Design

A Case for the Workplace Cocoon

by Caroline Pham

April 22, 2015
Meet Brody. Image courtesy Steelcase.

There aren’t enough impassioned op-eds nor time in the day to accurately convey how much I loathe the open office format. It sabotages productivity and privacy, enabling free roaming coworkers to ensnare you in long-winded stories and paranoid bosses to butt into whatever is or isn’t on your screen. And despite being proven largely ineffective and distracting, companies keep eagerly knocking down the walls, clumping workers together often with little thought given to what individual workers need to succeed and touting “transparency” and “collaboration” above all. 

This trend, though, has created a market for those desperately seeking refuge from their open office. Steelcase, a company specializing in office wares, will soon be hawking a workspace enclosure they affectionately call “Brody,” a cocoon-like take on a cubicle meant for workers who need a quiet break from the open format. It features a swirled, S-shaped wall that allows a worker to nestle into each curve, separated by privacy walls, with a small, attached side desk, seat, and footstool. 

As Co.Exist reports, Steelcase based their Brody design on careful research that pinpointed a person’s “state of peak productivity that can last for 45 minutes at most,” which they call “Flow,” with the cocoon attempting to block out “stimulus-driven attention,” aka half-assed focus due to external noise and distractions. 

Brody 1, Brody 2, Brody 3. Image courtesy Steelcase.

“The average office worker gets distracted every 11 minutes, and takes 23 minutes to get back on task. Add those two things up, and most people never get into flow,” says Mark McKenna, Steelcase’s director of product design, to Co. Exist.

While Brody wasn’t designed as a formal assault on the open floor plan, it certainly adds to the case against it, though getting zoned in cocoon-style will set you back a pretty penny—$2700.

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A Case for the Workplace Cocoon