What we can learn from ‘Omotenashi’ (and why it’s crucial in the modern workplace)

Published November 13th, 2020

If you’re familiar with ‘Omotenashi’, you’ll know how meticulously it’s infused into Japanese service and culture—and why it works.

If you’re not familiar, it’s a good philosophy to know and one we’re increasingly putting into practise as the needs of our clients change. It’s proving to be of great benefit for both our clients and our own workplace because it’s generating repeat business, greater loyalty and an elevated sense of goodwill for everyone.

So what is Omotenashi?

Omotenashi is the Japanese ‘spirit of hospitality’ that not only values great service, but incorporates doing more than simply meet a person’s needs and desires.

It’s about anticipating them and exceeding them.

Of the service provider, this requires attention to detail, maintaining full focus on the person receiving the service and not allowing one’s ‘ego’ or opinion-driven perception to intercept the ‘flow’ of the service.

The relevance of Omotenashi to workplace hospitality

In working with many Japanese clients over the past 20 years, MKDC have come to recognise Japanese businesses as loyal, responsive, and excellent communicators—these are all virtues which have their origins in Omotenashi.

Omotenashi has its roots in traditional tea ceremony, where tea masters can take up to a year to select the right flowers, tea set, hanging scrolls and confections to match both the season and the guests’ preferences.

If the host can’t find the perfect teacup for the guests from their own collection, they will continue searching until the perfect match is found. Tea masters believe this is the most creative and intellectually interesting part of the process, which determines the success of the ceremony.

This has nothing to do with “the customer (or employee) is always right”, rather, it’s about becoming so focused on the customer’s needs that you ‘forget’ your own—and in doing so, this reaps great rewards for your happiness and sense of wellbeing.

Needless to say, if everyone is practising this kind of outward focus, and everyone feels happier in doing so, the effects on the workplace can be astounding (and profitable).

Why bringing Omotenashi into workplace hospitality benefits your business

One of the positives to emerge from the tumult of current times is our increased awareness of others’ space and needs in the workplace. This is one facet of Omotenashi—anticipating others’ needs before our own and ‘being of service’ to accommodate and respect one another.

On returning to our workplaces over the last few months, many of us have had a new appreciation for each other and for the space itself. When sharing the positives, most people have a refreshed perspective on several things:

  • the welcome return of being in the company of people
  • the staff coffee machine ‘hub’ which captures moments of connection and inspiration
  • having spacious, comfortable areas to gather and relax during break times
  • the health benefits of the ergonomics of their workplace
  • multiple, bigger monitors and shared tech displays
  • the ad-hoc camaraderie with workmates
  • the benefits of productive face-to-face collaboration

…and the list goes on.

The focus of many white papers in recent years—indeed considered the biggest emerging influencer—is the notion of workplace hospitality.

Perhaps we never appreciated before how much our workplace can show us ‘hospitality’?

Instilling a sense of hospitality translates to improving the employee experience.

As we return to the workplace, perhaps it’s our greatest reflection that we now appreciate being ‘looked after’ at a time when our individual and community vulnerability has never been more felt—from both health and economic perspectives.

Bringing workplace hospitality and Omotenashi philosophies into the workplace is a sure-fire way to attract and retain the best employees.

We all know they are the main ingredient for enduring business success.

How would the application of Omotenashi principles look in workplace design?

Of the many of our clients who have been mindful of workplace hospitality, part of achieving it is in the provision of a hospitality-oriented setup.

This would include aspects such as ‘breakout lounge’ areas for singular or micro-group working, fully equipped kitchens, dining and entertaining areas, and providing a choice of spaces to suit various work tasks—from quiet lounges to activated hubs.

We’ve learnt a lot from our wonderful Japanese clients over the years. Incorporating Omotenashi principles into our business and workplace interactions and transactions has greatly enhanced everyone’s experience of MKDC, including our employees.

As workplace design specialists, we’ve been working consistently through this time so we transition easily to accommodate work-from-home scenarios in terms of physical and technological set up, while continuing to advance our own workplace agility strategy.

It’s our profession to know how the workplace is constantly changing be it technology, human or physical space influences. 80% of our business comes from repeat clients—we believe this is the pay-out from investing in knowing and serving our clients beyond their expectations.

Is it time to consider Omotenashi in your workplace?

Call our Perth office on 9321 7955 or email info@mkdc.com.au