The point of an open office layout is to encourage camaraderie and the free exchange of ideas, keeping employees connected to each other all day long. Some companies even do away with private offices altogether, placing executives at the same tables as interns to promote a sense of fairness and reinforcing the fact that everyone’s contribution matters.
That may all be true, but as the open office trend has grown, so has an entire industry of products designed to correct all of the problems they present for employees who struggle to focus, hear one another, and enjoy any measure of privacy in their distraction-riddled environments.
Sound-dampening privacy pods provide a compromise between the new open office ethos and hallways lined with separate enclosed rooms for each employee. Enter the headquarters of just about any large company today, and what you’ll see is almost certainly a wide open space filled with modular pods designed for small meetings or solitary concentration.
At an office like AirBnb’s San Francisco headquarters, these “pods” might actually take the shape of padded illuminated niches cut into a giant wooden “ship” or house-shaped booths for private phone calls, but you don’t have to have the budget of a multi-billion-dollar corporation to make the concept work for your space.
The “Planet for Two” by Ukrainian design duo MZPA is a portable solution that can be placed in any open space for instant privacy, and it’s cool-looking, too. Built to fit two people (as its name suggests), this geodesic meeting room is made from connected triangles of plywood, powder-coated metal connectors, and a plush fabric mattress in customizable colors. It’s based on a previous design called “The Planet,” which itself accommodates a single user.
The designers envision both of these geometric pods as multipurpose rooms-within-rooms that can be used for meetings, lounging, brainstorming, phone calls, or even in place of a desk for employees who work more efficiently in less open environments. Communication is key in any business, they note, and while open office plans seem like they should foster more of it, too much noise and activity can make people feel like they have to shout over each other to be heard, worsening the problem.
Available for delivery anywhere in the world, the Planet for Two retails for $5,700 and comes with a built-in LED lamp, speaker system, USB charging port for electronic devices, and even a few optional solar panels so you can place it outdoors if you like. It’s easy to imagine these pods fitting right into places like airports, cafés, and college campuses.
“It’s great for moments when you need to stay alone, gather your thoughts and focus, and have a cup of coffee,” say designers Julia Kononenko and Artem Zakharchenko.
More than anything, pods like the “Planet for Two” demonstrate the need for offices to remain flexible to both the diverse needs of staff and changing trends in office interior design. Give your employees enough privacy and quiet, and they might not have to resort to such desperate tactics as noise-cancelling helmets that look like a joke from a comedy set in outer space.