[Part 1] The meaning of "Time spent at home," from the perspectives of interior and home appliances
[Part 2] Furniture and interior demands reflected on changes in work style
[Part 3] How can we enhance "wellness" after the pandemic?
Research & Development Group, Hitachi, Global Center for Social Innovation – Tokyo
Product Design Department, Leader Chief Designer, Satoshi Sukeguchi (host): design manager of home appliances and home solution division.
Product Design Department, Product Designer, Tomohiko Sato: oversees the design development of refrigerators.
Product Design Department, Product Designer, Mai Seki: oversees the design development of vacuum cleaners and air purifiers.
Value Creation Project, Service Designer, Satoko Hinomizu: oversees solution creation for cities.
Value Creation Project, Service Researcher, Mei Takada: studies urban development, work style and ideal office environments.
ACTUS CO., LTD
Visual Merchandiser, Ms. Yuki Okada: oversees the design supervision of Hitachi's refrigerator project.
European Furniture Buyer, Mr. Rei Noguchi: responsible for the buying of European furniture and product development.
Indoor Plant Buyer, Mr. Kazushi Tokumasu: oversees lifestyle and indoor plant brands.
Children's study desk as the third personal space
Our second topic is "work style." Under the pandemic, working from home has secured its position in many companies. I would like to hear your thoughts concerning the new challenges or changes in values as the result of work making its way into the home.
Mr. Noguchi, ACTUS
The greatest change due to working from home being widely accepted is the number of people inside the house during the day. Including children, each family member is engaged in a range of activities. I think this has made a lot of people stressed out.
Before the pandemic, we strongly believed in the importance of family spending time together in living rooms and dining rooms. However, due to the wide acceptance of working from home, it has become essential to secure private spaces. In a situation where a dining table and a sofa are no longer sufficient, children's study desks have started to be used as the third personal space. ACTUS has been designing study desks not only for children but also for the whole family for some time, but since the pandemic, parents' demands to use them as work desks or desks for small chores have increased.
In addition to desks, new types of sofas began to sell well as well. Before the pandemic, sofas where the entire family could sit in the same direction and watch TV were popular. But since the pandemic began, compact sofas where everyone sits facing different directions have begun to sell. One person can look at the TV and another can work on their laptop; while they share the same space, they each have their own space. I think the demand for such designs is on the rise.
Ms. Okada, ACTUS
Since working from home became common, we changed the display of children's furniture at our stores too. We created different scenarios, like using the dining table for work and bringing children's study desks into the living room. We changed our display style to show that they can be used as desks for adults and children respectively.
Mr. Noguchi, ACTUS
In a single day, we can go through emotional ups and downs. If you want to spend a nice time with your family, you can sit at the table. If you want to be alone and concentrate or if you want to change your mood, you can use the children's desk. I think many consumers are realizing the importance of securing their own personal space inside the home.
Growing possibilities for chair designs during the pandemic
Ms. Okada, ACTUS
One of our staff collected four chairs with different designs around a round table because he found it difficult to keep sitting on the same chair while working from home. By changing chairs every two hours, his view changed as well. The staff told me that he manages to work eight hours a day from home thanks to this recharging method, and I was convinced. Until now, it was common for dining room sets to be designed with matching chairs. But using different designs on purpose might be a good idea.
Mr. Noguchi, ACTUS
It's a chair after all, so comfort is definitely important. But consumers who are working from home are beginning to take designs seriously as well. If you coordinate a highly functional working chair with a dining table, it will be easier to work on the computer, but the house will look sterile, like an office. There are many customers who struggle with this dilemma and can't decide which chair to buy. As designers ourselves, we are doing our best to respond to their comments.
At ACTUS, there is a product that was popular even before the pandemic. It is a three-legged wooden stool with a seat sculpted in the shape of a behind. It is said that they were originally used in Denmark in the 15th century to milk cows. One day, a staff member who was using a stool at home had a revelation. "The seat is made from wood, but your rear doesn't get sore if you sit on it for long hours. This may be the answer to working from home." Living with the pandemic does not mean that we need to come up with a completely new product. We can look at and utilize existing things. I think such inspiration is necessary from our side as well.
Clothing, food and housing + "work"
When you are working from home and taking part in an online meeting, quite frequently, children's voices will be picked up by your mic. I have worked in Nordic countries such as Denmark and Finland, but in these countries, similar things were happening almost every day, even before the pandemic. There was a colleague who came to the office with children and made them do their homework at the big desk. Another colleague was having her baby taken care of by another colleague. Looking back, I think that doing such things and spontaneously showing your colleagues your personal life and who you really are made a more open working environment with less hierarchy.
I thought that this kind of working environment was difficult to achieve in Japan, but with the unexpected spread of working from home, the boundaries between the office and the home have been blurred. Even when people hear children's voices and footsteps during an online meeting, everyone understands. We feel "That's how it is. A bit of noise never hurt anyone after all." I think a change in people's mindsets is happening and this will lead to the creation of a working environment where we can all work comfortably.
At my house, my wife and I both work from home. Whenever we have online meetings at the same time, our voices overlap. To prevent this from happening, I change the layout of the furniture flexibly throughout the day. In this mosaic-like situation, I think it is becoming important to curate your working environment with minimum stress.
Until now, it was common to talk about lifestyle scenes from the three perspectives of clothing, food and housing. Since the pandemic, I think many people have been leading busy lives where all four elements of "clothing, food, housing, and work" have been interlocked in a mosaic-like pattern. At Hitachi, we call this concept the "Work & Life Mosaic." We want to make our complex life, where chores and work coexist, more comfortable. Or more specifically, we want to work in a way that better suits us. I think such demands will increase in the future, and hints for new businesses are hidden within these demands.
ACTUS CO., LTD
With the goal of enhancing quality of life in Japan and widely promoting the concept of a "beautiful and mindful way of living," ACTUS CO., LTD provides premium-quality products and services related to all aspects of food, clothing and housing through their broad range of sales channels. Their businesses span from the import and sale of European furniture and development and sale of their in-house label's furniture and sundries for their interior store "ACTUS," management of restaurants, cafes, and retail stores, renovation as well as interior design curation, design and construction of public and commercial facilities.