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Zenbooth Blog

Companies have recently placed a heavy importance on office morale and space utilization. Savvy business owners are finding innovative ways to achieve positive outcomes in these areas while maximizing savings. 

One trendy way to refresh the workplace for you and your employees is to opt for an agile office layout. Companies like Zenbooth eliminate the downsides of open-style offices with modern phone booth furniture.

Why Are Open Offices So Popular?

Proponents of open offices argue that they can be much more cost effective than cubicles and private offices. It's no wonder that 70% of offices now have no partitions — or if they do have them, they're at very low height. 

It's true that open offices can make better use of space. The "open area" allows workers to share resources, so you can purchase fewer printers and the like. The more meaningful benefits of the open office, however, revolve around collaboration. That's why it's ironic that many of the challenges presented by open offices relate to employees' peak performance.

Is Communication Better Between Co-Workers?

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Walk into any bustling office in America and you'll find that most workers share the same grievance: their disruptive working environment. 

While some people find that open office plans suit their personality type, others would rather immerse themselves in a world of seclusion. Workers may also have expectations that shift in accordance with their role. For example, while some execute tasks that require hours of peace and isolation, others need to collaborate before heading into a meeting.

At first glance, it's easy to assume that there's no way to please everyone. However architects around the world have recently begun carving out a new concept called office neighborhoods.

In short, office neighborhoods feature an amalgamation of working environments that adapt in accordance with the workplace's needs. 

If you think the idea of an office neighborhood design sounds crazy or unattainable, you're not alone. Many people felt the same was about agile offices. But when you start learning more about how they function and the ways big brands use them, you'll likely change your mind.

How office neighborhoods differ from other layouts

The two most common types of office layouts act as polar opposites. On the one hand, you have traditional office styles with a peaceful setting where each person benefits from their own room. Such offices are becoming more rare nowadays, but they feature something very important - an available meeting space for essential group decisions or projects. 

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Did you know that people who work in open offices are 62 percent more likely to take sick days? Although there's a chance those sick days come as a result of spreading germs, you could also argue that stress is a factor. 

The fact that 25-30 percent of open office employees express dissatisfaction with workplace noise levels is a revealing statistic in and of itself. Trying to meet targets in a hectic environment can feel chaotic, and where there is chaos, stress often follows.

Open offices do come with plenty of benefits, though. Employees feel less isolated when they're able to interact with one another away from the confines of office walls. Additionally, it's easier to gain support from each other. Employees can bounce ideas without heading to a meeting, and asking someone to pitch in with a task generates immediate responses.

As open offices convey benefits, it's down to you as an employer to find a solution that delivers the best of both worlds. One way to achieve this is through the use of office meeting pods. 

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Open office plans have become common workplace environments. While the idea was originally meant to increase communication and improve collaboration, the end result was a decrease in focus and productivity.

According to an article written by Jeff Pochepan in The Chicago Tribune, “The open office plan was supposed to be less expensive and conducive to building a lighter, happier, more open and collaborative company culture. But it’s backfiring.”

Open office plans often consist of a large open space with desks or cubicles strategically placed throughout. While the cubicles allow for a modicum of privacy, they don’t suppress outside noise because they aren’t truly enclosed spaces.

This lack of enclosure makes it easy for phone and in-person conversations to be easily heard by others, which causes distractions for those who need peace and quiet to work. It also compromises confidentiality in situations where sensitive information needs to be provided by clients or customers.

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Open plan offices have been popular since the 1950s, but various studies conducted over the years have revealed significant flaws in the concept. While they were initially created to cut down on business costs and promote the sharing of ideas, the open desk placement or cubicle-less environment has caused issues with productivity and wellbeing.

Open office plans save money by saving space that would otherwise be used to build physical offices, but placing employees in a large area with little to no privacy causes unwanted distractions. Add to that the potential confidentiality breaches brought on by such placement, plus the absence of quiet meeting spaces, and the end result is a decrease in productivity and increase in unhappy employees.

One way to counteract this problem is to implement the office neighborhood design. This popular idea is taking hold in a variety of settings, and even some of the largest, well-known companies are beginning to embrace it. 

Now, tech giants like Uber are navigating away from the traditional open office plan in favor for one that is more conducive to work productivity and employee collaboration. According to an article titled Goodbye Open Office, Hello Office Neighborhoods, “Instead of vast floors of workers buzzing next to each other, Uber’s avant-garde plans involve organizing its new offices into ‘neighborhoods,’ creating communities of 30 to 60 employees.”

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When you add a meeting pod to your office, you should aim for high quality over what looks like a bargain. Overall, the goal is to create a peaceful meeting space that's free from noise pollution and distractions. In addition to preventing office noise from filtering in, your meeting pod should also maintain absolute privacy.

Holding sensitive conversations or making important phone calls that escape prying ears makes your investment worthwhile. So does ease of use, functionality and durability. 

Unfortunately, the meeting pod market is brimming with cheap imitations. Although they may save some money initially, you run the risk of having to purchase a better model when you realize it doesn't meet your needs. 

If you're not convinced that a high-end model is more practical, now's the time to read further.

Cheap meeting pods don't offer reliable soundproofing 

Around 70 percent of American offices now use open plan layouts. The original aim of the open workspace was to eliminate the isolation that is intrinsic to cubical working. Open offices do allow for greater collaboration between workers, and in addition, they remove the hierarchies that come with traditional offices.

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Managers around the world have learned in recent years that offices lacking privacy are counter-productive. Staff need places to get away from the chaos of the open office to complete projects, hold meetings, or to make confidential phone calls.

Thankfully, Zenbooth offers the highest quality office pods made in the USA.

Zenbooth Comfort Booths and Executive Booths, as featured in the New York Times, have helped to drive the movement away from pure open offices, which lack barriers or privacy for staff. They instead form part of the “agile office,” which recognizes that while offices do benefit from more openness, staff benefit from having areas to do work or communicate in private.

office phone pods

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Do you ever wonder how you can increase work productivity and long-term success without the hassle that often comes from redesigning your whole office?

At Zenbooth, we understand this unique challenge and have come up with modern phone booth solution that aims to reinvent the way companies address workplace efficiency.

Modern Phone Booths Offer A Balance of Discretion and Usability

Thanks to our extensive lineup of office phone booths, your business can attain the perfect mixture of seclusion and usability when your workers feel they need a quiet place to be productive.

Our products are proven to significantly reduce background noise and distractions. They're a great fit for whenever a team member needs to take an important phone call or have a private business discussion.

Modern phone booths by Zenbooth

We use special soundproofing denim material in the insulation of our phone booths, which blocks out excessive ambient noise to create a peaceful workspace. 

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Office designs and concepts constantly evolve as managers of private sector, non-profit, and government facilities alike search out the best way to inspire the most productivity out of their workers. 

Yesterday’s ideal set up, the “open office” design, was meant to break down every wall and barrier to facilitate communication. Advocates of the concept believed that it would lead to enhanced innovation and productivity.

They, however, got it very wrong. Their were far more cons than pros to this new layout. Extroverted younger people tended to favor it (no word on if it made them more productive). But studies showed that most people struggled with open offices overall. 

affordable office phone booths

Many who worked in the open office merely faced too much distraction. Studies indicate that once lost, concentration on work could take up to 20 minutes to be restored. 

Some saw the effects of constant noise and no escape from others harmful to people's health.

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As recently as last year, 80 percent of American offices had embraced the failed open office concept as a way to increase productivity, enable more frequent and better communication, and create an improved office environment.

Unfortunately for offices who invested in these changes, studies show that entirely open offices create a number of downsides that often lead to unhappy staff and lowered productivity.

Open plan office research also showed that almost two-thirds of high-performance employees claim that they need more quiet at work to focus. 

A New Work Environment & The Rising Need for Office Phone Pods

The problems created affect not only productivity but also employee health. Those working in open offices take over 60 percent more sick days than their counterparts in other office configurations. Faced with such issues, many American offices looked for other ideas around which to design their workspaces.

cheap office pods, affordable office pods

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For today’s office, meetings that spark more productive collaboration aren’t only a luxury--they’re a necessity. With the advent of agile office design and innovations in agile office furniture, companies have discovered that highly compartmentalized workplaces don’t produce as well as those that can combine all their workers’ talents.

Some of the first efforts at producing a collaborative atmosphere, though well-intentioned, caused some workers’ usability to fall through the cracks. Open office floor plans may have improved the collaborative aspect from the typical 1980s-era offices full of separated cubicles, but they do have their drawbacks.

office meeting booths

How Office Meeting Booths Enhance An Open Floor Plan

If you must deal with an open office floor plan, you already know how chaotic it can be. With nowhere to get your team together by yourselves away from the consistent noise, you either huddle together, keeping your voices low so as not to disturb your office mates, or you conduct the meeting in full voice, contributing to the noise factor.

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It's true; no one really wants to spend a whole day at work but that could be for a different reason than you think. If you walk through the doors of the workplace and suddenly your energy level drops from 10 to 2, your workplace environment needs an overhaul.

What exactly is it that drains your energy? We humans are social creatures who like to talk, laugh, and tell stories. However, if you have a cliquey group in the office or someone who is pessimistic and eternally negative, you expend lots energy combating them. 

office work booths

Distractions Reduce Productivity

It's commonly known that being distracted keeps people from thinking clearly and has a negative impact on their ability to be productive. One of the biggest culprits of distraction is the popular open office workspace, or “bullpen.” It was originally thought that an open office would promote collaborative thinking and creativity, both of which are huge assets to a company.

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Every company or startup team should have the goal in mind of creating an office space that maximizes their employees' productivity and workflow. 

This is where an agile workspace excels. But striking the right balance between creative freedom and focused work can be challenging. The good news is, there are several small things you can do to help smooth the conversion process and seamlessly shift your employees from a traditional office setting to something way more productive. 

Six Tips for Elite Agile Office Design 

  • Give your Employees Options - Make sure that your agile workspace has several different areas that are designed for different types of work. Although the entire setting should be more open, give your employees options when it comes to group or individual projects. Allocating two or three spots specifically for concentrated work is key. 
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    The last two decades featured the rise of the open office concept. Advocates of the open office coming from the tech sector claimed that the idea was to throw open all of the barriers to communication and collaboration. 

    While the original philosophy came from 1950s West Germany, the idea, once called the “bullpen” model had been common in American newspapers, police departments, and some other areas for some time.

    The open office ideal, however, ran into problems. Simply tearing down walls did not improve collaboration as much as it increased annoyance and dropped productivity.

    Recently, office designers have looked to take the goals and some of the ideas of the open office and improve them with a concept called the “agile workspace.” A good agile office design respects diversity among staff in terms of working practices. It incorporates a number of ideas to support staff and boost productivity.

    agile workspace design

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    In many corners of the business world, “agile” has become more a buzzword than a principle to live by. But when you strip the fads and jargon out, the concept is one that can help a business do be more efficient, achieve lower costs and higher employee & customer satisfaction.

    According to the Agile Business Consortium, agility means much the same as it does in real life—to adapt quickly to change, to “respond rapidly and flexibly to customer demands,” to adapt to change effectively without a drop in quality, to be a leader in productive change, and to take the lead in competitive advantage.

    A truly agile workspace, then, would be one that facilitates adaptability, collaboration, productivity, and leadership. Here are some ideas that can help you transform your workplace into a more agile one today. 

    agile workspace principles

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    Productivity in the office is a critical element for any business owner or manager. The more productive the employees are, the more successful the business will be overall. 

    However, employees face many challenges in the workplace that inhibit their workflow, thus hindering results. What are some of these challenges? Statistics tell us that only 30% of staff are actually engaged at their job.

    internal office pod 

    This is quite a startling and discouraging number. While it’s likely true that many factors are at the root of this lack of engagement among employees, there is one factor that surely contributes to it, and that is that employees are distracted at their job.

    When you can’t focus on doing your work, then the potential to lose interest is far too high.

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    Sometimes it feels like the office is your home away from home. Just as you don't choose your family, you usually don't have a say as to which coworkers are situated close to you. If one or more of these coworkers are loud and disruptive, not only could it detrimentally affect your productivity, it can create stress and tension between you and your fellow employees. 

    Here are a few approaches you can take to work toward a solution.

    (1) Try to Mitigate from Your End

      See if this loud, disruptive coworker is something that seems to only bother you. Some people are more sensitive to regular noise than others, and there's nothing wrong with that. You could try a pair of earplugs or decent quality noise canceling headphones, and maybe ask your work for a headset extension for your phone. 

      If you are allowed to listen to music while you work, remember to wear earbuds or headphones so your music doesn't disrupt other people. Also, remember to take them out of your ears before speaking so you don't end up inadvertently raising your voice when you talk. After all, fair is fair.

      (2) Request Quiet From Loud Coworkers When You Need It

      If you are about to take an important phone call or meeting at your desk, people are usually good about hushing a little if you politely ask those around you if they would mind keeping it down for a few moments (and explain why). Another option is to make a sign (here's where a sense of humor will help a lot ) which you can put in a visible space to signal that you need some quiet. Try something like, "Do Not Disturb - I'm disturbed enough and on an important call!" 

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      Employees who are overly social may be costing your business more than you realize. But how exactly can you establish a link between lost productivity and excessively socializing employees? 

      According to CareerBuilder, there are a few big productivity killers that can be present in the workplace, based on a survey of more than 3000 employees and 2000 hiring managers.

      Here are some of the most common ones:

      • Internet browsing
      • social media posting
      • texting and cell phone use
      • smoke breaks
      • noisy co-workers
      • gossip
      • co-workers dropping by cubicles and private offices

      excessive talkative coworkers

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      Working for yourself can get lonely, especially if you work from home and have little contact with your co-workers or partners. However, renting an office can be a bit too expensive.

      These are just a couple of reasons co-working spaces have become more popular. But creating the right look in a co-working space can be difficult, especially if you have little room or funding. 

      This article will discuss seven co-working space furniture ideas that help owners & entrepreneurs create the right environment for their needs.

      We'll also discuss ideas that can help co-working space members increase productivity and encourage more communication between their team.

      coworking space furniture

      Office Phone Booth Furniture

      The open office concept may encourage more social interaction, but sometimes people need to work without distractions or noise around them. This is where noise-isolated phone booths provided by Zenbooth, can be useful.

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      The secret to boosting workplace productivity and employee well being isn’t always an incentive program. It’s not always having the trendiest employee gifts in your industry or setting up mindfulness Mondays and Pilates on Fridays.

      A major key is offering a quiet pod where your employees can think, focus, and get work done without distraction. Having quiet pods in the office creates a haven for your workers to retreat to when they need peace and want to drown out office noise. 

      Today, more than ever, with so many businesses using an open plan workspace, giving your employees a place to step away from the distractions and the overwhelming collaborative environment in order to be alone is a simple yet effective way to empower them to do their job. 

      quiet pods

      At the same time, it signals to them that their peace of mind matters to their employer – letting them know the company they work for cares about their health and happiness. 

      Quiet Pods Solve The Office Distraction Dilemma

      Without uninterrupted periods of work, accomplishing challenging tasks is next to impossible. Over half of high-performance employees believe their workplace is too distracting. Noise and peripheral movement have the ability to draw away attention, forcing employees to continually have to work towards regaining focus.

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      For too many years, the benefits of agile office design have been ignored. Instead, workplaces have been built on principles that do not support good employee productivity, happiness, or business success. 

      A floor full of identical, separated cubicles are a waste of space, discourage collaboration and a feeling of team camaraderie. They also contribute to employee burnout and low productivity overall. 

      In response to this negative trend, companies that were looking to shake things up turned to open office floor plans. Rather than cubicles, they had desks in rows where everyone could work and see their team members. In theory, this was an improvement, but in reality, it brought a host of difficulties. 

      agile office design

      Factors like loud spaces, no space for small meetings, no ability to step out and quickly recharge before returning to work, and no way to participate in conference calls or other telecommunication without disturbing the entire office lead to many of the same problems we see with rigidly designed cubicle spaces. Absenteeism, low productivity, and burnout can all plague open floor plan offices.  

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      The open office concept exploded in popularity over the past thirty years. What started as a mainstay of a few industries, notably journalism, grew into a fad embraced by the tech industry. According to the dominant theory, young people loved open office concepts because it fostered creativity and innovation.

      Few took time to study whether or not this held water before adopting the concept themselves, mainly because it meant much lower construction costs.

      phone pods for offices

      Now four out of five offices in the United States have some form of the open office concept. Unfortunately, studies show that in many cases open offices fail to deliver on the promised expansion of creativity and innovation. They even, in many cases, bring higher costs.

      A solution does exist in the form of portable, cost effective, and sturdy indoor phone pods that provide sanctuary for staff. Here are seven great benefits that come from embracing the office pod as an important addition to the open office concept.

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      When the majority of workers in the U.S. say they feel distracted, they're quick to blame technology. In fact, according to the "Udemy in depth: 2018 Workplace Distraction Report", 69% of workers "struggle" to cope with interruptions at work. 

      But could the problem be more nuanced than that and can designated office quiet zones be the solution? It's not that workers are distracted by technology so much as they're using technology as a means to distract themselves from bigger priorities.

      office quiet zone

      Work productivity in the age of the open office space.

      Udemy's survey finds that the main reasons for employee distraction include: "chatty coworkers (80%), office noise (70%)," as well as disruptions through "small talk and office gossip." 

      In other words, productivity is being fractured in open office workspace designs.

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      Trendy does not always translate into top results. One egregious modern example lies in the “bullpen” style open office concepts​ that swept American workspaces two decades ago. Buoyed by the seemingly advanced techniques of technology companies in California and elsewhere, many businesses convinced themselves that open office represented a future thinking and progressive organizational style.

      It did not hurt that open office plans cost less money to construct and maintain.

      Some advocates insist that open office provides the best possible space for collective effort and that young workers prefer it. Others argue that the open office style blocks concentration, reduces productivity, and even harms workers’ mental and physical health.

      Visual Distractions Hurt Concentration . . .

      Nearly three out of every four American offices have low or no partitions separating employee work areas. Almost one-third rate visual distractions as a real problem that interferes with productive work.

      open plan office anxiety

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      If you've ever worked a desk job, you're well aware that after a week of staring at your computer, you can't wait for the excitement of a fun weekend. 

      Though you may love the work you do, are you always comfortable, energized, and feeling creative? Chances are you answered no to at least two of those questions. 

      We're all humans, and as much as we'd like to feel all of those things 100 percent of the time, it would be pretty difficult to do so. Being in the same environment and doing the same work day after day sometimes takes away from our productivity, creativity, and overall happiness. 

      When we see the same desk to our left, and the same coffee pot to our right, things tend to get boring and bland. Without the opportunity to have a new, fresh environment, you could lack inspiration.

      That's where agile office layout principles come in. Let's examine some of the themes of agile offices, the benefits you'll see when you adopt the idea, and even some agile workspace​​​ design ideas. 

      About agile workspaces

      The agile workspace is a simple solution to a noisy, uninspiring, or distracting, workplace. It provides options as far as where in the office you choose to work, and gives you the chance to have that group meeting without distracting your neighbor. 

      agile workspace principles and design

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      The working world has changed and the offices of days gone by simply don't cut it anymore. The newly conceived agile workspace​ has transformed the modern office beyond recognition. And the truth is, it had to happen. Offices have evolved over the last few decades and we simply don't work the same way anymore.

      The typing pools and compact cubicle hell of the 1970s are soon to be fully replaced by agile workspace furniture and design principles. 

      It's now also time for the negatives of the open plan office to bite the dust too.

      Where Did the Open Plan Office Go Wrong?

      Open-plan has actually been with us since the 1950s, but it became the norm in the last two decades. It even got to the vaguely ridiculous point where managers were removing their doors with screwdrivers to show just how approachable they were after reading one too many leadership books.

      Tech giants championed the open plan office and even Google went that route together with 70% of the country. Facebook took the extravagant and slightly farcical step of employing renowned architect Frank Gehry to design the largest open-plan office in the world at that point with room for 3000 engineers.

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      It's not just the nature of work that has changed. In today's global, increasingly digital-first economy, the needs of workers have also shifted. 

      Productivity is no longer about punching a time card or clocking in and out. It's about how powerfully, efficiently and effectively workers can use their 9 to 5 hours. In other words, working smarter, not necessarily harder.

      Part of working smarter means working in an environment that supports the format of the work being done and the stage of the project the work is at. 

      The rise in co-working spaces doesn't only parallel the rise in remote workers and the changing nature of working hours. It also tells us that there is a preference for larger companies to rely on smaller, leaner teams, and groups who can demonstrate a deep expertise, working on a project-to-project basis. 

      Running a tight but steadily moving ship like this, then, requires an office that will be as responsive as the principles these cohorts are built on.

      A productive workspace is not only a flexible one or a balanced one, with ample room for various sizes and functions. It's also an "agile" one: A workplace design that mimics the inquiry, creativity, testing, development, and design stages that are at the core of the work itself. 

      agile workspace, agile office

      So how do you put innovative development principles meant for software to work in a physical space? Simple: by creating agile workspaces.

      The Office Feel of Agile Workspaces

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      Zenbooth is celebrating NeoCon’s 50th anniversary in showcasing the best of commercial design by featuring the affordable and highly functional Executive Booth. The Executive Booth represents Zenbooth's answer to the modern office's most important dilemma: how to create private work spaces that combine quality, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.

      The Executive Booth brings privacy, peace and productivity to the open office floor plan environment at a fraction of the cost of a traditional office build out. The Executive Booth delivers added versatility to any office environment as it is created to slide, shift and fit within the growing and ever changing open office floor plan. Users can hold face to face meetings, take phone calls and conduct remote conferences within the comfortable and private atmosphere of the Executive Booth.

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      For 50 years, NeoCon has provided a stage for the best of the best in commercial office design. Zenbooth proudly joins the distinguished tradition as an exhibitor and will display products, such as the beautifully designed and affordably priced Comfort Booth. The Comfort Booth is an open office floor plan solution and creates space for office workers to concentrate, conduct business phone calls, and escape common distractions. 

      The Comfort Booth provides an easy and inexpensive way for fast growing companies to give employees the privacy and noise resistant spaces that they need.  Its style beautifully fits the modern office aesthetic and is designed with the customer’s peace and productivity in mind.

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      The rise of the open office has been a quest to devise the ideal environment that naturally fosters workplace collaboration and therefore accelerates results. A worthwhile and idealistic notion, but one that has encountered serious impediments to success and is now indicative of the need to approach workplace design in a more conscientious fashion. 

      Zenbooth is trying to support changing attitudes toward work, and that means promoting increased flexibility. This should infer supporting however you need to work in order to perform your best and deliver productive results. 

      Put simply, opening up the workspace and herding your entire team into the same room multiplies the potential for an overload of sensory stimulation. Sight lines lead the eye to every movement, while conversations cease to endow privacy. 

      The tradition of reserving gossip for the water cooler becomes irrelevant as everything is heard by willing (or unwilling) ears. Perhaps as an indication of the need for privacy and focus, colleagues don noise-canceling earphones and disappear into self-created bubbles of seclusion. 

      Silence descends upon the office, punctuated only by keystrokes and furtive glances. It’s difficult to tell whether this is an improvement on the prior state of affairs, or if something else entirely is required to obviate the deathly enforced stillness. 

      Pros and Cons of Open Offices

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