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Stuck With an Open Office? Make 1 Design Tweak, And Employees Will Love You Forever

An old idea turned new again.

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BY Betsy Mikel - 03 Dec 2018

open office design tweak

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Few people are fans of working in open offices. Every conversation and soup slurp reverberates throughout the entire office. The no-walls layout is terrible for productivity and incredibly distracting.

But open offices aren't going anywhere. By most accounts, about 70 percent of workspaces now have open concept layouts. What's an employer to do?

Answer: Install phone booths, as many as you can squeeze in to your space. Get rid of a bunch of desks if you have to, and put these in their stead. Because just a little privacy is the best workplace perk of all.

They might be an eyesore in your sleek, minimalist open floor plan. But your employees will love them. No longer will people have to take important calls in the hallway or parking lot. The benefits of plopping a giant box in the middle of your office include happier employees, fewer distractions, and increased productivity.

Creating pockets of privacy in open offices

These privacy pods are becoming the hottest seat in the open office, as Sarah E. Needleman writes for the Wall Street Journal. Coworking spaces, small companies, and large tech firms have jumped on board. Phone booths are a cost-effective way to introduce privacy in open offices.

With just enough space inside for one person and a door you can close, you no longer need to worry about the whole office overhearing the call with your doctor about your test results. Basic models only have room to stand, while pricier options offer seats, shelves, power outlets, soundproofing, whiteboards, and even exhaust fans. Some are soundproof, some are not.

It's a hot business selling these booths, with companies like Room (starting at $3,495), Cubicall (starting at $5,995), TalkBox ($3,500), and Zenbooth (starting at $4,495) just a few of many selling them. Sam Johnson, the co-founder of Zenbooth, told New York Times his company is quadrupling production compared to last year.

When The Wing, a coworking space in New York that exclusively accepts women members, opened its first location, it only had one phone booth. The Wing now has several locations, each which has several phone booths for members to take calls.

For her WSJ article, Needleman discovered a few surprising ways people use these booths throughout the day, including to:

  • Take confidential calls or conduct interviews

  • Hide out while dealing with a breakup

  • Use as a quiet place to write emails

  • Eat their lunches

Nice spot if you can get it

The only downside? Phone booths are just too popular, which means they're always taken.

Everyone Needleman spoke to expressed how rare it was to find an open booth. Others interviewed for the article unabashedly admitted to camping out inside for extended periods to get work done. One person reported entering a booth only to discover the previous occupant had eaten a particularly smelly lunch inside. She hightailed it out of there.


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