"An Englishman's shed is his castle" is a reworking of the old saying that's surprisingly true, even in this gadgety electronic age. So now a U.K.-based company is working to reinvent the humbled shed as an eco-friendly home-office solution for e-commute workers.
OfficePod is being touted by its makers as a "full service system for employers to lease home offices for their employees," by creating a fully-equipped workspace that lets a company's employees telecommute. And of course telecommuting reduces both carbon emissions and daily traffic frustrations—plus it lets you get up later and get "home from the office" sooner than having to get to a physical office. (If you're smart enough to do that and not start work earlier and extend your day later.) It's a trend that's beginning to take off in certain jobs—writers and editors for Web sites like FastCompany.com being a prime example.
But according to the company behind the new idea, one of the key reasons telecommuting hasn't taken off very quickly is the lack of "a service-oriented offer" that can efficiently encompass all of the hardware and legal/health and safety aspects of creating a good working environment at home. Hence OfficePod is designed to be quick to install, comply with regulations, and is leased for £5,000 ($7,200) per year. That's getting towards half of the amount that the company says it costs to house a worker in a typical centralized office environment—£9,000 ($13,000). That's a considerable savings, and the all-in-one nature of the lease sounds like it would be a tempting offer for smaller companies that don't have the advanced infrastructure to support remote-sited workers or even larger ones looking to save costs.
And the product is very interesting—it's not just a simple office cubicle translated to a new setting: OfficePod has been designed with some very understandable criteria.
"1. To create a self contained office that exceeds all standard office accommodation regulations & requirements.
2. To provide an environment that is conducive to productive work.
3. To create a product that staff would want, and even be proud to have, in their garden.
4. Have the minimum impact on the environment - both in manufacture and use."
To that end the 2.1-meter square structure is not unattractive, uses recycled materials, installs easily, and is heavily insulated for energy efficiency (and presumably against typical British weather.) It gets power via a connection to the house's electricity and assumes wireless connectivity for the PC and telephone. And I'd certainly have one in my garden—it'd be a fabulous environment to work in, and the idea of shutting the door on the pod at the end of a day of work and returning "home" through the flower beds is great.
Alas, I don't have a garden, which is going to be an impediment to OfficePod's potential proliferation. The home-owning housing model common in the U.K. isn't necessarily applicable elsewhere. Plus, I'd be nervous about the pod being a target for burglars. Still, all in all it's a fabulous idea and it's getting a first public showing this week in The Cumberland Hotel in London.