With the recent remarkable development of IT technology and dramatic changes in social conditions due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus, the way people work in companies continues to change rapidly. The world has been freed from the constraints of physical distance, and people throughout Japan and around the world are beginning to use virtual offices to work productively as if they were working together in the same office.
In this interview, we spoke with two people from Shelter Japan Corporation, who implemented VoicePing and dramatically improved communication between multiple locations in just two months.
Mr. Mochizuki and Ms. Uzawa, membersof Shelter Japan Co.
We would like to invite Mr. Mochizuki and Ms. Uzawa, who are in charge of public relations at Shelter Japan Inc. to talk about what has been improved by the introduction of VoicePing. Can you introduce yourself please?
My name is Mochizuki, and I am working as a director of Shelter Japan Co. My main focus is on the public relations business. As we are moving forward with AI in our company, we have been looking at virtual offices and have decided to introduce VoicePing. Thank you very much for your cooperation.
Yes, my name is Uzawa, and I am in charge of public relations at Shelter Japan Co.
Although I mentioned public relations, the actual name of my department is “Enlightenment and Awareness Business Development. As the word “awareness-raising” implies, we are engaged in awareness-raising in the form of public relations regarding disaster prevention, which is one of our main focuses. We have developed our own disaster prevention application, mainly through social networking services, and our mission is to promote and disseminate it. At the same time, we are also engaged in the shelter business and the solar business.
Shelter projects that protect livelihoods and save lives
Thank you for joining us today.
Let’s start with an explanation of your business.
We, Shelter Japan Corporation, headquartered in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, are engaged in research, construction, development, and sales of various types of disaster prevention shelters, as well as design, construction, and sales of disaster prevention shelters and houses with shelters. We also design, construct, and sell disaster-resistant houses with shelters, and install and sell photovoltaic power generation systems and other renewable energies to meet the needs of our customers to maintain a safe and secure lifestyle.
Our management philosophy is “family happiness and the pursuit of permanence”. As the name implies, we are committed to supporting family life and protecting family life, even in times of disaster. However, the reality is that although everyone is aware of the fact that Japan is a disaster-prone country, the actual disaster prevention efforts have not been well implemented. Therefore, we are working on the solar business from the perspectives of disaster prevention, shelter, which protects people’s lives, and the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), which are environmentally friendly.
Currently, we have patented our own technologies, and as of March, we have 61 patents. We are developing a new type of shelter based on this technology, and our representative director, Mr. Yano, is devoting almost all of our resources to this project.
Sixty-one patents have been granted? That’s quite impressive! The word “disaster prevention” is very new to me. I have experienced disaster prevention training when I was a student, but I have never thought about it that deeply.
We tried the popular online office and it was awesome.
Actually, when you introduced VoicePing, you signed a 3-year contract from the very beginning, didn’t you? Most of the companies we have worked with have signed one-year contracts at the most, so it was quite a shock to see them sign a three-year contract out of the blue! We are very happy to hear that our clients have recognized the value of our products, including their future prospects.
What led you to the full-scale introduction of VoicePing?
Yes, first of all, we have branches in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, and Tokyo. In addition to these, we have other members who work on consignment or from home, so we really do have members all over Japan. We are a small to medium-sized company with a total of less than 30 employees, including home workers and part-timers.
Therefore, it is almost impossible to consolidate all of our offices into one location, and with Zoom all over the place, it is difficult to know who is working at which branch and what they are doing. We were able to communicate within the same office, but when we were far apart, it was difficult to communicate. I had to ask if they were OK now, and I didn’t know if it was the right time to call out to them or not.
With this background in mind, I was half-joking and half-intrigued as I wondered about online offices since they had recently become so popular.
Then I found a well-known company and tried a two-week trial. The usage was not so different from VoicePing, but the trial was only for one member, so even if I used it, I couldn’t experience communication with Uzawa, for example. So I couldn’t judge whether it was a good or bad experience. We said there had to be something better, and during a PR meeting, Uzawa found VoicePing, which sounded interesting.
Thank you for finding VoicePing.
Actually, we have a weekly meeting every Friday at 1:00 p.m. here in the PR department, and we decided to give it a try. We decided to try it out right away.
However, there were some members in our company who were not mechanically inclined, so at first, there were some negative opinions about whether it was really a good idea or not, and whether we would be constantly restrained by using this system.
However, when you actually use the system, you can see the status of the employees, and you can tell if someone is not in the virtual office even though they are supposed to be at work. Also, the system is really easy to use, with features such as work logs.
In the meantime, the number of overseas workers is increasing. So, by having overseas workers come to work in the virtual office, they can work without feeling distant. I am currently in Thailand and Turkey, and I have people coming to work at VoicePing from Thailand and Turkey every day, and I am very happy that we are able to have active communication.
New and efficient ways of working that surpass 250 kilometers.
It is a very unique way of working, with members scattered all over Japan and even overseas, isn’t it?
I don’t have any easy-to-understand data on how much communication has improved, but my first-hand feeling is that communication has become much more efficient. For example, the distance between me and Uzawa, who is here right now, is probably about 250 kilometers away.
With VoicePing, my status is green, so if I think I can get to him, I just walk up to him and ask him if he’s ready. With VoicePing, you can use it as if you were in a real office. With VoicePing, I can use it as if it were a real office, so I feel that it has greatly improved my efficiency.
The president of our company uses LINE and LINEWorks to communicate with others using video and voicemail rather than text. He believes that way is much more efficient. So I feel that VoicePing is able to embody the president’s intentions very well.
VoicePing allows you to work as if you were in the same office, even when you are separated.
After actually using VoicePing every day, were there any unecpected results or functions that you were able to effectively utilize that you did not anticipate before introducing VoicePing?
So, in fact, Uzawa is always here in this virtual office, and I can see that he is working until late at night. I felt like, “Oh, if he’s working this hard, I should help him even more.”
Thank you very much. How about you, Mr. Uzawa?
As Ms. Mochizuki just mentioned, I also feel that engagement has actually increased.
After all, since I am on the screen, I can go and talk to them. In short, I am in Tokyo, Mochizuki is in Shizuoka, and of course there are members from Iwaki in Tohoku. When there are teleworkers in the office, it is impossible to ask someone next to you if you don’t understand something, or to ask if it’s okay, or to ask for advice, as you would normally do in a real office, if you are far away. If you are far away from them, you can’t really talk to them.
If you can go talk to them with a single icon, and if they don’t respond, you can go back to your seat, and then go talk to them again when the green mark is on. It is very important to be able to go talk to the person next to you.
Another point is the mobility of the meetings. We have a regular meeting every Friday at 1:00 p.m., and we can issue a URL and share it via Zoom, which takes less than three minutes.
It is very convenient to be able to go to the meeting room quickly, and in case a member doesn’t come in, you can remind them by calling out to them with the “call out” function.
In that sense, I feel that each small step is contributing to the improvement of productivity. It is very helpful.
Shelter Japan Corporation's Future Business Prospects
Last but not least, please tell us about your company’s future business prospects.
Our company’s slogan is to raise awareness, or rather, to save the lives of as many people and pets as possible. In order to accomplish this, we would like to spread the message that people should protect their own lives by themselves, rather than saying that everyone should save themselves from tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, and other so-called man-made disasters, such as wars.
I believe that if as many people as possible can take action to protect their own lives, it is the best way to protect the lives of people and pets and to keep them alive, and that is absolutely true.
To this end, healthy people should train themselves daily to be able to take immediate action in case of an emergency, no matter where they are at any time, and to put this in their minds, which will lead to the Yohjin App.
By having the Yohjin App installed and constantly looking back at it, you can be prepared at any time, or when you are at home or sleeping, you can think about what you would do if an earthquake occurred now, or what you would do if such an event were to occur. For example, if a wardrobe falls down in front of you and you cannot walk with a wheelchair, you will never be able to escape.
Even those of us who are in good health can be considered evacuation supporters if, for example, we broke our bones yesterday and cannot escape after the earthquake today. I think that all people must be aware that they must protect their own lives by themselves.
For those who are unable to protect their own lives and are in need of evacuation support, such as the elderly, the physically disabled, and those who are unable to move due to illness, please consider our shelters and live in them on a daily basis so that they can protect their own lives in times of emergency. We hope that you will think about our shelter and live in it on a daily basis. We would like to spread the idea that people can protect their lives by themselves, assuming various people and various patterns.
One of the ways we do this is through our shelter business and other educational activities that are applicable to many people. This idea reflects the strong desire of our CEO, Mr. Yano, and all of us who work for our company share this philosophy, and we will continue to promote it to the world.
In the case of natural disasters, we never know what will happen, and the unexpected happens on a daily basis, so we will expand our actions to protect our own lives from such events. I believe that the most important thing we need to do, and should do, is to continue to pursue family reunions.
We need to succeed in the shelter business, and at the same time, of course, we need to spread awareness of the importance of shelters and solar power. We would like to make full use of useful tools such as VoicePing so that we can be successful in various fields.
Thank you very much for your valuable time today.
I would like to support the spread of the philosophy of protecting one’s own life by oneself and the shelter business to save people and pets from natural disasters.
If you are interested in VoicePing, the virtual office for a new era of communication, please give it a try. Now, you can try all functions for free.