Office design used to be cramped and claustrophobic — the bulk of the workforce dividing the space in the middle of each room by cubicles.
But eventually, times changed, and the open-plan office became the new workplace trend. Employees still had their workstations but without the barriers. The typical workspace consisted of long rows of employees and laptops, but the noise and distractions became overwhelming, and a new layout was needed.
Both workspace arrangements — the cubicle farm and the open plan — have their flaws, which is why office designs have shifted. Today, a new trend is emerging in the form of nooks, booths, pods, and even specialised office spaces. These new features offer rest, privacy, focused work, and other essential functions for a productive workday.
But why the change?
The cubicle farm
The cubicle-based office sprang out of the affordability of modular office walls during the 1980s. The high office furniture aimed to keep individual employees focused on their work and maximise profitability for the company, and working conditions suffered as a consequence. Employees took a hit on their mental health, which also affected their productivity.
This decline in the wellbeing of office workers resulted in our distrust of the cubicle design scheme. Similarly, collaboration and co-working were not possible in this environment. It didn’t even exist at the time, as employees could barely look over the walls surrounding them. If you had to work with your colleagues, you still had to go to a separate meeting room or conference room just to talk.
The open plan
Because of the disdain for the cubicle farm, companies soon shifted to the open plan alongside the advent of the Internet and innovative technology. Companies now wanted their employees to feel free and to collaborate. Their focus changed from profitability at the expense of workers to a more humanitarian approach to labour without compromising productivity.
However, with large open spaces with little to no sound-absorbing materials — like modular walls — you got a noisy and distracting workplace. To drown out the noise, employees tended to wear earphones or headphones just to block everything out. At this point, collaboration was easy to do without calling a whole office meeting, but easy access to colleagues became an excuse notto do work. Productivity again took a hit.
How nooks, booths, pods and privacy came in style
The noise of the open-plan scheme had to be addressed, yet going back to the cubicle-filled office was not the answer either. Then came the idea that the future office is one where workers have open spaces to collaborate and private areas to do more focused tasks. This new philosophy to office design came in the form of nooks, booths, pods and unique rooms.
These enclosed spaces can accommodate a single person or more, depending on their function. Some are quiet spaces with sound insulation where you can read, work, or take phone calls in peace. Others are private areas with armchairs or sleeping pods to have a power nap and keep your energy up in the middle of a workday. There are also tiny spaces for two or more employees, which work well for a focused but small office meeting.
Different strokes for different folks
Meeting pods for focused collaboration
In short, the enclosed spaces provide privacy, soundproofing, and focus, whereas the open-plan scheme might get in the way of work. For example, in terms of collaboration, sometimes small teams are required instead of the whole office, but it will be hard to work as a small group in an office room swarming with people.
A meeting room may be too large for a handful of individuals: this is where booths come in. Partitioned spaces somewhere in the office or an actual pod suitable for a few people, acoustic meeting pods are private enough for your team to brainstorm minus the distractions.
Soundproof booths for uninterrupted phone calls
It may sound out of place in today’s world, but an office phone booth comes in handy. If your job description means taking and making calls all day long, an open plan office will be the bane of your work life. An acoustic phone booth will allow you the silence you need to speak and hear clearly. In addition, you won’t have co-workers barging in on you when you’re on a call. You’ll be alone in a phone pod to do your work in peace and quiet.
Private office pods for ultra-focused work
Speaking of work that you have to do, some people work best in silence and isolation, and an open plan scheme will be too distracting and open for focused work. However, a soundproof pod will block outside noise from disturbing you. You get to work alone, distraction-free. These soundproof work pods will help you with your phone calls too, so it’s a “two birds with one stone” situation.
Energypods for power naps
According to the Guardian, big corporations worldwide are becoming more aware of sleep loss problems within their workforces. For this reason, sleep is slowly being introduced into the workplace. Google has nap pods in its offices where workers can fall asleep to relaxing music. Nike has a meditation or nap room. And, although Proctor & Gamble haven’t installed acoustic work pods for sleep, they have regulated lighting systems that help induce melatonin in their workers. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep.
With this in mind, other smaller or equal-sized offices can follow suit. Sleep doesn’t mean slacking off anymore. More companies are catching on to the fact that well-rested employees mean better productivity, which is what they ultimately need. Soundproof office pods or nap rooms could be the solution to thousands of sleep-deprived employees.
A shift in office design means a shift in work mindset
All these enclosed spaces being added to workplaces signals a change in company culture. Work environments are improving as employees are valued as people and not just assets. The message being sent is that you matter. So you can have your privacy for a phone call or a nap. If you and your colleagues need it to help you work, it’s something worth making a booth for.