Work in a phone booth

Fifteen of London's old phone boxes (above) have been leased by Bar Works to be fitted with office facilities.
Fifteen of London's old phone boxes (above) have been leased by Bar Works to be fitted with office facilities.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

New York City-based company plans to fit scanners and printers in Britain's iconic red telephone booths

A former venture capitalist is planning to restore the glory of Britain's famous red telephone boxes by turning some of them into mini-offices for on-the-go workers.

Mr Jonathan Black, chief executive of New York City-based Bar Works Inc, said his company was refitting phone booths in five British cities with 25-inch screens, scanners, printers, a wireless mouse and Wi-Fi connection as well as free coffee.

"It's an alternative to, say, Starbucks but, obviously, it provides you with total privacy," said Mr Black, a Briton who lives in New York.

Privately owned Bar Works launched in Manhattan last year, offering bar-themed workspaces in popular locations.

Users pay a monthly subscription in return for access to the premises and unlimited use of office facilities.

The phone boxes will operate using the same model. Monthly membership of Pod Works will cost £19.99 (S$40) and Mr Black said he expected at least 10,000 members by the end of this year.

It's an alternative to, say, Starbucks but, obviously, it provides you with total privacy.

BAR WORKS INC CEO JONATHAN BLACK on the planned mini offices in Britain's telephone boxes

Though its original purpose has all but faded with the advent of the mobile phone, the classic red phone box, designed in the 1920s, was voted the greatest British design of all time in a survey last year.

Bar Works has leased 15 of BT Group's old phone boxes in cities such as London and Edinburgh and plans to launch the first of them in about eight weeks.

"The red boxes were actually put in for convenience," said Mr Black, "so naturally, they all hold very high-profile locations."

Bar Works, which recently raised US$1.5 million (S$2 million) in a funding round, also plans by next year to open four or five larger premises in Britain.

Globally, the market for flexible workspace is dominated by Regus and New York City-based WeWork.

Regus, which rents out meeting rooms, business lounges and office space, on Tuesday reported revenue of £532.5 million for the quarter ended March, an increase of about 18 per cent.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Work in a phone booth'. Print Edition | Subscribe