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What’s Old Is New: Pod as Cubicle


Photo provided by Room
Many office workers have been making do with WFH, but it’s fair to say that the situation hasn’t been ideal for everybody. Some workers crave the spontaneity of office run-ins or impromptu brainstorming sessions, while others want a quieter place to work than their home allows. While WFH might be the standard for a while, office pods and booths might provide some help in getting back into the office.
Work pods and booths aren’t new to the workplace but now safety is part of the value proposition. Specialty providers like Framery, Room, SpaceWorx, and Urban Office, as well as countless other office furniture companies, have offered a range of office pods or booths well before COVID-19. Typically, these office amenities come in two flavors: the single-person phone booth-style box and the more spacious cube with seats and a desk. Obviously, the features of each pod/booth will vary from company to company.
Just this week, Room announced an expansion of its line of flexible workspace booths with three new options: Meeting Room, Open Meeting Room, and Focus Room. Meeting Room and Open Meeting Room (a pod with no doors) are for multi-person collaboration and come equipped with occupancy sensors, lighting, and a power box for charging and plugging in devices. A Pro option for each features a Jabra PanaCast 180-degree video conferencing camera. Focus Room is a one-person workstation and comes equipped with a desk, built-in power unit, whiteboard, and hooks and shelves to personalize the space. A Pro version will swap out the standard desk for a sit/stand option. In addition, Room unveiled a client portal, Room Sense, for delivery of real-time data on space utilization and density to help with an office re-occupancy strategy.
The Meeting Room and Open Meeting Room options are shipping now for $15,995 and $13,995, and the Pro option for each will be available for an extra $2,000, Room said. The Focus Room option will begin shipping later this year.
Back to Your Cube… I Mean Pod
These “workspaces in a box” aren’t technically cubicles, but it’s hard not to make comparisons of how they both provide employees with a dedicated place to work. However, it’s highly unlikely that companies are going to start canvasing open office spaces with pods and assigning each employee to one. But we might see companies increasing their pod footprints to accommodate return-to-office plans. This will require more oversight from HR and facilities then we’ve seen previously in terms of scheduling use and cleaning.
Old workplace issues are also sure to take new forms in the wake of COVID-19, including issues around space ownership and seating hierarchy. What might people outside a pod think of people inside the pod, out of the line of fire from airborne germs? Certainly, scheduling technology can make pods more equitable, but there is still a chance it can change workplace dynamics.
A more salient issue is that “pod farms” fly in the face of the benefits of open offices. If we are just going to return to siloed workstations, wouldn’t it be safer (and cheaper) to continue WFH? It’s not to say that work booths can’t coexist in an open office, but thought and strategy into how best to use them will be crucial. Now, they just need an at-home booth, for those looking for peace and quiet while WFH.