Why We Work: What Is an Ideal Working Environment?

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Wealth Dilemma: Leisure and Purpose Amid Howard Hughes’ Legacy

What would you do if you won the lottery of 10 million dollars? Quit a job, charter a plane, and go for luxury travel abroad? I believe everyone has such an experience to talk about something silly like this, but seriously think about it for a moment. Are you sure you can keep on doing only what you want to do even if you’re alone? Every time my stock portfolio is up, this question comes up in my mind: quit my job and do what? Leisure time may not be fun anymore. The concept of leisure wouldn’t exist without work in the first place. When being lost in this kind of ridiculous thoughts, I always remember the last years of Howard Hughes, though I just learned a part of his life mainly through the movie “The Aviator.”

Stylish Offices and Remote Work

Howard Hughes was a millionaire by birth but always tried to get involved in a variety of businesses. When he died, his total assets amounted to 15 billion dollars, but his last years seemed miserable. He locked himself alone inside a room of the penthouse, commanded his staff from there, and rarely met with anyone. My point is not a naïve one like “whether or not we can buy happiness with money” but “what work is all about for us.” Funnily enough, I thought about this round and round while visiting some stylish and trendy offices last month for the purpose of reference for our office renovation planned in the near future.

We visited the offices of some office furniture makers in Tokyo. Probably the companies should have defined their offices as the best showcase and equipped their offices with the latest products. Indeed, the offices are so stylish that they look like a popular café or restaurant, but what surprised me most was all of the companies have introduced a remote work system. It’s funny, isn’t it? They have invested a lot to build a great working environment, while setting a system where people don’t have to come to the office. As a result, people come to face a fundamental question: What is an ideal working environment, working together at office or home alone?

Redefining Company Culture: The Mystery of Human Connection in Stylish Offices

For your information, I don’t mean the office furniture makers try to get back their staff from home to office. In fact, they didn’t prepare a working space for all the staff members. The maximum attendance rates the companies suppose are about 70% to 80%. They don’t care about where their staff work but just try to make their working environments as comfortable as possible, expecting their staff to work most efficiently without stress. They seem to change the definition of “company” back to what it was once supposed to be. Originally company is not a working place but a group of people heading for the same goal.

As writing above, when I saw people working at their offices, what first came up in my mind was Howard Hughes. I couldn’t help but be impressed with the mystery of human nature: Why do we like working together as a team? Do you know the average commuting time in Tokyo? It’s about one hour for one way. The workers I saw there want to come to their offices even at the cost of two hours a day for commuting. Of course, the staff would also simply judge the beautiful offices to be worth such long commuting time, though.

The big renovation of our office will be completed in about six months from now, in October 2024. Probably a remote work system should not be introduced yet, and so, I hope our new office should be something that is not likely to make us tired easily. To tell the truth, I’m not so sure at this moment if we can make it, but it will be an interesting trial anyway: An ideal working environment proposed by a luxury wooden furniture maker.



Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.


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