I'm sitting in a private work pod right now.
The day is a bit dreary here in Minnesota but I have a task lamp pointed toward my keyboard. It's helping my disposition a bit. I have my feet propped up on a small blue ottoman and I'm listening to the new album by Grimes. There's a thin plastic shield surrounding me that looks exactly like something out of Star Trek.
The pod is called the Steelcase Brody, and it's a wonder of workplace engineering.
Because having a work pod in my private office would be superfluous (the curved cubicle shield insulating me from the four walls like a box inside a box), I decided to plunk down at General Office Products. a dealer in my area for Steelcase. I wanted to situate myself in an area where employees are busy and talkative.
In the modern workplace, there's a reemergence of policies that help insulate us from distraction. We tell people "no email after close of business" or "no phones at meetings" because we have to stay productive, and there are just too many ways to get our attention. The free-form and open nature of our mobile work environments has brought back the need for actual rules, a re-institution of workplace procedure.
That's why, if you work in a Brody, everyone here at General Office Products knows you are in deep focus mode. I mean, what else is there to do in your own private work pod? I leaned back in a chair at a slight recline position. I tapped out this article. I had a burst of productivity because no one bothered me.
There's a tray for your laptop or, in my case, the Apple iPad Pro I'm testing. To my right, there's a small shelf where I have have stashed a cup of coffee and an extra laptop. I can bend the task lamp to my will...or to help focus on a document, which is a pain when you are in a swivel chair in front of a keyboard because you have to slide over or move the keyboard out of the way.
Hidden under the shelf is another shelf, which you might use for your backpack or as a cubby-hole for the office cat (thankfully, that is not a thing here). There are two power outlets tucked next to the seat. The iPad Pro was happy.
I love it. For me, it's a nice change of pace (and position). I'm not at a standing desk, I'm not on a swivel chair. I'm somewhere in between: A more more relaxed position that's similar to a sofa or even like working in bed. Steelcase calls it an active recline. The Brody also has a tray that moves around left to right, forward and back, and even at an angle. On the tray, there's a slot to hold your tablet or phone. The tray felt stable like it could hold one of those gargantuan 15-inch gaming laptops.
I will admit that, when I first saw the Brody in photos, I wondered if I could get any real work done. It looked like a cocoon. After sitting in one and working for an hour, I was sold. I really need to get one of these! Although, I do need to mention a few minor caveats.
One is that, it felt a bit odd to make phone calls. You are in lean-back focus mode, which meant I was able to type (and think) fast. I'm here in the Brody to work. Yet, phone calls are socially engaging. You laugh, you smile, you banter. In the Brody, I felt like I should get up and take a call and walk over to another office, and maybe that's perfectly normal but also a bit time-consuming if you get a lot of calls. My solution: I just muted my phone.
I also wondered a little about alienating myself. I'm a stranger here at Steelcase, although an operations manager introduced herself before I sat down. People were friendly and polite, willing to share their office like it was a library. As I worked in the Brody, due to the informal policy about people doing focused work, no one interrupted me. That's a good thing for focus, maybe not as good if you are more social. I had to split up my time a little since once of my goals was to work in a more communal area.
Fortunately, there are offices here for just about any purpose--from deep focus to group chats. Even the break-room, situated in an open area in the center of a large room, is an "office" in that you can work there or grab a sandwich. It's ingenious. The break-room is also where they keep the copier, so it forces employees stop over. That reminded me of how Steve Jobs insisted they install the elevators at Pixar in the center of the office. I nodded and smiled at several people during my work day. It was very pleasant.
Nearby, there's a treadmill desk in an office that's surrounded by glass walls, cubicles with standing desks that raise and lower electronically using a switch, and even a product designed in partnership with the author Susan Cain that's meant for introverts. I plan to work in all of these spaces over a few days in December. Stay tuned.
My favorite is the Brody work pod, though. The base price is $2,270 which includes the main private cubicle, desk, laptop tray, and chair. There's an extended version, and the pods can be linked together to form an S-shape for two people to work privately. If there was a button to beam me back home after work, I'd be set for life.