Google sent everyone home. Next door, they’re all still in the office

Google sent everyone home. Next door, they’re all still in the office
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Google’s offices are empty all over the world. Not all companies are the same.

SUNDRY PHOTOGRAPHY / Getty Images

You’ve been in your bedroom a while now.

You’ve created a makeshift workspace and relocated your bike and some of your excess sneakers.

Now, you spend your days just as you always did, staring at your computer with your headphones on. Except now you get the occasional chance to Zoom into someone else’s bedroom and see how they’ve organized their workspace.

Since the pandemic began, there’s been an acceptance that working from home is now the thing and could become the permanent thing. At least when it comes to tech companies.

That isn’t the case everywhere.

I’ve been moved to considering the meaning of everything by an image posted to Twitter by Yusaku Arai.

It shows two skyscrapers in the evening.

On the right is Google’s building in Shibuya, Tokyo. It is, as many might expect, dark. The company has told employees to work from home. It doesn’t expect them back until July next year.

Yet, in the Shibuya skyscraper next door the lights are blazing on seemingly every floor.

Is this the home of secret late-night Tokyo raves? Is this a tall, enticing love hotel for office workers who don’t like straying too far from their first love?

Well, this is the Shibuya Scramble Square Building. It has 47 stories and is home to, among others, digital ad company CyberAgent and social network Mixi.

I’m grateful to SoraNews 24 for explaining this bracing juxtaposition.

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It said that the Japanese way of doing business, one that favors face-to-face meetings and group harmony over flights of ego, doesn’t take easily to staring into a screen and wondering what someone is wearing below their neck.

Another factor, says the publication, is that many employees use personal seals to authenticate and sign documents.

You might sniff that DocuSign would make this so much easier. It might even replicate the patterns of individual seals.

Even the Japanese government declared in July that it wanted at least 70% of employees working from home. That same month, a survey found that 42% of Japanese companies had instituted no working-from-home orders at all.

A mere 31% of respondents said they didn’t have to go to the office.

A significant factor, of course, is that Japan hasn’t suffered from the coronavirus in the same way as many other countries. At the time of writing, the country had endured just over 100,000 cases and almost 1,800 deaths.

This from a population of 127 million. The US has 9.7 million cases and 235,000 deaths from a population of 328 million. (Oddly, Japan is rather closer to China.)

It’s unclear whether any of the companies burning the evening oil in the Shibuya Scramble Square Building are tech companies, but there are a lot of lights shining up there.

The virus has surely caused every company in every country to at least consider whether their ways of working are the most productive.

I’m sure some bright tech spark somewhere is already creating an algorithm that’ll tell companies just how far they should take working from home.

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And how much money companies will save.


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