Japan’s top-down corporate culture may be poised for change — this office shows it

In a nation known for long working hours and a firm top-down corporate culture, one company is rethinking how it does business.

CBRE, one of the world’s largest real estate firms, has redesigned its offices in Japan, doing away with permanent desks and instead adopting an activity-based workplace. Every employee — including its CEO — now gets a locker for their belongings instead of desk drawers.

CNBC visited the company’s new space in Tokyo, which boasts a large cafe for both working and meetings, and it trades in the traditional corner office for open collaboration areas.

“In the old office you went to your desk and did your work, that’s it. You couldn’t accidentally meet someone from another department or chat about a new opportunity,” Chinatsu Kaneko, CBRE’s workplace strategy director said.

“Benefits like having a private office are just entitlement,” she added. “How is that an actual reflection on your power or position?”

The transition, which is similar to office styles made popular by Silicon Valley tech firms, is designed to increase both collaboration between teams and employee satisfaction.

According to its research across multiple industries, 87 percent of organizations said culture and engagement are one of their top challenges. But in Japan, only 7 percent of company employees said they feel engaged in their work.

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