A Cost-Effective Way to Convert Conference Rooms into Huddle Rooms and Privacy Pods

The hybrid workplace model is here to stay and has created needs that the typical office layout is not fully equipped to handle. Over the past few years, many companies have undergone a minor, if not a major, office-redesign project, or are planning one for the near future. Office downsizing is popular because so many people are working from home and fewer workstations are needed. Some businesses are keeping the same size office space but reimagining it to better accommodate the evolving purpose of the office. This article examines the evolving purpose of the office and how that evolution has created a shortage of space for small private meetings or phone calls, yet has left larger conference rooms underutilized.
office has evolved

How the Purpose of the Office Has Evolved

Before the explosion of hybrid offices and remote working, the office was designed to serve all of the needs of the typical employee’s workday. Virtual meetings were less common, so large conference rooms were needed to host gatherings for larger groups. People spent 40 hours in the office space and expected a dedicated workstation. With everyone in the office, in-person collaboration could occur five days per week.

Today, most people with office jobs work remotely part of the time and can use work-from-home time to get independent work done. When employees come into the office a few days per week, collaboration and socialization are the primary purposes. In those circumstances, fewer workstations are needed, and more collaboration space is needed. And with virtual meetings more common, offices require more soundproof space for people’s private Zoom calls, Microsoft Teams meetings, Google hangouts, and more—so as not to distract coworkers.

The challenge for employers is to reimagine space to better suit the needs of the hybrid workplace. If a business decides to repurpose a large and underutilized conference by creating multiple smaller meeting or phone booth spaces, the most obvious pathway to that goal is a construction project. But is there a better alternative to consider?

The Challenge of Repurposing Large Conference Rooms into Smaller Privacy Pods, Phone Booths, and/or Huddle Rooms

At Joyce Contract Interiors (JCI), we have had many conversations with clients have noticed a trend. Larger conference rooms and boardrooms are being underutilized while, at the same time, offices lack space for smaller huddles, private calls, and virtual meetings. The most common approach to repurposing a conference room into multiple smaller spaces is construction. Take that single large conference room and convert it into several smaller rooms, rooms ranging from the size of a single-person phone booth to a four-person huddle room. Construction presents some challenges and a number of cons.
4-person Studio Pods
Solo Privacy Pods

5 Cons of Hiring Contractors to Convert Conference Rooms into Smaller Huddle Rooms

  1. Reconstructing office space is complicated. There are a lot of moving parts. Turning one larger room into several smaller rooms should be pretty simple, right? After all, don’t you just put some new walls up? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. You need more doors, for starters. Doors are expensive and they involve cutting into the exterior of the conference room, which likely contains large pieces of glass. You also need to consider soundproofing elements. If you simply add a basic wall that extends up to the dropped ceiling, sound will travel between rooms and conversations won’t be private. You also need to account for sprinklers. Where one large conference room needs a single sprinkler system, now each new room needs its own sprinklers to meet fire code regulations. These are just a few of the many complexities of a construction project.
  2. Construction takes a long time. It’s a whole process. You need to hire an architect to build plans. The best architects are often booked out for weeks, if not months. Once the architect delivers the plans, you need to hire a contractor and fit your project into the schedule. That could also take months. This is, at minimum a 3-to-6-month process, if not much longer.
  3. Construction is expensive. Anything that is complicated and takes a long time is also going to be expensive. Construction costs, both for labor and materials, are sky-high right now with no end in sight.
  4. Construction is disruptive, noisy, and messy. Some construction firms will work overnight, but you’re paying more money for that schedule. Does your workforce want to see and hear a construction project during the workday? (Doubtful.)
  5. Construction is permanent. The hybrid office situation is still evolving, and we certainly don’t know how it will change over the long term. The great reimagining of the office to accommodate hybrid workers is still very fluid; there is still a lot to learn about this transition. With construction, you’re somewhat married to whatever layout you to decide to go with, so you better hope that your needs don’t continue to change.
Privacy Pods

Office Privacy Pods as an Alternative to Office Space Reconstruction

Instead of construction, companies are starting to turn to a quickly growing office furniture product: the soundproof pod. There are many names for this product type: Meeting Pod, Privacy Booth, Studio Pod, Phone Booth, Privacy Pod, Work Pod (there are certainly others). These names all refer to a product that is assembled in your office like any other piece of office furniture. The pod offers a private and soundproof space for small meetings and phone calls. Pods can be assembled right inside an existing conference room without additional construction work.

Office pods are a great solution for creating more private meeting spaces inside of the office without construction. Pods have a number of advantages over construction when you are repurposing a large conference room, or other underutilized space, into huddle spaces and phone booths.

Privacy Pod Phone booths

5 Reasons to Use Pods to Repurpose Conference Rooms

  1. Pods are more cost-effective than construction. Depending on size and style, expect to pay $7,000 – $20,000 per unit for privacy pods. That cost is likely far less expensive than a construction project.
  2. Pods are a much faster solution. Some units have a lead time that is as short as three weeks. Good luck getting even a firm quote on a construction project in that much time.
  3. Pods are simple. Speak to an office furniture dealer to review your needs and review various pod products that suit your needs. Get a quick quote and place the order. In less than a month, you can have pods delivered and installed inside your conference room.
  4. Pods are convenient. They can fit inside your office and don’t take up a ton of space. A one-person phone booth takes up about the space of a single workstation. A meeting pod for two-to-four people takes up the space of two workstations. The average conference room, with table removed, can fit several pods inside, making it convenient to repurpose the room to serve your pressing need for more private meeting and call spaces.
  5. Pods are flexible. Office pods can be disassembled and moved to another spot in the office or removed from the office completely.

The example below illustrates how a 17’ x 10’ conference room can easily fit 7 soundproof office pods: 4 single-person units and 3 medium units that can fit up to 4 people each.

Conference Room

Underutilized Conference Room

Privacy Pod

Reconfigured into Privacy Pods

Why Are Studio Pods So Popular?

Office pods and phone booths have become very popular office furniture products over the past few years because they fit a number of different needs. Offices now need more space for small in-person meetings, phone calls, and virtual meetings. Pods serve this need very well and offer the following benefits:

●     A fast solution for privacy issues in open offices
●     Ideal for office reconfigurations or new office projects
●     Less complex (and less messy) compared to building hard walls
●     Can be installed in 1 day (typically 1/2 a day)
●     Space-efficient and simple to install
●     Mobile and can be moved around an office or relocated easily
●     Cost-effective solution for the need to create space for focused work
●     Can be used for video calls, team meetings, or office space

Shop our selection of privacy pods and phone booths. Please contact us if you have any specific furniture needs.

The Underutilized Office Lobby

Just like large conference rooms, lobbies have become underutilized elements within the office. Most businesses no longer have a receptionist sitting at a desk in the lobby. Legacy lobby designs were oversized and now just take up valuable space. The same pod solution applies here. Studio pods can be dropped right into a lobby area to provide valuable huddle room and phone booth space.

Overall, updating office furniture contributes to a more comfortable, productive, and visually appealing workspace, which benefits both employees and the organization as a whole.