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One Way To Cut Back On Noisy Office Spaces? Phone Booths

Private office phone booths are becoming a thing — especially in a world of open-floor-plan office spaces that are too noisy and don’t give coworkers enough privacy.

This is just one of several ways offices are giving workers more privacy in design.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young speaks with Jaime Derringer( @jaimederringer), founder and executive editor of Design Milk, an online magazine that looks at modern design including workplace design.

Interview Highlights

On changes in workspace

“It’s been changing so much over the past 10 to 15 years. We saw a shift from the cubicle and office space into the open office, but that presented its own problems because of noise. And so now the office is changing once again, and it’s pivoting to something called the flexible work space. So now it’s spaces where people can work all over the office, whether they’re sitting at a desk or a meeting room. But now, as you mentioned, there’s these phone booths, which are private spaces that are lined in acoustic panels, and they’re soundproof. And so you can literally walk in, close the door and have a private conversation.”

On the kinds of booths

“There’s individual ones, and so you’ll have a little seat there might be a little table in there, very simple. And then there are larger ones where you can actually have a second or third person in the space, have a private meeting — you’re not disturbing the people around you — but you don’t have to book a giant conference room.”

On the problem of sound privacy and trying to tune out conversations

“You can’t always wear headphones either because you need to be in the moment and know kind of like what’s going on around you, too. So the open office space really — once they removed those cubicle walls, there wasn’t anything to absorb the sound. And interior designers weren’t thinking about that at that time, they just wanted to make a really cool-looking office space that looked kind of like a loft.”

On design solutions

“What they’re doing now, not only do they have these phone booths, but everything is becoming covered in acoustic felt, or acoustics in the ceiling. They’re putting them in all of the walls. There’s actually acoustic lighting. They’re like pendant lamps, and they’re covered in acoustic felt. I forget what company it is, but they make a very large pendant lamp, and you hang it very low, so you can literally go under it, and inside of the shade, and talk to people on the phone and then get out from under the shade and go back to work.

“They’re even making chairs now that kind of wrap almost all around you, so you sit in the chair and you kind of feel like you’re in this cozy little nook. And you can have a private conversation and not worry about who’s sitting next to you and disturbing them.”

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