Shared office space bringing businesses together

February 23rd, 2012 by Felicity Hughes

Shared open-plan space at Co-lab's Shibuya Atelier allows co-tenants to collaborate

Even if you’re sharing the same floor with another business, traditionally in Japan, to preserve a sense of privacy, office boundaries are properly demarked with booths and partitions. But lately, according to Nikkei Trendy, some new real estate ventures are offering office spaces that blur or even demolish these lines, allowing businesses to interact in potentially beneficial ways.

Take Co-lab, for instance, a company that owns trendy office space in several locations across Tokyo. They offer open-plan office space to those in creative industries, with the aim of getting residents to collaborate together. In order to rent office space, companies must first submit creative work to be vetted by the people at Co-lab before being allowed into the fold. Rather than being secretive about what they’re working on, creative types have the opportunity to share ideas and even collaborate together on projects.

This model resembles the way entrepreneurs are sharing office space and ideas at startup incubators. But open plans are not the only way to encourage connections between businesses located in the same building. Real Gate real-estate agency manages five office blocks across Tokyo, with a sixth to be opened in Aoyama in March, and organizes networking events at all of them to bring tenants together. In addition some buildings also house communal spaces such as bars, gyms and spas, where people can gather to socialize and exchange ideas.

Their latest venture, The Share, in Harajuku offers shared office space similar to that found at Co-lab and, in addition, shared housing space, so that those working there are also able to rent living space if they chose to do so. Opened in December 2011, the place now has a waiting list for those wishing to rent units. Shared housing starts from  ¥95,000 a month for a small private room and access to shared kitchen, bathroom and lounge facilities.

Another space-sharing idea is for businesses to rent out space when their property is not in use, or to rent out surplus space. Website MaGaRi serves as a bulletin board for businesses offering just that. A bar in Shibuya, for instance, is renting out its space in the day to a young woman selling homemade sweets. The bar gets a little bit toward the rent and the businesswoman gets a prime retail spot. Those offering surplus office space also get the chance to make connections with companies in complementary fields, not only lowering their rent, but also potentially giving their business a boost through collaborations.

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