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Workers in virtually all industries have experienced the pros and cons of open office layouts. This type of work environment surged in popularity over the last few decades, but businesses are realizing they need a change. 

Here’s a look at why open offices are so prevalent today, why workers struggle with them, and how you can fix issues like lack of confidentiality by using meeting pods. 

The Upside of Open Office Floor Plans 

Open office layouts sit at the nexus of business efficiency, modern design, and budgetary concerns. 

The absence of walls and formal offices means employees can collaborate more easily. Managers can see what employees are doing at all times. 

In industries like technology, where creativity is king, letting employees brainstorm freely leads to innovation and therefore financial success. Interior design got in on the act by capitalizing on this trend, eliminating conventional furnishings. 

Sofas replaced desks, and break spaces merged with workspaces so employees could gab about projects over coffee or pinball. 

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Over the past decade, open office layouts have been regarded by owners as excellent collaborative environments that foster transparency, creativity and innovation. 

They are considered a less stuffy alternative to the almighty cubicle — with fewer walls and doors separating employees, information flows more freely and cooperation abounds. 

At the same time, companies have also embraced the open office concept for a less utopian reason: affordability. 

Open layouts maximize existing space and minimize costs, both essential when you have dozens or even hundreds of employees to manage. 

The International Facility Management Association reports that over 70 percent of offices in the US use some sort of open office plan. 

Unfortunately, employees working in open offices aren’t embracing the trend. According to an article published in Fortune magazine, open office plans are, in fact, detrimental to productivity and employee well-being; furthermore, they increase the number of sick days employees take. 

In another study, nearly half of open-office workers surveyed were dissatisfied with sound privacy, and 40 percent disliked the lack of visual privacy. 

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It’s no secret that one of the biggest trends driving the huddle room revolution is the open office floor plan. As more businesses opt for fewer stand-alone offices and more shared workspaces, the need for employee privacy is becoming evident. 

Today, the conferencing trend has shifted towards the creation of multiple huddle rooms — in fact, some research predicts that huddle rooms will replace almost 70 percent of all conference rooms by 2022. 

In this article we’ll discuss what huddle rooms are and how they can benefit your company.

What Are Huddle Rooms? 

You’re no doubt aware of football players’ habit to huddle-up to plan their next moves and take down the competition. That's where the term "huddle room" comes from. 

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The ideal office promotes both privacy and communication. With today’s emphasis on workplace collaboration and teamwork, the open office concept can be alluring. But it needs the right open space furniture. 

Workstation design has evolved from the static cubicle to an assortment of movable and versatile furniture pieces. Employees can now organize meetings whenever they are needed, and can consult with coworkers who are just feet away.

This flexibility helps prevent the downside of the open office plan. Researchers have found that the constant accessibility can be distracting and tiring for employees. 

A Harvard University study of Fortune 500 companies found that the open office concept appeared to be backfiring. Face-to-face communication among employees had decreased by 73 percent and e-mail usage increased by 67 percent.

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An open office layout encourages flexibility and tends to be more affordable. 

However, the downsides to having an open layout can have a profound effect on your team's efficiency and mood. The distractions, noise, and lack of privacy, in particular, can easily take away from the overall performance of the office.

These findings have been supported by reliable statistics time and time again. A public opinion survey conducted by YouGov found privacy to be a higher priority among employees than many assumed. 

Their survey revealed that, if it meant having access to a private work area, 13% of respondents would give up their end-of-year bonuses, 17% would give up access to a window, and probably the most condemning statistic of all, 27% would give up access to the office coffee machine. 

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Many organizations have long held the belief that the open office space plays a key role in motivating employee collaboration, which in the process breeds new ideas and innovations.

For this reason, many workplaces have sacrificed employees’ privacy in a bid to boost productivity and lower operating costs. 

However, a recent Harvard study has put these claims to rest by proving that the open office design actually reduces employee collaboration, which in turn slows output. According to the study, face-to-face interactions between employees in an open office setting went down by about 70%.

The traditional workplace setting, where an employee slaves all day in a designated office workstation, is quickly giving way to more versatile and favorable arrangements. The modern employee wants flexibility and privacy above all else.

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Two common buzzwords for modern office design are 'open office' and 'activity-based workspace.'

The second trend can be used to maximize the effectiveness of the first. That's because an open office lacks the flexibility necessary to complete all the steps in single a project. 

Collaboration, transparency and ease of sharing are indeed easier without walls that divide people. However, while open offices have these advantages, they also have drawbacks.

Privacy is non-existent, concentration suffers and it's hard to avoid noise and distractions in a large open workplace.

 

An activity-based plan includes a variety of settings suited to the tasks that people need to complete. Besides desks and computers, employees need spaces to rest, relax, concentrate and collaborate. 

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Even though collaboration is a vital ingredient for productive brainstorming, quiet spaces are at a premium in today’s office. As productivity guru Barnaby Lashbrooke points out, “In sociable, bustling workspaces, the quiet corners are always in use.”

To boost productivity, modern office furniture ideas in 2020 and beyond should include both collaborative and peaceful work areas. Indeed, we concur with Lashbrooke’s view of the future.

Variety in office furnishings is a must for businesses that want to outpace their competitors.

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The world of work is changing. Technology has made it possible – and necessary – to create workplaces which challenge the traditional office design and can adapt to the more diverse needs of today’s population. 

This is something all businesses will need to focus on if they want to remain relevant and desirable places to work, attracting top talent.

So, how do you create an office space fit for the future? We look at the trends and benefits of the flexible workplace and show you how to devise a working environment to meet the challenges of the 2020s and beyond.

What Is Flexible Workplace Design?

Work life has become more mobile as a result of the technology we all use on a daily basis. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops mean that there is no need for an employee to be tied to the same desk, all day, every day. This has led to a realization that there can be greater freedom in the ways office spaces are designed and utilized.

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Trends come and go in workplace design, and one idea that's taken hold in the last several years is the open office layout. Patterned after the traditional newsroom, it features workspaces without walls. 

Desks may be arranged around the edges of a room, placed into rows, or even set up in pairs that face each other. While there are advantages to this setup, it can be stressful for employees, leading to a lack of privacy and a breakdown of concentration.

Cubicles offer a semblance of privacy but, as anyone that’s worked in an office cubicle environment can attest, workers can still hear conversations going on around the room. 

One response to these issues is the emergence of mobile collaboration pods that block noise and visual distractions, allowing workers to concentrate on tasks. These phone booths and comfort booths allow employees to make private phone calls and take breaks from the fishbowl atmosphere of an open office environment. 

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Office furniture pods are becoming increasingly popular among employers who are looking to create a more efficient and modern office environment. 

The satisfaction and productivity rates of so many American workers have become negatively affected by an inability to focus due to distractions. 

The easy incorporation of a Zenbooth product into your workspace will provide an immediate escape for employees to finish work quickly, conduct private phone calls and conversations, and host important guests with comfort and confidence. 

There are multiple unique features that put Zenbooth head and shoulders above any other office pods available on the market. 

Here are the five that may be the most directly beneficial to a workspace, its users and their overall efficiency rate.

High-Quality Ventilation System

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Business owners strive to create quiet office environments that enhance productivity in their workforce. Unfortunately, this can be tricky, especially in modern open-plan offices.

So, how do you ensure your employees are comfortable at the office, while also safeguarding productivity? It's time to consider investing in open office phone booths.

Inside these individual work pods, employees and entrepreneurs can conduct private meetings, make phone calls and find a calm personal space. 

The Features and Benefits of Open Office Phone Booths

Zenbooths are designed to keep users cool by cycling fresh air into the enclosure once every minute. The booths come with cutting edge ventilation systems to enhance comfort. This system is motion activated so it starts running as soon as someone enters the booth.

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Silicon Valley got it wrong – very wrong.

Countless studies, research papers, and surveys have now found that the trend of open offices is doing nothing but harming your employees’ productivity. 

Removing or shrinking partitions and implementing an open-door policy isn’t fostering collaboration – instead, it’s leaving your team members distracted, unfocused, and quite frankly, frustrated.

One of the most significant factors that contribute to lost productivity is noise. Without walls or dividers, staff working on individual projects have no choice but to listen to rowdy brainstorming sessions and enthusiastic sales calls.

The solution? Furniture like soundproof office pods.

Let’s examine the drawbacks of an open office space and explain just how beneficial the very best soundproof office pods can be.

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It’s no secret that office phone booths are the latest trend in open-plan workplace design. And, chances are, if you are a business owner that’s always looking to boost productivity, you’re just about ready to jump on board.

Before you hit that oh-so-tempting checkout button, you’ll need to decide which size booth is right for your office.  

In this article, we’ll walk you through the top considerations to make when selecting an office phone booth for your workspace. Grab yourself a well-deserved coffee, a pen, and some paper – let’s get started.

Is an Office Phone or Meeting Booth Right for Your Business?

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Imagine you’re an employee in a typical open office environment. You’re at a table or cubicle, which is barely separated from those around you by a very low wall. 

You have a presentation to prepare for a client meeting. As you pull up the data on your computer, the colleague next to you returns to his or her seat and fidgets noisily with their keyboard, pulling your attention from the task at hand. 

You drag your focus back to your data, but just as you get back in the groove of concentration, a cell phone buzzes on the other side of you. Even though your colleague is whispering, you can hear she’s having an argument with her spouse.

You finally get back to work again, when “Ping!” the elevator door opens and three people exit, talking loudly about the meeting they’ve just had. Such is the noisy life of an open office today, and it’s making employees sick and killing productivity. 

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Nothing kills productivity like workplace stress. The reality is today’s open office environments are wearing out employees. From constant distractions to a lack of privacy, studies show that the open layout is causing as many problems as it was intended to solve.

One in eight open office workers say that their company's open layout has motivated them to want to leave their job. Even more foreboding for employers who have worked hard to cultivate a positive atmosphere, these same employees feel resentful toward senior staff with private offices.

 

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Activity-based working (ABW) is rooted in the premise that, for employees to work efficiently, they need access to a variety of uniquely designed office areas. 

This means that people are not tied to a particular workstation or cubicle. Instead, different activity areas are available for conducting tasks such as focusing, collaborating, learning, consulting, and socializing.

Facilities commonly found in activity-based workplace designs include community tables or sectionals, breakout areas, meeting rooms, individual work pods or personal phone booths.

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Have you noticed worker productivity dropping at your company? Maybe this is a trend that’s been going on for a while. If you have an open office layout, decreased productivity shouldn’t come as a surprise. 

Here’s a look at why open office environments foster poor productivity and how you can change that with modern office furniture like work pods & phone booths. 

The Pros and Cons of Open Offices

Open office layouts have been around for centuries, particularly in fields like accounting and finance. But, they saw a revival in the 1970s across all industries, when business owners and designers thought doing away with walls would encourage greater teamwork and easier collaboration. 

 

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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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Openness: we experience a positive response when we hear this word, compared to the cold restriction of a word like 'closed'. We expect that openness engenders honesty, transparency and a free passage of ideas.

Most of us see value in the collaborative nature of open-source software, and marvel at people and businesses that are open to change and new opportunities. However, what we gain with openness, we lose with privacy and comfort.

As human beings, we value our privacy, both at home and at work. A high regard for privacy is vital to accomplishing high focus tasks or sharing sensitive information, and employees often need to be able to speak freely away from the ears of their co-workers. 

Walls help minimize the distractions, interruptions and noise that derail the focus workers need to produce good results.

 

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Many businesses believe that wide open office layouts are the ideal workspace. But there may in fact be a better option. 

If you want to increase accountability and eventually boost productivity by adding more privacy, a different office design is needed. 

How Conference Room Meeting Pods Solve the Disadvantages of an Open Office

According to a report released by the International Facility Management Association, 70 percent of businesses already have an open floor plan. However, this doesn’t mean that your employees will necessarily embrace the open office idea without resistance. Here's why;

Excess Noise

There are lots of face-to-face and over-the-phone conversations happening in an open office set up at any given moment. Overhearing snippets of different conversations throughout the day can be very annoying. 

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While most noises are pleasant and at comfortable levels, there are times when noises can be extremely loud and even cause damage. The workplace can be a constant source of high volume distraction, and we usually don't have a choice other than to subject ourselves to it. Sadly, this comes at a significant cost to our health.

The Damaging Workplace Health Effects Noise Can Cause

One common problem that is caused by continuous exposure to loud noise is tinnitus. Tinnitus can be hard to describe, as symptoms vary from person to person. It is generally a sound that may seem to be in one ear or the other, but often feels like it is going straight through both of them. Those who have it describe it as a whistling sound or being similar to the roar of ocean waves. These sounds might be constant or they could come and go.  Tinnitus can be permanent or temporary, but either way, it's extremely difficult to focus or live with when it occurs. 

 

 

It's easy to see how loud noises can cause damage that affects the ears, but it can also cause damage in other ways. When noise becomes too distracting, it makes it hard to concentrate on what you're doing. It can significantly raise blood pressure and cause excess stress. By not being able to hear and follow instructions properly, it can be the source of many workplace mistakes, whether on your computer or interacting with others.

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Unlike office pods, the modern concept of the work place layout stretches back well into the 20th-century, and – from a design standpoint – has been relatively unchanged. 

Although certain forms of technology such as desktop computers and wireless headsets have replaced magnetic-card typewriters and rotary telephones, the overall layout of an office space has remained roughly the same.

Now, as was the case during the 1960s, workers sit around a series of clustered desks in an “open air”-style environment. However, a novel innovation is poised to radically shift the ergonomics of office space planning, while also boosting employee productivity, health, and happiness. That revolutionary innovation is the office pod concept.

The Risks Related to an Open Office System

Before we address the specifics of what an office pod is, it would be best to overview the myriad features and disadvantages of an open office setup. 

Granted, open environments are easy for workers to maneuver through the office and allow for easy middle management supervision, but these are at best marginal benefits.

First, a mere 10 percent of office employees consistently report that “ease of interaction” with fellow employees is a serious concern to them.

Office Pod, office pod photos

View each model's features here

Second, an open setup may lead to obsessive observation of employees by management, rather than an appropriate amount of supervision. In addition to being a waste of a manager's time, this over-supervision can make employees feel crowded and be a source of distraction. Such distractions can severely sap productivity and reduce company revenue.

In other words, the few advantages of an open office layout are at best superfluous.

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In our increasingly connected world, the level of competition companies face is higher than ever. In many industries the consumer's choice is not just a local one but a global one. Therefore an organization needs to provide the highest level of service and products. 

Going hand in hand with this need is employee productivity.

An organization’s success relies on the efficiency of their workers, owners and management. Because of this businesses are constantly looking for new ways to increase productivity. Many overlook one of the most important considerations – office design.

Office design isn’t just about making the workplace look impressive to high-value customers who stop by for a visit. It also needs to be more than functional for employees. 

By utilizing ingenious and proven techniques, office design can actually result in skyrocketing productivity from your workers, dramatically improving your bottom line.

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Modern-day offices are quickly moving away from rigid, gray cubicles and bland settings. Contemporary workplace trends that deliver a sense of playful openness are being heralded by high-performing, forward-thinking companies like Google and Apple.

Now, it’s your turn.

In this article, we’ll discuss ways you can make your office space look fun without sacrificing the professionalism your business needs to convey to employees, customers, and clients.  

First, let’s take a look at the value of fun in the workplace.

Why create a fun office space?

How do your employees feel when they step foot into your business’s office? How do partners feel? What about clients? 

Do they feel a wave of dread, a flicker of outdated stuffiness, or a total lack of inspiration? Or, do they feel comfortable, at ease, and ready to work?

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The health consequences of sedentary behavior, including working while seated for prolonged periods, are well known and devastating. 

People who spend most of their days sitting have a higher risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and premature death.

Of course, it hasn’t helped that a lot of the work done in offices today requires people to be sitting and hunched over their laptops or PCs.

This runs contrary to how the human body has been designed to be in motion, and not stuck in one place, doing monotonous work. Prolonged sitting affects posture and is harmful to the spine. 

Hence, it is important to consciously integrate movement into your office work routine so as not to reap the harmful effects of sedentary lifestyles.

Aside from standing and moving every once in a while to get away from your desk, there are office furniture solutions designed to encourage movement. One of these is the height adjustable desk.

Height-adjustable desks are now a popular fixture in the modern office. They make the transition from sitting to standing completely effortless.

These occasional shifts in the body’s position and posture are not only essential for efficient blood circulation but also for keeping the mind

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The open plan office is a popular choice for achieving a modern looking workplace. It allows for maximum design creativity and personal approachability while remaining affordable. 

It's especially popular for startup businesses and any business that requires heavy collaboration among its team members. 

But it comes with a price: no privacy and very little quiet. It's still possible to make the most out of an open plan office design and its benefits without breaking the bank. Here are 3 tips to do exactly that.

1. Make it personal and efficient

Your open plan office should reflect your company's values. Motivational walls boost morale, while personalized workspaces create a sense of belonging. 

25-30% of open office employees are dissatisfied with the level of workplace noise. Some positions naturally require prolonged, high levels of concentration. Are any of your employees sitting in inconvenient areas? It doesn't hurt to ask employees what they think about where they're sitting, either.

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The concept of office privacy booths is one of the more popular innovations in the modern workplace. They're a welcome addition to just about any office layout, including open-plan offices, cellular offices and co-working spaces.

Although it’s the open-plan layout that has mostly driven the need for quiet spaces, more businesses, including startups, are keen on adopting these revolutionary office furniture features.

Why Your Office Needs Private Phone Booths

A privacy booth provides a secluded, noise-free area where anyone can comfortably make a phone call or work peacefully without worrying about background noise and eavesdroppers.

Plus, a phone booth serves as an ideal location for some alone time. A few minutes in a phone booth away from all the chatter and chaos of the workplace is an effective way to relieve stress and sharpen focus.

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When you're operating an office, each element has an important role to play. From overall architecture and layout considerations, to interior design and workplace functionality.

Office productivity depends on the seamless integration and flow of people and processes. 

Office furniture is a vital piece of the puzzle, with individual furniture items and wider layout considerations having a huge effect on how your office looks, feels, and functions.

Analyzing office furniture elements

Whether you're buying a collection of new desks, investing in ergonomic chairs, or installing a private meeting booth, understanding the importance of furniture will help you make better decisions. 

The chairs, desks, and meeting spaces that make up your office help define people's health and happiness. 

While every modern office is unique, the following three spaces form the backbone of most working environments:

  • Workspaces - Individual works zones are where people spend most of their time. Whether you run a law firm with cubicles or an activity-based office, work spaces generally consist of desks, chairs, and computers in a variety of configurations. Personal workspaces need to promote the needs of the business while also ensuring the comfort and efficiency of the individual worker.

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Current research into the misinterpretation and misapplication of Frank Lloyd Wright’s  open office plan has companies scrambling to adopt new equipment to address its downsides.

Additionally, studies showing how open-plan office setups can negatively impact worker productivity, creativity, and focus. The result has been a new demand for flexible workstations. 

Studies about open offices have also established how proponents of this style failed when assuming it would foster greater collaboration & personal interaction. It turns out not many workers felt like communicating with each other was a huge obstacle to begin with.

The biggest problems workers are facing is with excessive noise and distractions. At company's where there is no private space, these are impossible to avoid.

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