Open offices were supposed to be the wave of the future. No cubicles! Vice presidents democratically sitting at shared tables next to interns! Ideas are generated more easily when there are no walls between them! Plus, you get that tranquil, airy vibe, and you can fit a ping-pong table almost anywhere!
Alas, it was a swindle. Open offices are a sham. With no quiet corner offices to hold meetings, they’re loud, theft-prone, and lack oft-necessary privacy. And as a result, over the past few years, we’ve seen a boom in a new kind of office interior accessory. Corporate furnishings companies have architected many, many solutions to the open office problem–and now, we have one more: these soundproof Wall Box pods by Vank.
At first glance, they’re attractive in a “we’re a dot-com that just got its first Series B check” kind of way. Upholstered in geometric patterns, both inside and out, they surely evoke soft and fuzzy feelings of coziness, all while mitigating noise up to 55 db, or the volume of a conversation. Meanwhile, the glass walls allow light to pass through, celebrating the negative space of an open office environment. Basically, all of this means that you can drop a bunch of these pods into an open concept workspace, and you won’t feel like you’re suddenly suffocating inside a sea of bank safes.
But am I the only one who sees how stupidly punishing this is? We’ve ripped out all of our offices, so now we have to buy smaller modular offices to replace them. These glorified booths lack dignity and visual privacy, and trap employees inside like life-sized Barbies in blister packs–except this Barbie had a poke bowl last night that’s not sitting so well, and is about to be joined by three of her colleagues around a conference table that looks like it was sourced straight out of a French cafe. Through another lens, these spaces are not a privilege for the young, space-flexible worker, but a punishment for abandoning the company’s shared space. “You want silence?” they ask. “Fine, go to your box that cost us more than your year’s salary. We’ll be watching you.”
Of course, there are fates even worse than sitting in one of these Barbie booths to take a meeting or do your daily yoga routine. Like a “cubicle.” Or in far worse cases, “manual labor.”