Philly Startup Targets the Emerging "Office Pod" Market

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There's a new startup in Philly working to solve some of the most common productivity problems in today's office environment. If you work in an office, your working environment most likely falls under one of the following three categories:

  1. You have your own private office.
  2. You have a desk in an open space surrounded by, or even adjacent to, a bunch of other desks.
  3. You have a cubicle with office-mates on either side.

If you’re in the first category, you are one of the fortunate ones—private offices these days are becoming scarce. If your office space resembles one of the other two, though, there are probably times you’d like a little more privacy and a quiet place to get work done.

This isn’t just a modern dilemma—workspace is always limited by a company’s budget—yet in today’s world space is increasingly becoming a luxury.

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For an office employee, working in an open office environment or in a cubicle-farm affects productivity as well as mental and physical health. Fortunately, companies like Philadelphia office phone booth startup Thinktanks have a promising solution: the officepod.

What is an “officepod”?

Let’s face reality—the seemingly modern concept of an open office has not worked as intended. Instead of encouraging collaboration, these spaces instead create a noisy working environment where getting actual work done is challenging at best. Worse still, they don’t even seem to accomplish their expressed goal—according to Forbes, “satisfaction with ease of interaction was no higher in open offices than in private offices.”

Today’s work environment doesn’t need more open space. It needs more quiet space—places employees can work, undisturbed.

Thinktanks believes the office pod just might be that solution. Described by the company as "the office phone booth for the modern work environment," Thinktanks makes high-quality "privacy pods" where an employee can get away from the bullpen-like setting common in today's business world, find a bit of silence, and get important tasks done without being bothered by nosy coworkers or micro-managing bosses.

The idea makes a lot of sense. While most companies in the U.S. have embraced the open concept—as much as 70%, according to one report—productivity declines when a business makes the switch from traditional private offices. Unsurprisingly, the backlash against this idea is growing.

The answer?

Thinktanks’ solution is a simple one. They build modular pods that function as a sort of small office within an office. Constructed of the highest quality eco-friendly materials sourced from California and New York and wood from domestic forests, these modular capsules are designed to be assembled on-site by the user.

Thinktanks office pods are available in a number of sizes, from a single-person phone booth to their four-person mini-conference rooms, and Thinktanks says that they can each be assembled in about an hour by a couple people with just a cordless drill.

Regardless of the size, they all have a number of noteworthy features, like "USB chargers, and sitting/standing desks." There are plenty of electrical outlets, of course, to plug in your laptop and whatever else you might need. And they are freestanding which makes them easy to set up anywhere, and once in place, they can still be moved around the office without significant strain. 

Each pod plugs into its own discrete electrical connection to provide the necessary power to those USB chargers, electrical outlets, and lighting.

They have their own thermostat-controlled ventilation systems to keep them cool, and perhaps most importantly, they're soundproof. "Our pods are designed to keep noise contained inside the unit, so your video conference or little chat won’t be broadcast to the whole office," according to the company's office pod website. And the soundproofing itself is eco-friendly too, made from recycled blue jean denim; a material they say has "exceptional breathability and sound dampening properties."

Save construction and moving costs

With the need to move away from the noisy open office layout becoming more apparent, employers might like to provide separate offices for employees, yet things like cost, planning permission, and lack of time prevent them from taking action. Office pods are a nearly perfect alternative, allowing the creation of separate space for quiet tasks right alongside the theoretically collaborative space of the open office.

They make a great stopgap solution for small offices that are ready to expand, too. A company can add one or more Thinktanks to their existing valuable space instead of moving or constructing a workplace with private, quiet places for individual or group work.

Great for remote workers

As much as they love the work-from-home lifestyle, tele-commuters can't always get everything done from home. Sometimes they need the resources of a full-service modern office. In addition to being a perfect escape for the beleaguered day-to-day office staff, these pods are an excellent temporary office for tele-commuters for those times they need to show up to the office

There's another option for the work-at-home types. How about setting one up as a home office unit—an "office pod prefab home office"? Distractions don't go away just because you're working at home—kids, spouses, neighbors, pets... All of those can disrupt the work flow of the remote worker. But household distractions can be nearly eliminated by incorporating a Thinktank, the prefab home office, into the home design. Even in a small home, a single-person phone booth can probably find a spot.

Early successes

Thinktanks is seeing some early success with this concept. Not surprisingly, they've had a big start in some of the country's most populated, hippest, and most tech-centric areas with, not coincidentally, some of the most expensive real estate. Currently, most of their business is coming from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. They ship internationally, though, so whether you're in their hometown of Philadelphia, across the country in L.A., or "across the pond" in London, they'll be happy to send you one.

The response they've been getting has been impressive, with several rave reviews posted on the office phone booth website thinktanks.io, including one from the CEO of briny.com who said, very simply, "We love them."

The design

Thinktanks did a great job with the aesthetics as well. Their pods fit as well in a stuffy office complex as they do in a more rustic setting. Some might even argue better. Still, their beautiful natural maple finish works in a rustic, even woodsy setting nearly as well as a high-tech one. Alternatively, if your office decor demands more subtlety, a white exterior finish is available too.

When imagining a phone booth, most people picture a mostly-glass box. While some competing brands have chosen to stick close to that style, Thinktanks went with wood, except for a glass door "made from extremely durable tempered safety glass" and a "skylight" made from "impact resistant safety plexi glass."

Inside, the walls and desk again feature a natural maple wood finish. "Echo reduction panels" function just as their name implies, dampening soundwaves and eliminating the annoying echo common in small, enclosed spaces—that sound that alerts your phone connections that you're calling them from the bathroom. It's a simple detail that shows the thought behind Thinktanks' office pods.

The smaller booths feature a small built-in desk, while their larger units can accommodate a small table. And if you really need it, you might even squeeze in a little extra storage—maybe one or two not-too-large drawers, under the table. In most settings though, particularly in their target office environment, that won't be needed and would more likely become a source of clutter. Their somewhat minimalist design is a part of what makes these so versatile.

The thermostat is mounted at right about the same height as the desk, making it easy to see and to adjust. It has a simple digital screen surrounded by a black bezel that matches the simplicity of the rest of the interior. Below the thermostat is a simple row of surge-protected plugs, right where you'd expect to find them. 

Nearer the top of the pod you might notice the ventilation fans, again with a simple black finish. Importantly, the fans are "ultra quiet" according to their office pod website. Acoustics is very clearly a large concern, and one that Thinktanks addresses admirably.

Privacy pods, office pods, office phone booths, whatever you want to call them, they are a great solution to the challenges of modern offices. Even as remote working becomes increasingly common, the need for an actual workplace doesn't seem to be going away. As long as there are offices, there will be a need for quiet spaces to get work done within them. Pods like those by Thinktanks just might be the solution we've been needing.

We'd love to hear what you have to say about office pods in general, or about our Thinktanks specifically. Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

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