According to The Asahi Shimbun, for businesspeople and others on the go looking to get an important task out of the way or make a private call to a client, enter the booth--literally.
Railway operators and other businesses have been introducing soundproof booths at train stations for company workers seeking to do work outside the office, buoyed by the promotion of teleworking to ease traffic congestion during next year's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Two such booths were set up on Oct. 1 behind a ticket gate at Kyodo Station on the Odakyu Line in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward.
Measuring 1.2 meters long, 1.2 meters wide and 2.3 meters tall, the booths are equipped with a desk, sofa, socket and USB charger. As the top is covered and the walls are soundproof, users can speak with clients and others by phone without worrying about being overheard by people nearby.
Those who wish to use the service register on a dedicated website, book an available booth and read a QR code displayed on the door to unlock it with a smartphone.
Prices start from 250 yen (US$ 2.30) for 15 minutes.
A similar service started at Machida Station in the capital on Oct. 28 as well. The program benefits Odakyu Electric Railway Co., operator of the Odakyu Line, as it can receive rent from Tokyo-based Telecube Services Co., which offers mobile offices.
Starting from September, Seibu Railway Co. also set up work booths at Tokorozawa Station in Saitama Prefecture, outside Tokyo, and Takadanobaba Station in the capital’s Shinjuku Ward.
V-Cube Inc., the Tokyo-based parent company of Telecube Services, has provided a remote online meeting system for corporate customers.
As President Naoaki Mashita felt there were few personal spaces where one can hold confidential talks by phone or via the Internet without privacy concerns, V-Cube spent one year jointly developing the special booth with office furniture maker Okamura Corp. in Yokohama.
A bigger response than expected came when V-Cube and East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) started free trial service of its brainchild at Tokyo, Shinjuku and Shinagawa stations in November last year.
The rate of occupied time was more than 50 percent of all operating hours over the eight-month test period, while the personal spaces were also used in unexpected ways, such as a high school student studying, a woman fixing her make-up and a user taking an English conversation lesson by smartphone.
The popularity of the booths remains high after the service started collecting usage fees in August, according to relevant officials.
Meanwhile, Mitsubishi Estate Co. started a joint program with V-Cube on a full-scale basis this past summer, after it conducted a trial using the booth on the first floor of an office building in the capital’s Marunouchi district last autumn and confirmed that there is a need for such a service.
A total of 47 V-Cube working booths have been introduced at 16 locations in stations, office buildings and elsewhere in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
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