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When it comes to the future of offices and workspaces, one thing is clear: they won’t be the same as they were prior to the pandemic. COVID effectively changed how we now work with the majority working from home at least part-time. Videoconferencing has replaced in-office meetings, and digital nomads are ever-increasing in number. (For more on digital nomads and the evolving remote office, check out this Bold Business story.) Understanding this, new workspace solutions are being introduced to address these changes. And one of the most intriguing is what’s now being called tiny, isolated office spaces…better known as office pods.

While office pods are not necessarily new, companies are investing more heavily in their potential today. Different from office cubicles, these workspace solutions provide greater safety in terms of social exposures. Likewise, most new designs offer greater privacy that many co-working spaces don’t allow. Some of the office designs are more stationary in nature while others are more mobile. And some can even be leased out to others when not in use. Given their flexibility and potential for personalization, these trends in workspace solutions may be long-lasting.

“We consider Nooka a new category of coworking space where we share the same principles of flexibility and productive space, but our community is distributed across a network rather than under one roof.” – Leanne Beesley, Co-founder and CEO, Nooka Space

Rentable Office Pods for All

For those if us working from home, there can be a variety of distractions. Pets, kids, and other interruptions are more common in our home environments. Likewise, for many, workplace solutions have been quickly assembled and far less than ideal. Understanding this, a startup based in Romania is offering a great answer to this problem. Nooka Space offers 1- and 2-desk office pods that are free-standing and can be placed in one’s backyard. Their prefab designs can be easily delivered and provide the perfect office space in any location. And with Nooka’s subscription model, users can rent in definitely and even re-rent to others. Using an Airbnb model, the company looks to total disrupt the market for workspace solutions.

The view inside someone's van/office
Lockdown-inspired workspace solutions have put the office on the go.

Nooka office pods come in yellow, orange and blue colors, and they range in size from 97 to 914 square feet. After an initial set-up fee of $1210 USD, rent prices range from $362 to $725 a month. Nooka also encourages users to re-rent most of their models to others to help manage the costs. While Nooka keeps 20 percent of such rental fees, it’s still a great way to get some extra income for the space. All units are equipped with a whiteboard, wardrobe, locking system, and temperature control. And they also are equipped with UV-C lights for disinfection purposes. The company is planning to deliver units in Europe in April with US models to be released in 2022.

Mobile Modular Workspace Solutions

While deliverable office pods to your backyard is innovative, other workspace solutions provide a more mobile option. Imagine your office space was not only isolated and safe but also mobile. That is the vision that Nissan has for its latest conversions to its NV350 caravan. In its cargo area, a modern and futuristic office space offers all one needs to operate efficiently. These spaces are equipped with an ergonomically designed chair, modular desk, and ambient lighting. They also have a clear polycarbonate floor to allow one to see what’s below. And most importantly, the entire office module slides out the rear for an al fresco experience.

This version of the NV350 caravan is designed for a camping type of feel with all-terrain tires and presumably 4-wheel drive. Likewise, in addition to their innovative office pods, they also have a rooftop with modular lounge, side table and umbrella. And the glovebox has its own UV antibacterial light for disinfecting portable objects. One can work inside with shades closed choose to enjoy an outdoor experience. And since it’s a camping van, you can choose to work wherever you wish. Though not planned for the mass market just yet, it shows how office pods are being planned for the future.

“For the past year, (the) coronavirus pandemic has significantly accelerated the work-from-home trend and many office workers are now having a variety of issues working home. Nissan wants to solve these issues by giving those workers more choice of where and how they work.” – Nissan company statement

Other Companies Offering Interesting Workplace Solutions

Notably, Nooka and Nissan aren’t the only companies thinking about future workspace solutions. Others have also recognized the role office pods and alternative office solutions may play down the road. (For more on remote work in the future, check out this Bold Business story.) Some companies are investing more heavily in their coworking spaces because of this. Companies like WeWork and others are thriving in COVID’s aftermath and will probably do so afterwards as well. But coworking spaces are not the answer for everyone. Others demand greater privacy and convenience when it comes to workspace solutions. And this is where office pods can be quite attractive to many workers.

Companies who were already in the tiny home business are also shifting business strategies toward office pods. Estonia-based Ӧöd is a maker of tiny homes that also offers a backyard office pod. The ones it currently markets sell for just under $20,000. Likewise, Modern Shed also now makes a tiny home on wheels that has an upscale office layout. Equipped with a seating area, desk and bedroom, these units go for $129,000. However, neither of these companies offer a subscription-based model like Nooka. If flexibility and mobility are the key, Nooka may have an advantage here.

Mixed Use and Mixed Workspace Solutions

For many larger businesses, anticipating what the future of office spaces will be is challenging. If workers remain at home most of the time, then existing office real estate may need to be reconfigured. Some people will function well at home or at coworking spaces otherwise. But others will like the flexibility that office pods allow. In all likelihood, workspace options will be multiple in the future to accommodate a variety of needs. And sharing these spaces will also become increasingly appealing as a way to minimize costs. In other words, get ready for Office-as-a-Service. And office pods are very likely to be a popular option within this sector.

 

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