The south terminal at London's Gatwick Airport is offering a glimpse into the increasingly nomadic workplace of the future. Two luminous blue, capsule-shaped "work pods" have recently arrived, and landed, airside.
Each is kitted out with all the specifications demanded by a connected business traveller: secure Wi-Fi, device charging facilities, printer and fax machine, computer screen plus a desk and ergonomic chair.
"The Gatwick work pods offer people travelling for business everything they need when working on the move: a discrete, soundproof environment to make calls, check emails or concentrate on urgent work before or after they fly," says Paul Migliorini, CEO Australia and New Zealand of Regus, a Luxembourg-based global workplace provider and the company behind the innovation. Two more office-at-the-airport pods are destined for Gatwick's north terminal in the coming months.
The idea is not totally out-of-the-box: forward-thinking architects are designing elliptical, stand-alone pods for domestic situations to enclose anything from home offices to powder rooms as an antidote to the lack of privacy brought about by open-plan living areas.
Given that anyone flying at the pointy end - as well as silver and gold status travellers - already has access to VIP lounges with closed-off workstations, it begs the question whether airport pods have limited appeal. Are they targeted solely at the economy traveller who only flies occasionally for business? (And that's not even taking into account that at some major international airports it's possible to purchase casual lounge access.)
Not the case, according to Migliorini. "What sets the work pods apart is that they are accessible 24/7 and offer instant access for a smaller fee than the typical airline business lounge."
Pods can be booked on the spot using a credit card or reserved in advance on the Regus website. The charge is modest: around $A23 per each half hour block for as long as required.
Location, location, location
Perhaps the best bit, though, to borrow real estate parlance, is location, location, location. No upstairs/downstairs sprinting involved: the pods are positioned smack-bang between the departure gates providing a time-saving alternative to the lounge with all its wondrous distractions.
Under the new Qantas-Emirates alliance, Aussies are booking significantly more flights into London's second airport so these private, tailor-made workspaces may prove to be a productive place to follow up leads from the day's meetings before boarding a long-haul flight.
Currently, Regus is in discussion with a number of airports across the Asia Pacific. "We hope to be able to bring the pods to Australian airports in the near future," Migliorini says, adding that Regus Express also installs flexible workspaces in other high traffic locations such as railway stations and motorway service stations.
Frequent flyer Petra Becker welcomes the advent of the pod office. "Sounds like a good way to utilise dead time during transfers or lengthy delays. I know I'd welcome the chance to re-boot and re-charge so I can get right back into family life when I get back home without nagging worries about incomplete work," she says.