80.3 F
San Fernando
Thursday, Dec 1, 2022
-Advertisement-

Yay for Modern ‘Telephone Booth’

One interesting startup in the Valley area is Cubicall. As you can see in the article on page 4 of this issue, the Van Nuys company makes kind of modern-day telephone booths that are installed in workplaces so employees can get a few moments of solitude. And who doesn’t want to retreat to a quiet space to make a call or just focus for a few distraction-free minutes? The popularity of creative or open-concept office space gave birth to this market niche. If you visit many companies, you know that private offices are nearly a relic. Also cleared out of workplaces are cubicles, which we used to deride as “giraffe boxes.” (Offices that had many were “cube farms.”) Now even they seem a bit decadent for the ample amount of personal space they afforded. Today, we have “collaborative workspaces” where folks crowd together to work on communal tables. There, personal secrets can’t be hidden long. Annoying traits quickly grate. As a result, you increasingly see people on their phones in the hallways of workplaces or outside in common areas beavering away on their devices. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems bathroom stalls are regularly filled these days – with lots of tapping noises overheard. Anything to get far from the madding crowd, I suppose. So yeah, Cubicall’s in-office mini-rooms make exquisite sense. As you can tell, I was never a fan of creative office spaces. I viewed them as a cynical decision by employers to save rent by cramming more bodies into smaller spaces and declaring it “collaborative.” However, I’ve come around a bit. For one thing, we just don’t need the personal space we used to, what with the diminution of computer towers and paper files. At least some workers today need only a laptop and satchel, not an assigned office or even a desk. More of us are moving in that direction. For another, let’s admit that collaboration can be good. There’s magic in a workplace where someone overhears a conversation and chimes in with an insight or a solution. That happens best when people are in earshot of one another. Finally, it seems that creative workplaces have improved. I used to equate “creative workplace” with grim scenes of laptops lined up on folding tables. You still see some of that, sure, but you also see offices that have collaborative tables in the center but more spaces on the periphery where employees can retreat and work in private – perhaps easy chairs or unassigned offices. So creative workplaces can be OK – if done right. If you have a space where people can work together, talk and share ideas, that’s fine so long as there are places where workers can step to the side and have deep, one-on-one conversations or find utter quietness so they can focus. But in the meantime, since there are still many employers that don’t offer enough private spaces and still try to cram too many people together, Cubicall’s little telephone booths may fill an important niche. And that makes the company an interesting startup. • • • When California’s gasoline tax went up last week, there was a flurry of articles about how state motorists now pay the highest such tax in the country and how gasoline here typically costs $1 a gallon more than most other states. I wouldn’t mind paying more if I could boast that we have the best streets and highways. Alas, we don’t. Various surveys regularly rank our roads poorly. Just recently, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave California a “D” for our road conditions, saying they are some of the worst in the country. So excuse me if I’m skeptical that the new gas tax will do much to improve the condition of our streets. After all, the state doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation when it comes to fulfilling promises from taxes. In 2004, California voters approved a 1 percent surtax on millionaires. The money was to bankroll various mental health treatment facilities; after all, many of the homeless are on the street because of their mental challenges. But in 2016, the independent oversight agency called the Little Hoover Commission essentially threw up its hands, reporting that auditors couldn’t really say where the money had gone – $17 billion by that point. The state at the time vowed to do better, but let me ask: Since then, does it seem to you that $2 billion or so a year, about the amount the tax raises, is being spent on mental health? Again, that’s $2 billion a year. Likewise, the state has spent about 50 percent more on K-12 education since 2012, when a new tax was passed. But test scores have not improved. Where’s that extra money going? Closer to home, we’ve passed taxes recently to help the homeless. Let me ask: Do you want to bet that the number of homeless will be reduced in the next few years?

Charles Crumpley
Charles Crumpley
Charles Crumpley has been the editor and publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal since March 2016. In June 2021, it was named the best business journal of its size in the country – the fourth time in the last 5 years it won that honor. Crumpley was named best columnist – also for the fourth time in the last 5 years. He serves on two business-supporting boards and has won awards for his civic involvement. Crumpley, a former newspaper reporter, won several national awards and fellowships for his work, and he was a Fulbright scholar to Japan.
-Advertisement-

Featured Articles

-Advertisement-
-Advertisement-

Related Articles

-Advertisement-
-Advertisement-