Thanks to penny-pinching business owners who also want to see more collaboration between employees, open plan office design isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
What’s a lowly worker to do when they can’t hear their own thoughts because of the guy across the office with the hacking cough and heavy breathing problem? Set up camp behind a wall of filing cabinets? Barricade themselves behind a teetering pile of books? Wear noise-canceling headphones all day?
In 2012, the New York Times reported that office managers and social scientists are starting to listen to the complaints of employees craving sound privacy (the leading concern of office workers worldwide according to a survey by the University of California, Berkley) and are developing new ways to drown out the office din. Now businesses are playing special background noise to improve acoustics and make it more difficult for employees to hear chatter across the building.
If noise machines aren’t enough to stop you from retreating to the utility closet every time you need to have a private conversation, have no fear. Designers are busy creating concepts for the latest trend in office furniture: collapsing cubicles. From simple partitions to inflatable rooms, these portable spaces will give you much-needed privacy when you want it and can easily be stowed, collapsed and otherwise folded when you want to collaborate.
Take a look at some new concepts:
When Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library was undergoing renovations earlier this year, cardboard aficionado Charigami partnered with the university to design and construct collapsible cubicles made from cardboard. The desk dividers were sustainable, recycleable and cost effective, while also serving as a blank canvas for workers with a creative streak.
The World’s Biggest Filing Cabinet
Designers at Taylor and Miller Architecture and Urban Design recently took the challenge of creating cubicles that disappear and reappear as needed according to Gizmodo. The workspaces are built into individual wooden slabs mounted on a track that can be folded out using a hand crank and tucked back into a space-saving cube when not in use. Essentially a giant filing cabinet for people, the work solution took the jury prize in the office interiors category of the Architizer A+ Awards for design.
Office in a Box
As a solution for cramped living spaces in Japan and worldwide, designer Toshihiko Suzuki created an office, complete with desk, chair, shelves and drawers that is built into what looks like a giant trunk. Just close up the box when not in use.
The I-Trunk from Pinel & Pinel is an uber-stylish folding office made from wood, leather and nickeled brass. The office features drawers for office supplies and hanging files and it comes with a 20-inch Apple iMac, sound system and Canon mobile color printer. It’s available in 51 colors from white to lime green.
Office in a Bucket
No, you aren’t on some ill-conceived camping trip to the Arctic Circle. This award-winning, light-weight room created by Inflate USA packs in a portable bag and can be inflated to offer privacy in your office in just eight minutes.
Office in a Box Photo courtesy of