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As anyone who has worked in an open-plan office will tell you, they can have their drawbacks – ringing phones, office loudmouths, buzzing machines – not to mention getting back to your desk only to find that someone has pinched your chair.

Now imagine a solution that keeps all the good things about an open-plan office – the airiness, the informality, the freedom to mingle with the others in your team – and yet gives you a comfortable, private, well-lit office space that you can call your own.

Privacy without walls

There’s nothing quite like the Macropod. It’s a flexible, comfortable, adjustable and lockable office on wheels that contains all the paraphernalia of office life: your PC, papers, pens, phone and folders – plus the things that really matter – your coffee mug, kids’ drawings and pictures of your dog. It gives you a space that’s yours, gently screened from the office rattle and hum, yet still letting you feel that you’re part of what’s going on.

Sitting in a MacroPod, you’re enclosed by a curved screen, but clever use of translucency makes the working environment light and airy, so you don’t feel boxed in. This creates an important environmental balance in today’s modern workplace, allowing privacy without walls. And working in a Macropod reduces stress and aids concentration, and since it’s ergonomically designed and fully adjustable for standing or sitting working heights, it fully complies with Health and Safety requirements. It’s no problem for wheelchair users either.

This award-winning product range, launched in London in 2003, has already found many friends: Huddersfield University ordered 14, and now car showrooms, health and fitness centres and banks and building societies are all finding it ideally suited to their needs. Local councils have shown a surprising level of interest: it turns out that Macropods are ideal for small businesses starting up in incubation centers. As the order books start to fill up, a smaller version for home offices is also under development.

Following its introduction at the Dubai Office Furniture Exhibition last year, the Macropod also looks set to make an impact in the Middle East, where commercial building is buoyant.

Since the Macropod’s debut, Volume have won the Capella Award for growing businesses, were among the finalists in the FX International Interior Design Awards competition, and received the British Contract Furnishing Association’s Product Approval Award — as well as taking part in Hydro’s Aluminium Product Idea Competition 2004.

Support from Hydro

Designer Mark is enthusiastic about the help they’ve received from Hydro. “They instilled a lot of confidence in us that they could produce accurate extrusions first time, without testing,” he says. “For us as a small company, spending thousands of pounds on tooling up for a prototype was a big risk, so Hydro’s support was invaluable,” he says. “They also helped us a lot with the value-added side of the business.”

Aluminium key to design

The crucial component, a single extrusion, has to support a number of functions: hinging, locking, cable management and lighting. “It’s a custom extrusion designed specifically for the job. Hydro helped tweak the drawings. We pushed the technology to the limits here; they’ve been a tremendous help with this key component,” says Mark, who now warmly recommends Hydro to other clients and contacts.

Co-director Liz Partridge is effusive about the appearance of the finished product. “We chose aluminium because we wanted to have the right architectural look, and it just ended up being so slick!” she says with a smile.

“You don’t feel like you’re in a pig pen when you’re sitting in the ’Pod,” says Liz. “It lets in natural daylight, and you can follow what’s going on outside, but have some privacy too.” She now uses a Macropod herself. “I do like having a height-adjustable desk, it’s ergonomically better for you. I now spend a lot of the day standing up, I prefer it,” she says.

Expanding horizons

Building on the original concept, Volume Products now offer a range of screening systems that can be added to create larger spaces for meetings or other group activities. “We don’t want to be just a one-product company,” says Liz. “That’s too risky; besides, we want to be able to offer everything the customers want.”

Another thing that customers want is reliable deliveries — and Volume take their commitments to customers seriously. “For us, delivering service is as important as delivering the end product.We pride ourselves in delivering on time – and we haven’t missed one yet,” says Mark. That’s also why they chose Hydro, he says.

“We wanted to be sure that we could continue to deliver on time if this gets really big. We can only do that with fantastic support from a fantastic company.”

Andy McLoughlin, Commercial Manager of Hydro’s extrusion business in the UK, says – “We see a tremendous potential for the Macropod setting a trend for offices of the future. We’ve already seen many companies adopting ‘hot-desking’ policies and this product takes the concept of flexible working onto a whole new arena. Aluminium’s aesthetic qualities, together with the fact that you can design in many different features in the one extrusion, has resulted in an attractive, lightweight and user-friendly product,” he says.

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