Office Phone Booths and Office Pods – Everything you need to know
On Monday, the bean-to-cup of coffee grinder behind your desk is sweet-sweet music to your ears. Mildly hungover colleagues close one eye and aim jittery fingers at that start button every 4 minutes. But your focus is just fine.
By Wednesday, things are different. Dick from sales is whispering the quarterly projections to your Head of Marketing on the other side of the office. How dare they! Don’t they know whispers travel further than regular speech? AAARGH.
Yup. We mere humans have very different needs from one day to the next. Open-plan offices don’t precisely respect your individuality. Yes, scattering us on a factory floor seemed like a great idea to bring everyone together for collaboration. But it has the opposite effect, according to a study by the Royal Society.
Don’t get me wrong. I love open-plan offices. It makes me feel like I am part of a broader community of like-minded people who are all desperately trying to ignore all the other like-minded people. Also, when I stare aimlessly into space, there is actually space to stare into. It’s essential for thinking.
At its very core, open plan offices save loads of space. So, you’ll have to deal with it. They are not going anywhere. It’s a money thing. But how do you make distracting open-plan offices more productive? The key is flexible office spaces.
Enter office pods and office phone booths from stage left.
What is an Office Phone Booth?
An Office Phone Booth is a small, single-user acoustic cabin that provides a quiet space for employees to take phone calls or video calls. Phone booths usually have a supportive shelf to place a laptop or notebook, and they may have a built-in perch or enough space for a barstool.
Unlike the Tardis, they are intended for quick visits and don’t exactly provide all the creature comforts. Some have a power plug or charging ports. High-end phone booths have air-conditioning, sensor-activated lighting, ventilation and even germ-killing UV lights.
Some phone booths come fitted on casters so they can be moved around inside your open-plan office. That means, like the Tardis, you never know where it might be next. But there is a good bet it’s next to my desk.
5 reasons you need an Office Phone Booth
1. Office Noise
It is difficult to focus on a telephone conversation if you are in a noisy office. But it isn’t just difficult for you. The person on the other end of your call will also have a tough time if people talking in the background sounds like you are interrupting them all the time. And, let’s face it, if you are talking loudly on the phone in an open office, you are part of the noise pollution problem.
2. Private Conversations
Phone conversations are a no-no in an open office. Your new C-suite executive certainly does not need to hear about her salary negotiation at the water-cooler just because HR sits next to IT. It’s a legal issue. When you speak to your doctor about that awkward itch, office phone booths keep those private conversations private.
3. Movable Convenience
Your sales team in an all-day brainstorming workshop, but they also need to take calls? Wheel a couple of your office phone booths to the conference room, and you suddenly have an instant solution.
4. Free Up Meeting Rooms
The meeting room is a great asset. You can take your team and quickly… Oh, wait. Nope. This entire meeting room is occupied with a one-person video call. That’s annoying.
Phone booths in the office leave the big conference rooms for important conferences. Just like they were intended.
You made a difficult choice. The three-bean salad and that hot rogan josh from the Curry Boss on the corner was delicious. But now you are surrounded by judgemental bastards, and you are feeling the pressure. Well, an excellent soundproof phonebooth has great air-treatment. Problem solved. Just don’t pass out while you are pretending to call your mom.
What do you call these things anyway?
Soundproof Telephone Box? Free Standing Phone Pod? Although the phrase “Office Phone Booth” is most often used by almost everyone in the office furniture industry, these booths go by many other names. It’s a testament to the explosion in popularity of these essential office items.
At furnify, we believe in clarity and accuracy, so here is a handy office phone booth naming chart:
Phone Booth lite
An alternative to the closed acoustic phone booth is the open phone booth. Open on one side for entry three acoustic screen walls protect the user. All lined and upholstered with sound-absorbing material. The open booth protects the user with high side panels and maybe a canopy depending on the model from visual distractions and some sounds. They are more cost-effective than the closed office phone booths as they do not come with all the features.
Lastly, there are the wall booths or acoustic phone hoods that fix onto the wall and offer temporary shelter from ambient noise. Ideal for areas like walkways or large reception halls where there is a lot of noise or where you want to discourage lengthy calls. Phone hoods provide users with a functional space offering a shelf unit and pen holder to assist with taking notes or memos.
What is an Office Pod?
An Office Pod is a versatile room-in-room solution to give employees a variety of flexible spaces to cater to their needs. Office pods are intended for long periods of use and range from one-person work pods to 12-seater boardrooms.
Single-user office pods are often called work pods or focus booths. It’s a small space where you can get comfortable away from the distractions of the office, and work in peace. They have room for a desk and work chair. Work pods usually have built-in power and connectivity to cater for more extended work periods.
Meeting pods accommodate two or more people. They often have integrated whiteboards, multimedia screens, video conferencing technologies, adjustable lighting and a few frowning executives who are desperately trying to focus on words like “grass-roots initiative,” “vis-à-vis,” and “take it offline.”
Lounge pods are the fun pods in the pod family. While other pods pod along in a very business-like manner, lounge pods bring small groups of people together in a more informal setting. Sound suppression, good ventilation systems, and a fine designer-touch make lounge pods an impressive and useful addition to any office.
4 Reasons you need Office Pods
1. Quiet and Privacy
Pods do three things very well: They keep noise out. They keep noise in. And they keep private conversations private. Here are the scenarios:
Offices have plenty of ambient noise even if people are trying to be quiet. Right now, I am happily slamming away at my keyboard as this sentence takes shape. My colleagues comment on it often, but type I must! Office pods provide them with a quiet place away from the distracting noise to get some work done.
Lively team brainstorming sessions can’t take place in the open plan. It disrupts every other employee going about their daily tasks. A meeting pod gives your team a break-away space to shout about the colour options of your next line of whiteboards.
Office Pods are great to keep conversations private. Contractual and legal discussions like performance reviews, salary negotiations and disciplinary issues need a safe place. The same goes for employee health and well-being. Overload, stress, and sad life-events happen. Most people don’t want their colleagues to listen in on those conversations.
2. Quick and Cheap to Relocate
Pods allow businesses to construct an entire conference room inside their office without constructing anything at all. Office pods are free-standing pieces. You can move them around your office. Some pods, like the Hush Lounge Pod, can be picked up with a fork-lift or pallet truck to be wheeled to a new spot. When your lease is up you can take your pods apart and move them to your fancy new office. There you can re-assemble them wherever you need.
3. No Construction, Just Assembly
A dry-wall room to your office floor means drawing up plans, safety protocols and getting permission from the landlord. Then you have to deal with disruptions during construction, paint fumes, and a mess to clean up. After all that, your meeting room now has to stay where it is regardless of your changing needs. And if you move offices, you lose the asset.
Pods have none of the hassles. They can be assembled where you need them in hours instead of days. Some options don’t even require tools for assembly.
4. No Dilapidation Costs
Pods do not require any alteration to the building itself. That means, when your lease is up, there are no costs involved in restoring the space to its original state. Your simply take your pods apart and move them out with the furniture.
Office Pod vs Office Phone Booth
Office Phone Booths are not Office Pods. Phone booths are temporary spaces to pop into for just a wee bit when you need a quiet spot to talk. Office pods refer to any pod that is bigger than a phone booth. An office pod is any free-standing, room-in-room workspace. They range from one-person focus pods to an entire boardroom.
What is a Modular Office Pod?
A modular office pod is a pod constructed from uniform, prefabricated units, or modules. Well-designed modular pods can be taken apart and moved to another location. They can also be extended to make bigger rooms. They are an excellent choice if you have a growing business or changing needs. The key here is versatility.
Let’s look at two examples.
Cell Pod Meeting pods have a structural framework with a demountable panel system. The frame and the panels make up the modules of this modular design. Because all the modules are the same, you can easily turn a single-user focus pod into a 10-seater boardroom, simply by adding modules.
StudioBricks Meeting Pods is the ultimate in soundproofing and versatility. The StudioBricks modular system uses no screws or glue. Interlocking bricks are used to build their pods. You can extend your one-person telephone booth of 1.2mx1.2m in 30cm increments until you have a 6x9m conference room.
It can be reconfigured, extended, and repurposed to meet your changing requirements.
Modular in terms of office pods can get confusing because, technically, an entire pod is also a module. (In the sense that an entire prefabricated room-inside-a-room is a self-contained module of an entire room. And inside that module that is a room is a table with a spinning top on the tabletop. And Leonardo DiCaprio is sitting on a seat waiting patiently for the top to topple over.)
Things to consider when choosing a phone booth and office pod?
If you are shopping around for your perfect booth, these are the six things you should look for:
Look for: an acoustic rating above 32dB
The main reason you would buy booths and pods is to bring a few quiet, private square meters of happiness into your office.
If you are looking for the best sound insulation in the market, StudioBricks is the leader. Their two-way sound absorption system is rated at an average of 45dB. In practical terms that means complete sound isolation. It can be pushed even higher with a few customizations. If your business is also recording audio content or doing webinars, it’s a great multi-purpose solution.
But not everyone needs a portable sound studio in the office. When choosing a pod with good acoustic properties, look for something with an acoustic rating above 32dB. It will ensure that conversations remain private.
After all, it would be pretty useless if everyone heard you telling your wife you are working late… just before you tell Sally in HR you are feeling ill… as you tuck a couple of golf-pegs into your rear pocket. You sly genius!
Look for: integrated air-conditioning or similar
A phonebooth is a small space. Laptops, lighting and a human body generate quite a lot of heat. Bring it all together and you will soon have a very uncomfortable situation. without proper air treatment.
The same is true for meeting pods. A fan that blows in air from outside is just not enough to deal with body-heat from four people. There are plenty of places that sell small rooms dedicated to sweating. Although saunas can be fun in the office, at furnify we try to keep things professional between colleagues.
When you choose a booth or pod, ventilation is essential. There are many ways to deal with hot air. Integrated air-conditioning with automated climate control is the best option if you don’t want to think about it too hard. Cell Pods handle airflow really well keeping the temperature even without draughts.
Other effective solutions hook your pod up to your office aircon. The Silent Room S Phone Booth blows cool air in at the bottom while it sucks hot air out at the top. The Air3 Work Pod has a choice between louvred ceilings and fixed ceiling.
Look for: Adjustable LED lighting and PIR Sensors
Bright lights aren’t suited to every occasion. During multi-media presentations, dimmable lighting helps reduce glare on your screens and gives everyone a clear picture.
People don’t remember to switch off the lights. Choosing a pod with PIR sensors will do that for you. In many cases, ventilation systems are also connected to the same sensor. It saves a lot of power when no-one is around.
4. Useful Features
Look for: Multi-media tools and connectivity that suits your needs
What do you need in your meeting spaces? Do you have teams in remote locations who check-in via video conference? Do you need a writing space to capture ideas? When you choose an office pod, choose a selection of built-in features that let you make the most of the space.
Pods come standard with power sockets, but where you put them can usually be specified. USB charging ports, integrated whiteboards, writable magnetic glass, monitor brackets, projectors, HDMI and USB connectivity, LAN connectors, and video conferencing tools like cameras, microphones and speakers are all aspects that should influence your choice. Some pods even come with their own booking systems so that you can secure your meeting times.
Look for: Customization that suits your brand
Out-of-the-box solutions work just fine for most businesses. However, many office pods let you express your brand in vibrant ways. Interchangeable acoustic panels with a choice of upholstery can turn a classic corporate grey into a vibrant brand statement. Add branding to doors and windows and select a RAL colour for your pod that matches your corporate colours.
It’s a great way to boost staff sentiment. If you have clients over to the office, or if you want to use your pods in public spaces like at tradeshows, it is essential to keep your brand recognizable.
Because booths and pods are moveable, they are a great multi-purpose solution. Consider how easy it needs to be to move your pod. If you need it temporarily in different places, modular pods are an excellent choice. You can use them during recruitment interviews and then move them to another office or factory for performance reviews.
Look for: Adherence to fire-safety and building standards
At some point, you might think, “but couldn’t I just get Uncle George to build me one?” He might have some time on his hands and the tools to do it, but is he using materials that comply with UK building standards?
A glass wall can’t just be regular glass. It has to be toughened safety-glass. And a foam-filled, upholstered panel should definitely be fire-retardant.
Imagine the carnage. You unplug your laptop and a spark from the power-plug lights up the upholstery. The fire spreads quickly. Toxic smoke billows. You try to get away and accidentally run into a clear glass door that was open a moment ago. It shatters to deadly, sharp shards. Why, Uncle George? WHY?
There is a movie in there somewhere. The point is, choose life. Choose an office pod that meets safety standards, and let Uncle George go fishing.