Future of Tokyo’s office attendance and wellness

COVID-19 has impacted Tokyo’s office attendance rate but added a renewed interest in wellness, as revealed by corporates and a survey by TMG.

August 24, 2021

Tokyo is under the fourth state of emergency as of early August due to the prolonged spread of COVID-19. Amongst various countermeasures to prevent contagion, corporates have been asked to reduce their office attendance, with the government target at 70%. Under the current circumstances, figures relating to office attendance indicate a large gap between performances of large enterprises and small and mid-sized ones.

Amongst the top 30 companies by sales in Japan in 2020, around 20 have released their office attendance, averaging slightly above 70%[1]. By industry, manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and information and communication achieved higher rates, while those relating to social and economic infrastructure firms showed comparatively lower rates.

Based on a survey conducted by Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), the rate of office attendance reduction was 26% (estimated by JLL based on telecommunication introduction rate and other figures provided in the same survey). This figure largely reflects SMEs as they represented above 80% of respondents.

Another survey by The Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry indicated SMEs’ challenges:

  1. information security,
  2. internal communication and
  3. setup of an information and communication environment.

Across all sizes of enterprises, work from home (WFH) has raised discussions around both advantages such as diversity of working, as well as disadvantages like issues with communication and their impacts on productivity.

Nevertheless, office entry is expected to increase post-COVID-19. This is almost evident, as the recent WFH was initiated as an urgent measure to protect the health and safety of workers. In addition, we may refer to the statements of leading global tech companies that value the office or the implied messages from some of Japan’s top-performing companies that set their targets under the state of emergency. Once the emergency is lifted, their target will most likely soften.

While we expect office demand to return in the future, we also foresee some changes, including a renewed interest in health and wellness in offices. The concept of wellness is considered to increase the value of an asset in the mid to long term. It is a concept that includes exterior, interior and the management and governance of a building, covering its “hardware” and “software”. It has been established before the pandemic with global and local certifications already available.

In fact, some landlords extended their vaccination at workplaces drives beyond their own employees to their occupiers’ employees, thus reinforcing their business relationship. A similar practice was also observed in general business relationships when landlords offered vaccination venues for free. Conversely, we witness recent relocation demand in Tokyo’s office market came from an occupier requiring better business continuity planning to be provided under the spread of COVID-19.

Investment in wellness positively impacts all walks of society and is becoming a means to achieve the sustainable development goals that we all pursue.

[1] Refer to information confirmed as of 27 July 2021. Subject employees, data point dates and places vary by company.