One European company says "no way" — the future of remote work equipment is temporary rentals
A major unsolved problem with remote work is the pesky issue of equipment. Many people can and do work from a laptop with no mouse or keyboard, but this setup is not ideal for a lot of workers who do focused work or specialty work.
And even for workers who are mostly writing emails, documents, and calls, the comfort of a good chair and desktop setup can still beat the laptop experience for long-term work.
Oslo-founded and London-headquartered company Mona is betting the future of remote work will involve renting equipment — only for as long as you need it. Imagine for a monthly subscription, someone would just show up at your next destination, set up a computer workstation with all the equipment you prefer, and then retrieve it all when you're done.
Types of equipment required for doing remote knowledge work include computer chairs, desks, multiple monitors, keyboards, a mouse, and more. Some of these items are not easy to transport in a suitcase and on planes, trains, and automobiles around the world.
There is no elegant solution to lugging all of this equipment around if you're a remote worker moving from Croatia (to Costa Rica... to Bali... and onwards) and making relatively short stops in each desination.
Coworking spaces offer some infrastructure for working and taking meetings, but they rarely offer a full dual monitor, chair, and equipment setup unless you rent a private office — a time and financial commitment that is not necessarily aligned with the plans of location-independent nomads.
We talked to Mona co-founder Maiuran Loganathan about his vision for remote rentals was, and his pitch to help you "rent the best remote work setup wherever you are".
Curtis Duggan: How did you identify that equipment was a problem for remote workers?
Maiuran Loganathan: My co-founder and I were both remote workers. I lived in Berlin and moved to Amsterdam whilst working as a developer for Jefa (LatAm Fintech). I physically carried a 32-inch curved monitor and keyboard along 3 suitcases on a train ride from one city to the next. This seemed just stupid. Why can’t we just have access to the things we need whenever we need them, in a way that makes economic sense?
How many countries do you intend to make this available in?
We're starting in key European cities in 2022.
Can you walk us through a typical customer rental process? What exactly do they do and what happens in reality — someone in Paris orders Mona for their next week in a Barcelona coworking space – what happens?
The customer selects the items he/she wants and for what length of time. He/she then selects the best delivery date, time, and location. A Mona employee delivers and sets up the item at the customer's location. When the rental period is done, the Mona employee comes to dismantle and pick up. It's as easy as that!
This service sounds great in theory but also carries an insurance risk, how do you deal with a customer breaking a monitor or something?
Everything is insured at Mona. In case of damages, Mona covers 90% of repair or replacement costs. Just click a button and a Mona employee shows up to repair or replace the item.
Shipping a chair in a box is one thing, building it is another. Are you going to have the customer assemble chairs or find a different solution?
The Mona employee assembles the chair/monitor for the customer and helps with any questions he/she might have. We want to give you the smoothest onboarding experience possible.
You mention "better for the environment" as a feature — can you explain further?
A lot of remote workers end up buying monitors/chairs and try to sell or throw them away when they move. By reusing the same chair for the next person that works in the same city, we can lengthen the lifetime of quality items, and thereby reduce waste.
Mona will certainly have challenges in providing worldwide coverage, the unit economics of personalized delivery, broken items, and other typical challenges associated with renting physical assets.
But they may be able to find a niche for remote workers who simply want work gear to be ready and waiting with the tap of a button at whatever short-term rental they are headed to next...
In the future, we wonder if a portion of employees' "remote office costs" may be budgeted and paid for by the employer. This kind of employer contribution to home office costs gained popularity during the pandemic — employers adjusted to financially supporting employees in work-from-home scenarios, likely at a fraction of what it costs to house an employee in a centralized office.