I was deep in thought when I heard a soft thud. Turning to the source, I was slightly taken aback by the sight of a hideously distorted face that was pressed against the bottom of the glass door.
That was the physiognomy of a curious pre-schooler, who was seemingly trying to make sense of what was happening on the inside. I broke into an awkward smile as our eyes met, before he was forcefully tugged away by an older woman (presumably his mother). Thank you, auntie.
This startling yet somewhat comical encounter happened while I was working in a Switch Booth.
What Is A Switch Booth
Launched just last year, these individual booths are inventions of a workspace on-demand platform, Switch. They can be rented at per-minute charges, with a minimum charge of $1 for the first minute and thereafter at $0.06/minute.
Apart from individual booths, the platform also offers various types of working spaces for rent including hot desks, meeting rooms, and private offices among others.
Checking into the booth was a breeze. To unlock the door, all I had to do was download the Switch app, click on “Walk-in Pass”, key in my debit card details, scan the QR code against the Switch scanner on the left-hand side of the booth, and the clock starts ticking.
Albeit the hassle-free check-in process, securing a booth near my estate was rather nerve-wracking, especially during peak periods (after 1 pm), where booths were quickly snapped up, presumably by secondary school students. While I could check if a specific booth is being used, advance bookings are not currently offered.
In an attempt to improve the likelihood of experiencing this novel invention, I decided to head down to one of the booths at Rivervale Plaza at 11 am.
Booth Furnished With Basic Amenities
Upon unlocking the door, I was greeted by a simply furnished room with basic amenities that included a table, an ergonomic chair, WiFi, power sockets, among others. A hand sanitiser machine was also provided in each booth, albeit an empty one. Kudos for the effort though.
Despite its compact size, the booth provided a clean, cosy environment and most importantly, ample privacy without me feeling claustrophobic.
The pièce de resistance, I must say, was the built-in Bluetooth speaker which allowed me to immerse in the melody of Mozart: Concerto No. 23 In A Major, K. 488: I Allegro as I typed away.
Ideal Space, Though Not A Perfect One
Even as music filled the room, being situated in a shopping mall (at least for this particular booth), I could still hear dishes clanking, children screaming and distant chatter. While the room was not as soundproof as I’d hope, it definitely provided a much more conducive environment compared to my room where I was plagued by the incessant drilling noises from my neighbours renovation.
My biggest gripe, however, was the ventilation in the booth. Despite being equipped with ventilation fans, the booth became rather stuffy by the second hour making it unbearable for its occupant.
And… That was my cue to leave.
My 2-hour experience amounted to $7.20, which was pretty decent considering the amenities and privacy the booth provided.
Pay-Per-Minute Working Booths Are The Future Of Work
Now that we’ve laid out the pros and cons of working in a Switch Booth, it’s time for the million-dollar question: Are pay-per-minute booths the future of work, or are they just another quirky hardware invention that’ll cease to exist once its novelty dies down?
I’m rooting for the former. Here’s why.
The pandemic has greatly shifted our work routine. A recent survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies revealed that more than half of the participants felt that flexi-work should remain the norm. This means that there is a huge market for a conducive space to work from outside offices or homes.
Switch Booths are unlikely to be a complete substitute for a permanent office or home office. However, in my view at least, they provide a good interim working environment for anyone who is constantly on the move and needs a working space in between meetings when we are not working in the office or from home, or if like me, there are noisy renovation work at home. At $0.06 per minute (first minute, $1), a one-hour booking would cost just $4.60, cheaper than getting a latte at a café.
They are also strategically located near MRT stations or in the malls, which means one could just pop into a booth for a meeting after lunch.
Another instance where Switch Booths could be of great aid to office workers is when they are trying to avoid the evening rush hours. After spending 8 hours in your office, a change of environment could perhaps spur you on to finish up that last bit of your report. After which, enjoy your ride home on a less-packed train/bus and treat yourself to some well-deserved me-time before turning in.
With further R&D, Switch Booths could well become a staple for our workforce.
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