfaction.

The dog office is covered with stain-proof carpet, free dog food and an indoor play area for a toss and fetch session in between meetings. The dog area is located in a closed-off part of the office so that those with allergies – or those who just aren’t dog people – can still work there. A dedicated elevator indicates it only stops at the dog area on the 25th floor.

“My bosses and colleagues in other departments I normally don’t interact with come over to Hime and use baby talk to tell her she’s cute,” said Shioda. “When I see this new side of them, I feel like it gives me that opening to interact with them more. It makes working here easier.”

Large US tech companies have already been allowing employees to bring their dogs to work for years. Amazon.com Inc has some 4,000 dogs registered at its Seattle headquarters and a high-tech roof garden for dogs in one of its buildings. Alphabet Inc says dogs are an integral part of its culture and built a dog park at its Mountain View campus called The Doogleplex, while Salesforce Inc has a communal workspace that allows dogs known as Puppyforce. Meta Platforms Inc, Lyft Inc and Netflix Inc also allow their employees to bring their dogs to work.

Fujitsu, founded in 1935, is taking cues from Silicon Valley.

“We studied big tech firms in the US, and got the inspiration to create an office with a collaborative layout conducive to coming together, chit-chatting and brainstorming with each other,” Chief Human Resources Officer Hiroki Hiramatsu said.

In addition to Fujitsu, WeWork Inc also allows dogs on site in its Tokyo offices.

Flexible working arrangements and benefits like a dog office are still rare, however, in a country known for its taxing office culture. But like in many countries, the pandemic is forcing Japanese companies to shift to remote work and challenging the expectation to log long hours at the office – though with Covid waning, some firms are issuing return-to-office mandates. Fujitsu, however, has made working from home a permanent option for its 80,000 employees. – Bloomberg

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