Work has changed, and offices are adapting to be a space for communal, iterative, and reactive activities. Yet it’s a myth that people want to do all their contemplative or focused work at home and come to the office only to collaborate or socialize. That’s not how the workday flows. Often the biggest problem in shared workspaces is the lack of quiet to focus on work. While the office has become a dynamic hub for collaboration, there is no privacy for calls and meetings in an open environment. Teams and individuals still need to find isolated, peaceful spaces for meetings and solo work.
Alternatively, not everyone has ideal conditions for focusing while at home. Therefore the workspace may be quiet and work-focused, so phone calls and video meetings are disruptive. In these environments, employees want rooms where they can take a call and a door they can close when needed.
Office Pods function as a phone booth, a meeting room, a space for working independently, or a lounge area. Pods create a framework for heads-down, focus, and efficient work amid a noisy environment. Pods also provide a dedicated chat room to spare others from the distraction of conversations. As pods have become very desired, many manufacturers have launched a pod line. So how to choose the best pod for your company?
Pods and Booths are often interchangeable. For simplicity, we’ll define pods represented by an enclosure with a door to keep sounds out, and booths are open to the environment, such as a cafeteria booth.
Purpose of your work pod: The most common use for a pod is a place to take calls or participate in webinars & virtual conferences. If these will last longer than a few minutes, the pod should have a way to hold a phone or laptop. A pod with a shelf or desk for a computer that can easily integrate with a monitor, speaker, and microphone makes web conferencing easy. Also, pods insulated for sound can become stuffy after a few minutes. Therefore, a well-ventilated pod is necessary for any use over a few minutes. If the pod is for heads-down work, seating and the desk’s height become essential for long-term comfort. Sitting on a stool for longer than 20 minutes becomes challenging, so consider a bench or having enough space for a task chair. If you do not have room for multiple pods of various sizes, instead of a single-use pod, look for a larger one that is flexible for changing from a telephone booth to casual meetings, a spare office, or other uses.
Accessibility: Most pods have step-up floors, so they are inaccessible by a wheelchair. A few models sit flush with the floor and are wide enough to accommodate wheelchair accessibility. Other options that make the pod more comfortable are height-adjustable desks and seats, fan and lighting controls, and transparent panels to allow exterior lighting into the pod. All pods have transparent doors, but a transparent back panel or ceiling can ease any claustrophobia concerns.
Space: The size of the surrounding area sets the parameters for choosing a pod. If the users of the space have different needs, but the premises can accommodate only one pod, select the larger, more flexible pod. Will the pod need to move in a flexible environment? If so, does it include wheels or accommodate a pallet jack? Can it fit through standard doorways without having to disassemble?
Structure: The material of the pod’s frame and other components can determine how long it will last. If there is wear, can parts be swapped out and replaced? Does the door close easily and seal fully? Are the surfaces cleanable, or can they be removed and replaced? Is there enough room to sit comfortably and do video calls? Is the lighting sufficient? Will the location lighting be enough if the pod relies on ambient lighting? If your building codes require fire containment, how is that added to the pod?
In addition to checking if there is enough space for the pods, we also need to ensure utilities are available. Will power be required in the pod? While most pods have a standard 110v plug, how far away is the outlet from the pod? Your IT department may need to run cable for internet access. If using wireless, be aware that some pods can reduce wireless signals, so check the wireless strength at the location.
Additionally, pods need to be convenient. For example, if employees use the pod for a phone call or to video chat, the pods need to be close to their regular work area. Locate phone booths as close to the workstations as possible so that people can quickly enter the booth when their phone rings.
As well as being functional, most pods are pleasing to the eye, creating some added interest and personality to the workplace. Further enhance the look and feel of pods by adding artwork, branding colors and images, or biophilic design to external panels. Rather than standing alone, build the pods into the walls to provide a permanent and integrated look. A row of large pods aligned with the building’s structure can deliver a quick set of private offices without high construction costs.
An alternative to pods is creating spaces with demountable glass walls. These can range from converting an awkward corner into a phone booth-style room to small temporary offices to Executive touchdown spaces.