As people have settled into the humdrum every day of working from home, these tiny cubicles are the newest trend.
For office workers living with family, or even noisy roommates, the daily work-from-home routine might not seem like all it’s cracked up to be. As understanding as your boss might be, when it’s time for that important Zoom meeting, having a mysterious figure running behind you or a shout echoing through the room isn’t the most professional look. Even for workers living alone, the voices of those who just can’t concentrate when they’re working within reach of their bed, or just can’t get into the work mood without leaving the house have begun to grow. Not to mention the cramped size of most Japanese homes and apartments, which can hardly fit an extra desk and office chair at the drop of a hat.
Which is why Saitama-based housing construction company Ki-Star Real Estate recently began selling tiny, minimalist buildings that look more like modern outhouses than workspaces from the outside. The closet-sized buildings, named “Hanare Zen” for the simple, Zen atmosphere they aim to create, are really tiny minimalist office spaces, ready to be installed outside Japanese workers’ small homes, to create functional, calm spaces to “commute” to each day.
The Hanare Zen offices measure only 91cm wide and 1.8m in height (3ft wide and 6 ft tall), which the manufacturers are quick to explain, is perfect for the “minimalist aesthetic.” But despite the diminutive dimensions, inside each garden shed-style office is a desk-height counter and electrical outlet, the basics necessary for getting some work done, plus overhead lighting and an outlet ready for air conditioner installation. The walls, they say, are insulated to the same degree as a house, which we imagine might make it feel a little less like a tiny dungeon on cold and hot days.
The product was apparently developed as just the kind of garden shed storage building it looks like―and Ki-Star Real Estate is quick to tell you that you can totally use it as a storage space when you’re not working from home, too! But once the company saw the potential market (and the serious demand) created by COVID-19, and the huge influx of workers new to the work-from-home lifestyle, they took another look at this basic storage shed, and decided that all it needed was a touch of Zen minimalism. Thus, a new kind of home office was born. It’s perfect for the office worker who needs a little peace and quiet―just as long as they never, ever try to stretch out their arms.
Of course, statistics say that about 70% of Tokyo’s citizens live in apartments, making it just about impossible for them to install anything like the Hanare Zen shed-turned-office. Most workers in Tokyo and around Japan have had to make do and find other ways of creating a work space in the “cozy” living spaces so common in this country. New office trends making the most of limited space are bound to pop up soon, and as necessity is the mother of invention, here at Japankuru we look forward to seeing more creative solutions coming soon.
Name: Ki-Star Real Estate
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