Remember the one about London’s iconic red phoneboxes becoming mini coworking spaces? Well, turns out it’s not an April Fools joke after all. It’s actually happening.
It’s all thanks to forward-thinking entrepreneur Jonathan Black, who manages New York coworking brand Bar Works. Jonathan launched Bar Works in June 2015, and already has three New York locations on the go with a fourth coming soon in San Francisco. He’s also got his sights set on London, and that’s when the idea struck.
“We are looking to open Bar Works in London as soon as we find a suitable location,” he said. “Whilst I was thinking of location options for London I suddenly remembered all the underutilised phone boxes around the UK, which made me think that these could be convenient workstations.”
Drawing on his experience of sourcing locations for Bar Works, which specialises in transforming empty or underutilised bars and restaurants into coworking spaces, he cites the “convenient locations, affordable and all inclusive” nature of phone box units as his starting point.
“The good thing about these boxes is that they are all in good locations close to transport or commercial hubs, which make it perfect for a workstation.”
Known as ‘Pod Works’, Jonathan plans to transform a selection of former telephone boxes into mini workstations for on-the-go entrepreneurs in UK towns and cities. Each Pod will have Wi-Fi and Internet connection, a printer and scanner, a wireless mouse, a 25-inch screen, plug sockets and even a mini coffee machine.
Members are charged £19.99 per month (approx $29 USD) for access to their choice of workstation, which must be booked first via the Pod Works app. Their reservation includes a key, which allows access any time of the day or night.
This prompts the question, what about security?
“Entrance is by membership only with a secure member activated lock, and we will service the pods daily,” says Jonathan. Bar Works uses Kevo for secure access in the US, and the team plans to use a similar system with Pod Works.
As for competition, unique though it may be, Pod Works faces many of the same market challenges that exist in coworking circles.
“Yes, the coffee shop is our competition,” says Jonathan. “But that environment isn’t suitable for everyone. Some of us want privacy and we need to print documents and recharge our phone.
“Plus with membership you can have as many cups of coffee as you wish.”
And for those who have ever encountered draughty phone booths on a chilly British morning, fear not. They will all be heated.
Jonathan plans to open their first Pod Works phone booth this summer, with more set to follow. “We have signed 20 across the country including Edinburgh, Leeds, Plymouth, and London, and we are hoping to open our first location within 8 weeks in Central London.”
This is one operator who’s clearly thinking outside the (phone)box. Today’s entrepreneurs might not be tethered to their desks by wires and telephone cables, yet it’s fitting that given our dependence on connectivity and wireless communication in the Digital Age, this innovative coworking idea has its seat firmly wedged in a classic and once fundamental form of telecommunication – the iconic telephone booth. This novel idea not only brings new meaning to mobile working; the concept is once again pushing the margins of flexible workspace in a market that seems to know no bounds.