What’s In Your Pod?

5 Questions to Ask Before You Buy

One of the big reasons acoustic phone booths, meeting pods, and hubs have become more common in the workplace and other public spaces is our growing focus on wellness. As we realize that employees require a balance between collaborative and private time during the day for optimum mental health, we are creating spaces to maintain that balance and allow people to get what they need, when they need it.

If your goal is employee wellness, the last thing you want when people spend time in a privacy booth is for them to become unwell. But that’s exactly what could happen if your work pods are made with materials known to be hazardous.

It may sound farfetched, this actually happened quite recently in coworking spaces across the US. Approximately 2,000 phone booths were found to contain elevated levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen and “universal sensitizer,” which essentially means that exposure to formaldehyde can make a person sensitive to other harmful chemicals.

Formaldehyde emissions, also referred to as VOC (for volatile organic compound) emissions, occur naturally in small amounts from trees, fruits and vegetables, and this natural level is not harmful to human health. Exposure to higher levels of formaldehyde vapors from products containing man-made formaldehyde, however, can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from burning sensation in the eyes or nose, fatigue and headaches to respiratory difficulties, nausea, depression, and insomnia. Man-made formaldehyde can be found in manufactured wood products (plywood, MDF, particle board), as well as in paints, adhesives, glues, and synthetic fabrics. Many of these components are used in the manufacture of office furniture, including that of office phone booths and meeting pods, in which people are enclosed in a relatively small space, sometimes for an extended period, making the symptoms more intense.

So how do you know if your acoustic office pods contain this dangerous compound? It is important to ask these 5 questions before purchasing a unit.

  • Are the wood products used in your units EPA TSCA approved? Manufacturers should be able to supply certificates of compliance from their wood product vendors (see example here)
  • Have all components been tested for VOC emissions? Ask for documentation on paints, fabrics, acoustic foam, ceiling materials, plastic components, and high pressure laminates specifically.
  • Where are your products manufactured? Manufacturers in the US and EU countries are held to more stringent environmental standards than some other parts of the world. If your booth is being made outside of these countries, take extra steps to ensure compliance with US standards for materials and manufacture.
  • How long have you been in business? There are literally dozens of brand new companies selling office phone booths, often at very low prices. Several have already come and gone, leaving buyers with no recourse when there are problems after the sale. While there are no guarantees, a company that has a solid reputation for quality earned over many years is more likely to be around to handle any questions or issues that might arise.
  • What is your warranty? The length of the company’s warranty is an indication of the degree to which they stand behind their products. Compare warranties just as you are comparing prices and consider both short- and longer-term benefits when you make your decision.

Your decision to install privacy enclosures in your open plan office represents a major investment in your employees’ well-being, as well as a major investment of your dollars. Take the time to investigate a range of options and consider not only the unit itself, but all of its components as you decide on a direction.

Oasis Berco Phone Booths, Pods, and Hubs are made in the US. Components have been tested for formaldehyde/VOC emissions and we are happy to provide certificates upon request. Our units have all been UL tested by ETL/Intertek for an added measure of safety. Contact us at sales@oasis-berco.com for additional information.

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