Why pods are a mainstay of the modern office

With the open-plan office now ubiquitous, a growing variety of workplace pods are being rolled in to bring a greater level of privacy.

September 25, 2019

In today’s open-plan offices, finding a quiet spot to meet a deadline or make a sensitive phone call is getting a little easier as more workplaces install pods.

These pods are essentially small cabins or semi-private booths where employees can hold meetings in small groups or find some space to work away from the office hubbub for an hour or so.

“The main thing is that workplace pods offer audio privacy,” says Raymond Chu, Senior Pitch Designer at Tétris. “Open-plan structures encourage collaboration and movement, but they can often lead to elevated noise levels, making it hard to concentrate.”

As such, many open-plan offices now boast at least a few pods dotted around the floor, whether they’re designed as telephone boxes painted in a company’s brand colours or even as cable cars or treehouses – whatever fits in with a company’s brand image and office environment.

Convenience in a pod

Part of the attraction of workplace pods is their simplicity. Companies can order a ready-made structure fitted with furnishings, power outlets and lighting, and have it installed anywhere in the office.

“Workplace pods are becoming a mainstream fixture in corporate environments because of the convenience and flexibility of installation which means companies can create private spaces without the costs of designing, building and fitting out a whole new room,” says Chu.

Equally, pods can also work as space dividers as more companies experiment with introducing flexible workspace within their existing office set-up.

For example, a few pods could be used to section off breakout zones, which have been shown to improve productivity and job satisfaction by providing employees with different locations to work or relax in line with their workplaces habits and preferences.

Plus, if an occupier wants to change their office layout to meet changing workplace needs, pods, like many other types of office furniture, can be moved around in the redesign – or be taken along when companies change buildings.

“What we might see in the future is offices where each section or workspace is like a Lego brick that can be moved around or joined with other modules to change the layout of the office, or the function of an area,” Chu says.

And it’s not just the space inside that can add value to the office; workplace pods can also be lined with exterior insulation to absorb noise from the office at large, lowering overall acoustic levels across the space and helping tackle the sound and privacy concerns with open workspaces.

Not for all day use

With many employees all jostling for personal space within open-open offices, pods can be in high demand.

Though employees may be tempted to use workplace pods as their own private office, many one-person pods are designed to be used for under an hour. Such pods lack built-in ventilation for fresh air, while ventilated pods might support a couple hours’ use.

“Manufacturers try to design workplace pods so that people aren’t tempted to stay there all day,” notes Chu. “They need to be comfortable enough so people can complete the tasks they need to do as efficiently as possible, without being so comfortable they encourage people to linger.”

Interior features that discourage long usage include perches for leaning instead of sitting, and narrow surfaces to prop laptops or tablets intended for video conferencing rather than computer work.

Because of their small size – about one meter square and two meters high – one-person pods usually have glass walls, which not only offer occupants a view of the office, helping reduce claustrophobia, but also makes them visible to other employees.

“This would ideally encourage employees to observe common courtesy and avoid long periods of work in the pods,” says Chu. Sensors are another increasingly common feature helping companies to monitor how and when pods are being used.

“Companies want to get the most of out of their space and their employees,” concludes Chu. “Pods definitely have a role to play in helping today’s workspaces strike the right balance between community and privacy.”