How One Operator Solved the Problem of Empty (and open) Space

Citibase myPOD, London Millbank

As the open/closed-plan debate rumbles on, is the pendulum swinging away from open plan office space?

The office market has come a long way since the days of high-walled cubicles and maze-like configurations. But at least cubicle workers have a sense of privacy and lower noise levels to contend with.

Today, the seemingly en-masse move to open-plan office space has helped companies reduce costs and enhance collaboration, generating a productivity boon and enabling business centre operators to maximise their square footage.

Yet, as we discussed recently with architect Robert Fox, office design “went way too open” and occupants are now bearing the consequences. Concerns including distractions at work, privacy issues and even security threats are plaguing the sector.

What to do?

Intelligent furniture design can offer a partial solution, enabling workers to use mobile or adjustable furniture that matches their requirements. Think enclosed units for distraction-free calls or quiet brainstorming.

Now one business centre operator is taking this concept a step further.

Dubbed ‘myPOD’, a new range of flexible workspace by Citibase offers one solution to the open/private conundrum. It also tackles the challenge of empty space.

“We found that we were getting high demand for one-person spaces,” said Alasdair Farrimond, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience at Citibase. “But we were challenged to supply these requests with our existing office stock.”

Citibase myPOD, London MillbankRather than resorting to partitioning, Citibase brought in furniture designer Luke Hughes® to come up with a specialist solution.

The result is a customisable handcrafted unit with built-in desk and overhead lockable storage, and fabric panels that can be changed to create a bespoke look.

Described as their “latest advancement in office design”, Luke Hughes commented that the pods have been “specifically engineered to support the growth of start-up companies and entrepreneurs”.

They refer to myPOD as an “inventive solution” to the changing nature of workspace and the shifting needs of small business owners.

Semi-private design

myPODs are effectively one-person offices clustered in office suites that would otherwise hold multiple workstations. Given their semi-private design, they can be positioned in such a way that employees maintain an element of seclusion while working in a shared office environment.

Their minimum 3-month contracts retain flexibility yet align the product closer to serviced space rather than standard hot-desking. However, the units are more competitively priced than standard single serviced offices.

“We’ve already got our first customer in the Millbank centre and we’ve had multiple viewings across all our other centres since we launched them last week,” said Alasdair.

In addition to meeting client demand and reducing the issue of open space, Alasdair added that these pods also respond to another problem: “We can make use of previously under-utilised space in our centres.”

Citibase offers pop-up business centres as a way of filling short-term voids for building landlords, and its new myPODs targets property owners looking for a way to generate revenue from empty space.

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“The world of work has changed forever; traditional office space does not cater for all entrepreneurs and SMEs anymore, and so void, vacated space within offices emerges,” said Citibase CEO, Steve Jude.

“They (myPODs) provide a great income opportunity for landlords who are looking to cut substantial losses that occur from empty office space by situating them in currently non-revenue generating space, be it in breakout areas or reception areas.”

The pods are currently available in four Citibase centres including London Millbank, Cambridge, Birmingham Mailbox and Leeds City Square, with “more locations coming soon”.

Commenting on the future of myPODs, Alasdair added: “We are currently assessing other centres for demand and space.

“Our myPODs really are the best of both worlds. They give the user many of the benefits of being in an open plan area whilst also offering a level of privacy that pure open plan space cannot offer.”