Nothing vexes a coworking space more than figuring out how to handle members talking on the phone.
In fact, recent research shows that the effect of “halfalogue,” or only hearing one side of a conversation is more distracting than just about anything. Participants had decreased concentration due to the amount of processing their brains were trying to do to fill in the blanks of only hearing half of the conversation.
There are so many factors at play with phone calls and open office spaces that it’s high time we had a comprehensive list of the choices and considerations for phone room options in coworking spaces.
Space Considerations for Taking Calls in a Coworking Space
I often fantasize about my ideal coworking space; one I can design from scratch that will magically solve all my current challenges in my own space, Cohere. In addition to having a stove and oven, I would build approximately 40,000 phone booths into it.
For small spaces
If your coworking space is small or less than about 2,000 square feet, there’s a good chance that everyone can see and hear everyone else when they are coworking. If you have the good fortune to be spread over 2 or more levels at this size, you may be able to designate one area of coworking as active and chatty and another area for concentration and no phone calls. If that just won’t work, keep reading because I’m going to give you ALL THE CHOICES for phone rooms to use in your coworking space.
For large spaces
If your space is very large or over 5,000 square feet, you have sheer distance at your advantage. You can keep active, chatty coworking with phone calls near the front door where there is lots of bustle IF that’s not annoying for people who are on the phone. As you move away from the entry, you can designate quieter more peaceful coworking. Employing visual dividers or racks of plants can help achieve this.
Most larger spaces will have several breakout or meeting rooms that can be used for phone calls. I recommend it. Sometimes a call is just really important to a member and they won’t want background chatter filtering in from their end.
For existing coworking spaces or retrofitting a current space with phone booths
An easy way to get a phone booth in hurry is to convert an existing closet. I have created five such spaces at Cohere, which are detailed below in the DIY section.
For new construction or tenant finish coworking spaces
I always recommend that people plan to build in several single person, double-occupancy and team meeting spaces when they are working with a blank slate. I think Indy Hall in Philadelphia, PA did the best job at this designing rooms specific to calls and even podcasting. Their coworking phone rooms include windows to the interior of the space, lighting and integrated HVAC. They’ve managed to not post a photo of the spaces yet so you’ll have to visit in person!
If you want a bit more flexibility and you have a benevolent investor, there are several beautiful and drool worthy ready-made phone booths, which are detailed below.
What to look for when you buy or build a phone booth for your coworking space
There are several key components you should be looking at when deciding on a phone solution in your space.
Ventilation: little rooms with people and computers in them get HOT and if your phone booths don’t have a ventilation system, your members will be sad, hot red lobsters after only 20 minutes.
Lighting: this seems sort of obvious but many calls are conducted over video so be sure your members look lovely and not like yellowing zombies from one overhead light alone. A nice lamp in front of your members will illuminate their lovely faces and make them look less hobgoblin-y on Zoom.
Soundproofing: it is undecided how soundproof a phone booth in a coworking space should actually be. If you are serving people who need a crazy amount of privacy then you should probably go all the way with one of the ready built options below. I personally don’t think you need a cone of silence but something that blocks 30-40% of the sound will do wonders for the atmosphere in your space.
It is worth noting that soundproofing is different from sound dampening. Soundproofing is where you block the sound from leaving one space and going in to another. This is only accomplished with sheer mass (thicker walls, sealing all gaps, special insulating materials, doors so expensive you’ll weep). Sound dampening improves how things sound inside the room. Those spikey foam panels WILL NOT prevent sound from leaving the room but they will reduce echo, which is nice for phone calls.
Furniture: a shortcoming I notice in some of the ready-made booths is the size and placement of the computer desk and the lack of chair. Many calls that members make are long and video-based. Be sure you have phone room options in your coworking space that provide a deep enough work surface at a smart height so their computer video camera can actually capture their face in the frame. Do your coworkers want to stand or sit? This changes how high your desk surface needs to be BY A LOT. Ponder that carefully. Don’t scrimp on the seats. I see a lot of phone booths that have little wooden stools only. This might work for quick pop-in calls but if your member is a remote accountant who has to talk about 80,000 lines of inventory of different aircraft parts in an Xcel sheet to an auditor…that’s going to take way more time than the wooden seat will allow her bottom.
To glass or not to glass? I personally think that phone rooms should have a view. Even some glass between the phone booth and the interior of the space will keep members from feeling claustrophobic. It also helps to see at a glance which rooms are in use.
Keeping those factors in mind, let’s find you the phone booth of your dreams.
ALL THE PHONE BOOTH CHOICES for Coworking Spaces
READY-MADE PHONE BOOTH, SHIPS COMPLETE TO YOUR DOOR
Alibaba ~$2600 (shipped to a major city)
I want to believe in this phone booth. It appears to be one of the most affordable ready-made choices but international shipping can double the price. If you keep reading you’ll see that this is a complete and utter knockoff of one of the other booths I researched below. This is worth considering for ethics purposes.
Soundproofing: unsure, the manufacturer doesn’t supply sound reduction info on the website but the basic construction leads me to believe you would have a reduction in sound
Lighting: integrated LED overhead
Furniture: unclear if stool is included, the desktop appears very shallow, unsure if you can adjust the height of the desktop
Glass: yes, glass door
Other considerations: if in the USA be sure to buy the booth with US dimensions since the metric ones are a little too big to fit through a standard American doorway. Coworking pro Craig Baute of Creative Density Coworking in Denver had the following to add about this particular phone booth,
“The shipping process was the most intimidating part of the entire thing. The CIF shipping to Port Denver for a single phone booth was $600. I hired an importing company $55 to do the ISF Filing fee. This made sure the import documents had the right classification.
There were unexpected fees that added up to more than $400 in additional fees.
Arrival notice fee and admin cost - unknown reason I was charged this, but you pay it anyway
Warehousing fee - the phone booth has to go into a holding spot once Customs gets it. It then sits there until you pick it up. I think it could sit in the holding warehouse for two weeks.
Customs fee - charged by the US government
Delivery from the warehouse to the location. This is dropped off in front of the building, not brought in. It is fully assembled and weighs hundreds of pounds so further assistance is needed.
Overall, the total cost was around $2600.”
I would opt in for some sound dampening upgrades and upgraded glass that would add another $200 to $300 in the total expense.
READY-MADE PHONE BOOTH, SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
Zenbooth $4,495 + $350 shipping
The Zenbooth straddles price points between Framery and Room. It has many identical features to Framery and Room. The main advantage I noticed is the plexi-glass ceiling for added light and ethernet seems to come standard.
Ventilation: 2 exhaust fans
Soundproofing: yes, it includes a magnetic door closure, insulated panels and sound dampening interior finishes
Lighting: integrated lighting
Furniture: standard desk is 30” wide. Upgrade to an adjustable desk for $445 more
Glass: yes on both the door and ceiling
Bonus items: free shipping if you order 2 or more. The claim assembly is 25 minutes.
Framery O model $9,333 (delivered and installed to Northern Colorado)
The Framery phone booth for open coworking spaces feels like shopping for an iphone. Delightful colors and thoughtful design make it a very attractive experience however the cost of one Framery O booth costs MORE THAN ALL THE FURNITURE IN MY ENTIRE SPACE. So while I wouldn’t recommend this product for a diy/bootstrapper, if you’ve got a bunch of spare cash and want a jaw-dropping phone call experience, this is your booth.
Ventilation: yes but there aren’t many details provided on how it works
Soundproofing: yes, the website claims that conversations remain “private” so we’re assuming near 100% isolation
Lighting: integrated LED overhead
Furniture: 27”x13” with an extended version available, adjustable stool is included
Glass: yes, glass on both sides so the booth is “see through”
READY-MADE PHONE BOOTH, SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
Room $3,494 (shipped to your doorstep)
I have my eye on Room. The booths look lovely and require a small amount of assembly, which is why their price point is more attractive than others.
Ventilation: yes, cool air is drawn in near the floor and warm air is pushed out through the ceiling. A+ on knowing the basics of thermodynamics, Room!
Soundproofing: 1.6” of soundproofing material, magnetic door closure
Lighting: integrated LED overhead on a motion sensor—smart!
Furniture: the desktop is at standing or stool height of 43”, desktop is 13.5”D x31.5”W
Glass: yes, the door is glass
Bonus items: 2 integrated power outlets, free shipping, 100 day trial period, leveling feet
DIY RETROFIT CLOSET PHONE BOOTH
I have become somewhat of a seasoned, grizzled pro when it comes to turning closets into phone rooms. And by “Pro” I mean, there is a lot of room for improvement in this process.
In both cases I used either a handyman for the above to turn one large closet with louvered doors into two small rooms measuring about 4’x’4’ each. He added a switched light fixture and outlet to both and I added a small desk, wheeled office chair, lamp, power strip and some sound dampening solutions (giant curtains and fabric wrapped foam boards).
Owing to the giant glass doors on these, they are not sound proof but they muffle what’s happening inside somewhat. They are not perfect. The single greatest problem with these phone rooms is the lack of ventilation. It gets smoking hot in there so I am constantly on the search for how to add a quiet/small exhaust fan to each towards the top of each room. Stay tuned.
During our remodel, I axed THREE more closets in an awkward hallway to make three more phone booths. They got the same basic treatment by a general contractor as the previous ones only we did curtains in lieu of doors (due to hallway traffic). As you might imagine this provides no sound barrier at all. This hallway is a main thoroughfare on the way to the kitchen and bathrooms. We’ve found that people are actually ducking into them to be left alone more than talk on the phone and I think that’s alright!
These rooms are furnished with IKEA standing desks, switched wall sconces, power strips, stools and rugs.
Ventilation: no, only what accidentally comes in through the door gap or curtains
Soundproofing: none, whatsoever. The ones with doors reduce the sound by 15%-ish
Lighting: switched wall sconces and some lamps
Furniture: 2 of the booths have large curtains, small IKEA desks and wheeled chairs, 2 have IKEA standing desks and stools and one has a low folding tabletop with wheeled chair.
Glass: yes, the door is glass or curtains that block all light
Bonus items: decorated with unexpected 80s band posters or rugs with surfing dachshunds and macrame decor my mom made
DIY BUILD YOUR OWN PHONE BOOTH
THE FELLOW PHONE BOOTH: ~$1,150-$2,000
I’ve saved the best for last. I came across the perfect diy phone booth solution for coworking spaces. This model by The Fellow coworking space in Kansas has all the features I look for, can be customized to fit your style and budget and absolutely won’t break your bank. If you have any kind of DIY chops or have a friend who can read and use a saw and drill, this is the best phone booth option.
Ventilation: yes, cool air is drawn in via small holes and pulled out by the exhaust fan
Soundproofing: customizable using spray foam or rock wool insulation panels in the wall assembly and as many echo-busting foam panels on the interior you want to purchase
Lighting: integrated switched wall light of your choosing
Furniture: the desktop is built into the plans so you can customize the size and height
Glass: yes, the door is glass and you can opt to add a curtain as well
Bonus items: integrated outlet and the ability to get whatever type of chair/stool/decor fits best with your members’ preferences. The price will vary depending on the quality of the materials you use and if you DIY this or hire someone to do the labor for you. $250 to buy the plans, $900 in materials and labor is what makes up the total cost range for this phone booth.
We are delighted to partner with The Fellow and you can buy the blueprints and instructions right here at DIY Coworking.
I hope the above post has illuminated the many different phone booth options that are available to coworking spaces no matter their size or budget. If you have found another booth that you would like me to review or add to this post, please send me a note.