A Case for the Workplace Cocoon

Yet another covetable anti-open office format invention

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.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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