July 12, 2019
The open-office plan, once thought to be an ideal layout for workplace equalization, collaboration and teamwork, are considered, these days, to be “. . . way too bright, way too contrast-y, and they’re way to loud,” Orfield Laboratories’ Steven Orfield recently told CityLab. The growing backlash against the open office’s negative attributes of excess noise and lack of privacy has led to some solutions. One of those solutions focuses on pods. According to a CityLab article written by Sarah Holder, pods are becoming more attractive because they cater to workers’ need for privacy. That privacy, noted Steelcase’s Brian McCourt, comes in four forms: Acoustical, visual, territorial and informational, and pods can help on all fronts.
Office pods can be small or large, generally have glass windows, and can be more private than sitting in an open office. CityLab dubs pods as the office cubicle of the future, pointing out that employees use the relative privacy of these enclosures to make personal phone calls, check on their financial statuses and even talk to journalists. They’re also very useful substitutes for taking up entire conference rooms for business phone calls. They allow workers to get away from the noise and non-privacy of an open-plan office, and get things done.
But pods “offer the illusion of privacy without delivering much of it at all,” CityLab indicated, pointing out that most are entirely see-through, and few are completely sound-proof. But workers aren’t too disturbed by these factors; one indicated that a pod is ideal to use for a phone call, as opposed to bothering other people by making that call in a common area. Furthermore, “. . . there’s an understanding that people in pods shouldn’t be interrupted, so I know I’ll be left alone in there,” said technical writer Siobahn Gibson.
CityLab does point out, however, that that pods can still use tweaking. The article noted that it can be difficult to completely soundproof or cut back on visuals in a pod. Furthermore, from an indoor climate control point of view, they can turn into sweat boxes, as they don’t have much in the way of ventilation.
Experts interviewed for the article indicated that introducing options, such as pods, are meant to give workers more choice. But, what might be far better, author Susan Cain told CityLab, is to develop an office in which both social and private spaces are readily available.
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