Phoney Booths – SAD!

By Liz Elam On April 24, 2017 In GCUC 2017CoworkingSpeakersConferenceCommunity

Look, I get it. You’re surrounded by several dozen coworkers and you can see and hear them all because you’re in an open office space . That last thing you want to do is yap away on your phone for everyone else to hear. This wasn’t supposed to happen if everyone was talking like in a newsroom or trading floor…or even a busy restaurant, where your conversations would be private, despite the lack of any walls, because all the ambient noise would drown out eavesdropping. You look around for somewhere private…bathroom? Stairwell? Your boss’ corner office? No, no, and no. Goddamit – if they would only put in phone booths…

Stop right there. You have a cell phone that works ANYWHERE, and you want to lock yourself up in William Gray’s 1889 century old invention, the phone booth? Do you really think a 37” x 37″ claustrophobic box in which somehow Superman, or even Underdog was able to get changed, is actually comfortable?

You’ve liberated yourself with 1099 status.

You’ve disrupted your workflow with a virtual assistant, a cell-phone tethered laptop, and all things cloud.

You’re a mobile professional, with a works-anywhere cellphone, and you want to…stand in one place?

Ok, so let’s say you still have a point. Here’s the thing though: phone booths are…phoney. Why?

  1. Most leak sound. That privacy you think you have when you close the door? Alternative facts. This is the ENTIRE point of the phone booth. Anyone outside within a few feet can listen to anything you say.
  2. Most echo. From hard surfaces like glass and even drywall, sound reverberates endlessly so you alone become a party of 5.
  3. Most suffocate…literally. Phone booths typically lack any HVAC. Airplanes do a better job at air circulation because at least they circulate re-circulated air.
  4. Most discriminate against the disabled. They’re too small to fit someone in a wheelchair. If a phone booth has an accordion door, a wheelchair can’t even get in.
  5. Most are money pits. If you’re a coworking owner, you should remember that…
    • They cost $$ and take up space, but they generate $0.
    • Your staff will end up rapping on doors to kick out squatters…all day. I had a coworking community manager confess this to me once. SAD!

What would I recommend then? Meeting rooms. More meeting rooms of all sizes. Meeting rooms with whiteboards, displays, and/or desks. You know, office-functional. I’d even be support day offices that are shared.

I do want to say that phone booths can be done right. Zenbooths and Framery  are two who seem to have cracked the nut. I will point out one caveat about Framery though: they’re not based in the US as they’re in Finland. ADA is an American thing. Their phone booths are beautiful, but when you don’t have to consider accessibility, well, it’s apples and oranges. Heck, maybe I’ll even bother to sit down one day and design one.

Come to GCUC in NY and sit in on my Camp topic on Sunday, May 7th. I’ll throw in another pet peeve of mine: windows are overrated.

Jerome Chang  has been practicing architecture  for over 15 years. He has been operating BLANKSPACES  coworking spaces for nearly 10. He believes that architects shouldn’t just spend clients’ money – we should understand the business cases to decipher the needs from the wants. And for executive suites and coworking spaces in particular, architects have to be smarter in generating revenue from this industry’s largest, recurring fixed costs: the office space itself.