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World Changing Ideas

These Classic London Phone Booths Are Turning Into Micro-Offices

Pod Works is transforming an unused London icon into a place to get a little work done, no matter where you are.

  • <p>Membership at the booths, called Pod Works, costs £19.99 a month (about $30) and will give access to more than 20 booths across the city.</p>
  • <p>Inside the booths, there will be a printer and scanner, power outlets, Wi-Fi, a 25-inch monitor, and free coffee and tea.</p>
  • <p>To keep the spaces available for as many people as possible, users get a warning after an hour of use, and then have to leave.</p>
  • 01 /03

    Membership at the booths, called Pod Works, costs £19.99 a month (about $30) and will give access to more than 20 booths across the city.

  • 02 /03

    Inside the booths, there will be a printer and scanner, power outlets, Wi-Fi, a 25-inch monitor, and free coffee and tea.

  • 03 /03

    To keep the spaces available for as many people as possible, users get a warning after an hour of use, and then have to leave.

For remote workers in London tired of working from coffee shops, one coworking company is about to launch another option: For the equivalent price of a couple of cups of coffee a week, it will be possible to temporarily rent a tiny (and private) office in an old, iconic phone booth.

Inside the booths, there will be a printer and scanner, power outlets, Wi-Fi, a 25-inch monitor, and free coffee and tea. Membership at the booths, called Pod Works, costs £19.99 a month (about $30) and will give access to more than 20 booths across the city.

Because of the size of the booths, and to keep the spaces available for as many people as possible, users get a warning after an hour of use, and then have to leave. "I would imagine some people would use it maybe once a week," says Jonathan Black, CEO of Bar Works, the company that will run the micro-offices. "People who need to prepare for a meeting, maybe people who want a bit of privacy when they're doing their emails."

Bar Works already runs coworking spaces out of nontraditional spaces—old bars and restaurants—in New York City (and soon San Francisco). Black, who is from London, realized that the city's old phone booths could be put to better use, somewhat like in New York, where former pay phones have been replaced by free Wi-Fi hotspots.

"There are so many of these unused phone boxes now in the U.K., especially in London," he says. "When I looked into it, there's one call made per week from these call boxes. I thought they're in such good locations in terms of transport hubs, commercial centers—if we were to put multipurpose work stations in these, then I could really see a good use."

Many of the iconic boxes, once owned by British Telecom, are landmarks, but had become covered in graffiti. "They've fallen into a state of disrepair, a lot of these boxes," says Black. "The beauty of this is providing a new use for these, and a kind of new lease on life."

It's one of several new uses for the classic phone booths. Another booth in London is now a salad bar, and others have turned into art projects or defibrillator stations.

Bar Works has leased 23 phone booths so far in London and plans to expand throughout the city and the U.K. as soon as it gets permission from planning commissions. The first mini-offices, which are being retrofitted now, will open this summer.

"It's transforming the iconic phone box and giving it a really good, interesting use," Black says.

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