As we mentioned in our post Exploring the Backlash to Open Office Design, some of the biggest downsides to open offices are the lack of privacy and the excessive noise — both natural byproducts when you have dozens of employees working side by side in the same room.
Many offices are choosing to fix these issues without losing the upsides of their open office plans (more light, more egalitarianism, and better space efficiency) by inserting more quiet spaces throughout the office. In these spaces, employees can focus without interruptions, or they can have private conversations, video conferences, or sensitive meetings.
One convenient solution for adding these private spaces without hiring a contractor or investing in an extensive DIY project is to purchase pre-manufactured phone booths or soundproof “privacy pods.” These soundproof booths can provide privacy and quiet even in the middle of a bustling open office plan.
As the popularity of coworking spaces grows alongside an awareness of the distractions caused by excessive noise in the workplace, an increasing number of companies have popped up to offer their own variations on these private workplace booths.
Here’s more about what options to look for as you search for the perfect model for your workplace.
One of the primary reasons you’re probably interested in making the investment in phone booths is to cut down on the noise in the office and offer more privacy. So if your booths aren’t actually soundproof, the investment won’t have been worth much. It’s difficult to know for sure how much a booth actually dampens sound without trying the model for yourself, but you can at least ask manufacturers how they test for soundproofing and what level of noise will be blocked.
Portability / Flexibility
Many office phone booths on the market today do claim to be portable so that you can move them throughout the space as your needs and preferences change.
However, not all booths are equally easy to move. Some, for example, need to be disassembled if you want to move them. Others can technically be moved but are super heavy, so repositioning them without professional help is unrealistic. Make sure you research the specific process involved for moving each pod, and consider whether it will move easily on the surface of your office floor.
Another thing to watch out for: Can the booth adjust to uneven floors if your office has them?
Size and Space Requirements
Most of the companies that manufacture office phone booths offer options ideal for a single worker, as well as pods that can accommodate small groups of two or three people, and a few more spacious options designed for a maximum of six occupants at a time. These larger options are great for when your employees need to hold private meetings or brainstorming sessions without using a larger conference room.
Thinking along those lines, you may also want to pay attention to the door style of the phone booth. For larger booths, is it easy to open and close the door when there are already other occupants inside? Plus, some safety regulations necessitate that doors don’t create too much of an obstacle to ingress or egress pathways when they’re open. A door that swings open can also limit where you put the booth within the office. For that reason, booths with doors that fold or slide can require a smaller footprint. However, other brands might argue that certain types of lightweight doors can affect the booth’s soundproofing quality.
Light and Energy Use
Some booths come equipped with skylights on top to help employees take advantage of natural light. Most also have some clear walls or a full-length clear door to facilitate natural light.
Phone booths with clear walls on all sides can encourage the flow of light, both into the booth and through it, so that the sense of open space throughout the office isn’t interrupted. They can also make it clear when a booth is occupied to eliminate any confusion.
The downside of these see-through walls is that employees get a little bit less of the visual privacy that they might want. After all, if everyone can see an employee’s expressions and body language, they can intuit a lot about what’s happening. Some booths compromise by using beveled windows that allow light but obscure what’s happening inside the booth.
Finally, if additional lights are required for your booth, consider energy-saving dimmability.
Design / Aesthetics
Of course, you can get a good idea of whether various booths fit your office aesthetic or appeal to you personally by simply looking at photos online.
But some booths will also let buyers choose custom colors for the interior and exterior, and even change the interior panels or carpet if they choose. Several models even come standard with dry erase walls to make brainstorming sessions and meeting notes easier.
Many office phone booths come equipped with a place to sit and a small desk or work surface large enough for a laptop computer.
Consider how comfortable the included furniture is with each booth you consider, and whether or not that furniture will suit the needs of all your employees. Some companies even allow buyers to select booth furniture from a variety of seating options and configurations. Finally, make sure to consider the ease of employees getting in and out of the booth, which isn’t always obvious from photos.
Soundproof booths will all require some sort of ventilation to control temperature and get rid of any unpleasant scents left over from previous occupants. Your employees may appreciate the ability to adjust the air flow according to their own preferences.
Some booths turn on the ventilation automatically when an employee enters and then turn it off when they leave, which can help save energy over time.
It will be difficult for your employees to do any kind of long-term work in these private booths if they can’t easily access a reliable and fast internet connection along with charging options for their electronics when they’re inside. Check to make sure that any booth you buy is equipped with connectivity options such as standard outlets and USB ports.
Assembly / Installation
Before you buy, make sure you understand how complicated it will be to put your booth together.
Although this isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker in your choice of phone booth, you need to be prepared for the disruption and potential cost associated with getting the booths fully up and running.Buying phone booths for the office? Make sure you’re prepared for the disruption and cost of their installation. Click To Tweet
For example, some companies include full booth installation with the costs, and others require assembly on site. Here are some considerations you should ask about: the number of people required to put the booth together, what tools will be necessary, how long the process will take, and even how loud the assembly will be.
Trial Period / Return Policy
Hopefully, if you do your research thoroughly, you’ll love the office phone booths that you choose. However, sometimes it’s difficult to foresee pitfalls and other obstacles before a booth is actually in your office.
Before you buy, check to see what each company’s return policies are in case the booths you choose don’t work out in your workplace. During the trial period, be sure to test the booths’ soundproofing ability, WiFi access (try videoconferencing or something else with high bandwidth demands), and how easy it is to move the pod’s location within the office.
The phone booths can range in price from a few thousand dollars to upwards of $10,000, but in most cases, they’re much more affordable (and flexible) than hiring a contractor or trying to build the spaces yourself. Like anything else, you’ll get what you pay for. If employees can’t trust that their conversations will be private or that they won’t be interrupted in these spaces, the booths won’t make much of an improvement.
Additionally, if the phone booths are always full or are subject to employees “camping out” in them for extended periods of time, you may have to make some adjustments in your booths and your office policies.
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