How tonari is boosting mentorship and support for remote engineers in a Japanese startup
Constant connection between Tokyo and Osaka has bolstered engineering recruitment by creating better connected workplaces


Osaka ⇄ Tokyo
start date

Following the relocation of their headquarters in August 2022, freee Inc. has created a flexible and cohesive work environment where engineers can work from anywhere by connecting its new Tokyo headquarters and Osaka office through tonari.

Challenges and achievements

  • While working from home during the pandemic, active discussions and a sense of unity among the company was decreasing. Being physically apart also made it difficult for engineering teams in different locations to reach consensus
  • freee wanted to create a workplace where colleagues will want to come in and see each other, and an attractive environment for recruiting engineers. tonari also provides flexibility for employees to work from any location, regardless of their transfer or assignment

An environment where engineers can work comfortably and efficiently

For tech companies, flexible work arrangements and skill/knowledge development can be critical for hiring talented engineers and keeping them engaged once they join the company. Having these in place helps to increase productivity and create an attractive environment for recruiting engineers.

I was impressed by how easy it was to know who was in the Osaka office and to be able to talk to them. There have already been requests to introduce Tonari from other locations outside of Kansai. Connected without having to choose a location or travel. Tonari's concept of "solving problems with technology" is an attractive vision that engineers can also resonate with. Nomoto-san, Tokyo Office

Creating an office worth going to

freee — which has been selected among the top 10 "Best Workplaces" in Japan for eight years running — is investing to create more face-to-face opportunities for their employees. Having experienced physical and emotional distance through remote work during the pandemic, their vibrant offices are built to promote more engaging discussions and a stronger sense of unity across the company.

In August 2022, freee relocated its Tokyo headquarters to Art Village Osaki Central Tower, and introduced tonari to connect to their Osaka office. By connecting spaces used by the engineering teams, tonari creates an environment where communication, design brainstorming, and collaborative programming continues smoothly regardless of their locations.

At freee, we created an environment that enables this progress without being bound by the limitations of being in different office locations or departments. For example, in situations where specification meetings or requirement identification are necessary, they can be quickly resolved through tonari, and engineers working remotely seem to feel a sense of security.

I have been working remotely since I joined the company, and I sometimes felt lonely, for example when I could not ask questions immediately when I needed help. tonari is different from other conference systems, and it is refreshing to be able to see the other party's whole body and feel as if I am actually meeting with them. I am excited about the communication that is created through this system. Okuma-san, Engineer, Tokyo office

Great for both team building and programming

tonari bridged the distance within in a team of five, with one member in Osaka and four in Tokyo. They were able to seamlessly collaborate and build team rapport despite the separate physical locations.

I am the only member working in Osaka in a five-person team, so I am thrilled to be able to feel the energy of the Tokyo team and work as one with them through tonari. freee is very flexible in allowing us to choose where we live and work. Yoko-san, Engineer, Osaka Office

freee's tonari connects engineering teams in their new Tokyo HQ with their growing Osaka office

The tonari space provides an open collaboration and breakout area in close proximity to the desks of several Tokyo and Osaka engineering teams. Because tonari is located along corridors where people frequently pass by, it enables spontaneous catch-ups and a feeling of constant connection. Colleagues also regularly book the space for "face-to-face" pair programming, as well as lunch and tea time.

freee’s tonari (Left: Tokyo, Right: Osaka)

The furniture around tonari was selected to be easy to move around, and allows for flexible layout changes for small and large groups, including casual conversations, side-by-side collaboration, and group discussions like project kickoffs and brainstorms.

An environment that makes you want to see your colleagues

What is an "office you want to go to"? Creating a work environment that "makes you want to see your colleagues" is important for improving recruitment and post-hire engagement. In recent years, an increasing number of companies are opening development offices overseas with a view to recruiting engineers [and conducting M&A]. However, with tonari, it is possible to share a sense of presence from casual conversation to events by connecting the spaces between office, which is also effective for creating cross-border cultures and flat management.

Left: Nomoto-san, Right: Inamura-san
Bridging the gap between offline and online, tonari is an experience beyond what I expected. It makes me want to wave and call out to our members in Osaka! We talk and shape each other through tonari in situations that require close communication and abstract discussions, like when kicking off a new project. In the long run, we want to create an environment where team members can contribute strongly regardless of location. Inamura-san, Manager, Tokyo office

About freee

freee aims to "make small businesses the main players in the world" by providing an integrated management platform that enables anyone to manage their business freely. As the first SaaS-type cloud service from Japan, we continue to provide "magic value" by building an open platform through collaboration with partners and financial institutions.

About tonari

tonari portals unify remote places, providing natural, energizing, face-to-face communication that actually feels like being in the same room.

Contact us to inquire about demos, pricing, and availability for your locations.