If you’ve worked in an open-plan office in the past couple of years, you’ve probably seen them: free-standing one-person pods, often with a stool and a ledge-cum-desk. Most have glass doors but are soundproof, so workers can see outside but speak with privacy.
They are glorified phone booths – but indoors, and sans phone. And, in just the past few years, they have exploded – in Mumbai co-working spaces, Japanese train stations and private offices all over North America and the UK.
Back in 2015 only one office ‘phone booth’ company, Finland’s Framery, exhibited at the annual commercial design exposition NeoCon, according to Byron Morton, vice-president of leasing at NeoCon. This year, about a dozen companies with similar phone booth concepts showcased there, many of which have started only in the last few years.
Last year Framery – whose ‘Framery O’ promises “an echo-free and comfortable working environment” – produced almost 10,000 phone booths; this year, they expect to produce 15,000. And Canada’s Onetwosix, founded as a general design company, has transitioned to focus primarily on designing and manufacturing their Loop phone booths.
“It’s a huge portion of our business now,” says Onetwosix co-founder Nick Kazakoff. The company still does design consulting work, but the reason they’ve been able to grow so rapidly, he says, is Loop. He estimates the booths now make up 60 to 70% of Onetwosix’s product sales.
“We have seen on average a 500% increase in the number of daily inquiries received from people looking to buy our Loop Phone Booths when compared to this time last year,” he says – many of which have converted into sales.
The pods themselves are certainly tight, sometimes stuffy or lit abrasively and not exactly made to replace a cubicle for a full day of private work. But for some workers, phone booths are the only respite they have from crowded, loud and exposed open offices.