Will office phone booths solve the open-plan office conundrum?

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Technology, Tips & Tricks
Crowded office with no privacy

Office phone booths are popping up across the world. Are these a good idea, or are we trying to patch up a bigger problem with open-plan offices?

Most of us have worked within an open-place office at some point in our working careers. Typically, they would have rows and rows of desks and chairs, free from walls and doors and workers absorb the cacophony of ambient noise the office makes. 

“Open-plan offices caused their workers to take calls whilst sitting under their desks to seek privacy.”

Littered around these open-plan offices are free-standing phone pods, with a stool and desk encased in glass doors so that workers have some soundproofing for calls but can view outside. 

These are glorified phone pods, the private offices of the 21st century and, in the past few years, they have exploded – in Japanese train stations, Mumbai co-working spaces and private offices all over Europe and North America.

What are office phone booths?

An office phone booth is a cubicle shaped pod that offers both privacy and soundproof to open-plan office workers when dealing with both internal and external calls. Office phone pods are a natural byproduct where dozens of employees are working side by side in the same room or’ office.’

Why open-office spaces are so loathed

Despite the current boom for private spaces to work, open-plan offices – and their many concerns – continue to irritate office employees.

By 2014, 70% of US office space was open plan. A small survey of US workers revealed that only 28% of their workers preferred open-plan offices. Even worse, there were accounts of workers taking conference calls under their desks – summing up this feeling of frustration.

So if open-plans are not a new concept, then why has the office phone pods market exploded so rapidly?

For one thing, only recently has research reinforced just how far from ideal open-plan offices are. In 2018, the Royal Society published a study that proved that open workspaces caused a 70% decrease in face-to-face interaction. Furthermore, in the absence of face-to-face interaction, workers saw a whopping 20 to 50% increase in electronic and digital communication.

Open-plan offices are here to stay

Before you deem open-plan offices unworkable, think again. The concept of closed offices is not going to happen – it would take up too much office space to implement. Workplaces are therefore becoming more flexible spaces with office furniture companies like Silen delivering on what that means

It’s why these companies have sprung up to fill in the gap, offering businesses the possibility to order phone booth pods online, pay by company credit card and assemble it in-house. Office phone pods are one affordable option of getting a little bit of what you’ve lost from an individual office but provide the privacy needed for conference calls.

And it is not only office phone booths with wheels that are becoming popular – the ubiquitous term meeting pods are now trending with the current work generation. 

Meeting pods have become commonplace in office areas giving workers the possibility to talk and meet without distractions and within a comfortable area without being too formal as a meeting room.

What are meeting pods?

Meeting pods are similar to office phone booths except they are produced in all sizes, shapes and colours, really the possibilities are limitless. Meeting pods with wheels provide clients with several excellent ways to ‘relocate’ their meeting areas within open-plan offices (only Silen’ Spaces have wheels underneath). Often, these pods contain free-standing screens, desks with monitors and can even accommodate sofas. 

This flexibility and do-it-yourself mentality fit the ethos of millennial workers, the group who are primarily both manufacturing both meeting pods and the office phone booths themselves and buying them for their companies.

At a few thousand euros in most cases, and with installations that take hours rather than the customary weeks or months, office phone pods makes sense for a generation accustomed to both flexibility and getting it done now.

Combined with the pace of technology, workers are now able to work using cubicle-sized office phone booths with wheels or oddly shaped meeting pods – something that would have been impossible prior to the use of laptops, smartphones and video conferencing software.

The open-plan office conundrum is here to stay.