“The way we hold meetings has changed a lot in the last decade,” says Pontus Kihlman, executive consultant at Rapal Oy, a workplace solutions provider based in Espoo, Finland. Remote, agile working and hotdesking mean formal meeting rooms are increasingly superfluous. “Oversized meeting spaces tend to be underutilised to a high degree, creating a lot of wasted space that could be used more smartly, while there aren’t enough small meeting rooms or multi-use spaces,” Kihlman adds. His firm found that meeting rooms are filled only to a fifth of capacity after an analysis of 12,600 meeting rooms across 1,800 offices. In place of these clunky spaces, small, stylish meeting pods are becoming the latest must-have.
The inflatable pod
The initial habitat of the inflatable meeting room was on the sidelines of conferences, says Viktor Nijenhuis of Dutch startup QuickSpace – but they are now used as a temporary solution in offices. “They can work with full privacy, and in an innovative, inspiring setting,” he says. Sound absorption to cancel out background noise is therefore an important feature of the pods that Quickstep designs and builds
The solo pod
Around 65 per cent of work is still performed alone, according to Rapal Oy. The O pod, from Finnish startup Framery, promises an echo-free individual workplace for employees to conduct private calls and video conferencing. A physiological analysis of workers using the O pod “showed significant increases in recovery from stress, better sleep, and more motivation for exercise,” says Framery CEO Samu Hällfors.
The wheely pod
Helsinki-based startup Smartblock has re-invented the wheel by putting a set under their office pods. Co-founder Janne Orava says the casters beneath the Smartblock FD pod mean it can move easily around an open-plan office, and its intelligent display will recognise the source of any input plugged into it, so “there’s no need for a remote control”.
The seed pod
The shape of the meeting pod by Leeds-based company Seeds is derived from nature, and is intended to evoke nature’s calming properties. The design (for up to five people) is intended to remove a sense of hierarchy. Colour-shifting LED lighting and built-in Bluetooth speakers contribute to the mood in this fire-retardant, glass-reinforced plastic pod.
The modular pod
On their own the high-backed, upholstered seats made by Polish designer Dymitr Malcew may seem plain. But when snapped together they form Cave, a semi-circular workspace that acts as a buffer with the hubbub of the office. “The idea was to provide a variety of scenarios and settings for various activities, to create a sense of privacy without building fixed walls,” says Malcew.