Are you a remote worker or digital nomad?
If so, then read on…Office of National Statistics, by 2020 fifty-percent of the UK workforce will work remotely. If you’re like me then you’ve already been doing this for quite some time.
I first started working remotely whilst employed by a large European mobile operator. Back then (last century!) it was quite unheard of, and the technology to support it was nascent, to say the least. Since then I have worked for local, international and my own companies, actively avoiding being tied to any specific location or office, instead spending time working on client sites, between meetings or in my home office. As such, I’ve become an expert in hunting out locations where I can be the most productive on the train, on the plane, in the airport, coffee shop or hotel lobby.
I know what kinds of coffee shops, which hotels or train stations I should choose to get emails done, take a phone call or catch up on the backlog of reading or writing that never seems to diminish. However good my knowledge is, sometimes you can get caught off guard.
Let me share an example with you – Earlier this year, between meetings in London I needed to find somewhere to sit, work and take a conference call. Having found a quiet location, I ordered a drink and some lunch to justify my occupancy of the table. My drink arrived, the conference call started and just after I introduced myself a brass band started playing 20 meters behind me! I couldn’t leave because my lunch hadn’t arrived, so I had to explain the comical timing of the situation to my clients on the other end of the line, who thankfully took it well and we still joke about it today.
Digital nomads need some peace and quiet too
Remote working, digital nomads and co-working spaces are all on the rise. The reliance on messaging for communications is also on the rise, so you might argue that my example here might soon not be relevant, but I would counter that. Phone calls, conference calls, video calls are not going away, in fact with the successful IPO of Zoom recently I think we could easily see a world where video calls are becoming more and more frequent.
As the use of voice as an interface, think of things like Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri etc, continues to explode we will see more and more people talking to their devices to get things done. In fact I am talking to my computer right now to write this, and if you’ve ever tried that in a noisy place you will know how painful that can be.
So it was a joy to discover a company earlier this week that is working with large retail real estate owners to find homes for what can best be described as private work pods. The idea is simple – provide a sound-isolated, fully contained workspace that can be rented by the minute, by the hour, or by the day, allowing the occupant to focus on what they’re doing, shout at Siri or make a video call without being interrupted by the trombone behind them.
During our conversation I was asked about my opinions on price point. That’s quite easy, because every time I find a café or a hotel lobby that I want to working I feel obligated to buy something whether that’s a cup of tea coffee cake lunch, it all adds up and what do I get for that? Sure, I’ll get somewhere to sit, occasionally I am lucky enough to find a plug socket that works, but I can’t guarantee quiet I can’t control the music in the bar, I can’t control the children on the table two rows behind me, I can’t control the street noise, and after I finish my coffee I feel I even need to buy something else or move on somewhere else.
So how much would I pay? I wouldn’t think twice about a price point that was equal to a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, maybe a little bit more, but it really depends on a couple of things. How long I can stay in the pod, how secure the pod is, so that when I need to leave for a comfort break, or to grab a drink, can I leave my things behind?
The other thing that would matter to me, is how dependable these things are. So if I knew that I could go to a coffee shop on Kings Street and be able to find one of these pods to use, then I would make my way to Kings Street and go in the coffee shop. If I got to that location to find out that the pods were all taken or out of service, that would significantly to transfer from the value for me.
Try it out
These pods going into trial in a large shopping centre in the UK very shortly, where the company hopes to test the number of ideas around these questions, price point availability dependability and reliability and obviously how well they draw people into a particular location. Because, maybe obviously, the reason a coffee shop would take the space to put one of these activities or a shopping mall might remove a series of vending machines to put these would be to explore an improvement in return on investment, and that cannot be achieved if occupancy isn’t high.
Personally, I really hope these are a success, and I can start depending on these to help improve, both my productivity, but also my comfort, when working on the road.
Where did this take place?
We love to conduct our meetings and interviews in beautiful, unusual or generally interesting places. This meeting was held on one of the hottest days of the year in the beautiful UK town of Marlow. The header image is taken inside the Marlow Bar and Grill.