Wellbeing and noise concerns fuel "accelerating" trend for healthier office furniture


Soundproof pods, saddle-shaped chairs, adjustable-height desks and wobble boards were in abundance at Stockholm Furniture Fair last week, as privacy and wellbeing become essential aspects of office furniture design.

With increasing noise levels becoming a major issue in open-plan and shared offices, glass-sided pods of all shapes and sizes were a key trend at the fair.

These ranged from one-person pods for phone calls and quiet individual working to modular meeting rooms that can be erected inside existing offices without the need for building work.

Pods increasingly installed in open-plan offices

"The trend for pod rooms is accelerating all the time," said Johanna Kettunen, COO of pod manufacturer Into the Nordic Silence.

"The reason is that so many companies have open-plan offices and there are not enough support spaces in those offices, so people are not able to concentrate on their work tasks. They need places to collaborate."

Into the Nordic Silence showed a number of products at this year's fair, including a pod for taking telephone calls, called Pod Phone, and acoustically friendly modular furniture.

The modular furniture pieces include a curved meeting-area called Point Cup, with high, padded walls upholstered in soft fabric that block surrounding sound, and Cube Solo, a single seat that envelops the worker.

"Space needs to be adaptable nowadays because there is a need for frequent layout changes," Kettunen added. "That is the reason the modular pod rooms are needed. You can transform an open-plan office into a healthy and functional activity-based office."

Noise-reducing products such as acoustic wall-panels, fabric desk-dividers and hooded chairs have been popular in Scandinavia for several years, since the move to open offices combined with the popularity of wooden floors and plain walls in the region combined to drive workers to distraction.

The fair, the largest in Scandinavia, was once again full of brands offering acoustic solutions, including Baux, which launched a biodegradable panel that can be applied to office walls and surfaces.

Pods offer privacy and noise-reduction

But now the rise of co-working spaces is driving the need for even better solutions that offer privacy as well as silence.

"Open-plan offices have a lot of noise, so this is a natural development," said designer Henrik Kjellberg of o4i Design Studio, which showed PodBooth at the fair, a pod that you can easily roll between locations.

"People need some space where they can go and talk privately but also you need the person that is very loud to work in a pod to make it a pleasant environment for the other people. It's a two-way thing."