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We’ve all seen it before – offices drive people crazy. Just ask Milton from the cult classic Office Space, stuck in a cubicle all day, eventually moved to the dark corner of the office, surrounded by papers and just waiting for the opportunity to burn the building to the ground when someone takes his red Swingline stapler. Is this what the modern office should be? On the other hand, do we truly want the Google pictured in the not-good, not-cult-classic The Internship – not to be confused with the also-bad The Intern? An office of debauchery and continuous hijinks, of constant distraction, is just as bad as the opposite.

Clearly, the modern office is a space in flux. Emerging from the more closed, cubicled office style of the 80s and 90s, the contemporarily planned office has become almost exclusively open-plan. Although this style is fantastic for creativity and collaboration, it stifles one of the most important functions of an office: getting stuff done. As reflected in our survey, people overwhelmingly found open spaces to be the most happy and energizing. However, research also shows that wide-open office spaces have been proven to be distracting and unproductive. Experts say that creativity and collaboration require the ability to retreat as well as connect, via a mix of spaces including open and closed spaces, multi-level offices, lounges and soft seating areas, conference rooms and break rooms. Thus, we decided to design a desk for the preferred open-plan space in order to minimize distraction.

We thus designed the Multitasker Desk. Multitasker may look like a standard open-plan desk at first glance. Similar to other models by companies such as SBFI, it has a bench style that accommodates multiple workers on the same surface and can be opposed with another of the same desk in order to create a double-sided working surface. Where it differs from the standard desk is in the dividers. Most open-plan desks have either no dividers or permanently installed ones, either allowing too much distraction or greatly inhibiting collaboration between workers. The Multitasker, however, solves this problem with movable, frosted-glass dividers that slide up out of the desk surface in between workers – you can still be connected and have the option to focus when necessary.

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When not in use, the dividers slide neatly down into a specialized compartment that sits below the desk next to the filing cabinet. The top of the divider is flush with the surface of the desk so as to be as non-invasive as possible. The hidden hydraulic system within the compartment is the mechanism by which the divider moves up and down. Using a discrete button located underneath the surface of the desk, the user can simply press to have the divider slowly raise up. The divider can be lowered by holding the button while pushing the divider down. The hydraulic mechanism operates much like that of the traditional office chair. For each two-person desk, there are four dividers; this means that each worker can raise or lower the dividers on either side of their desk at any time without having to worry about asking their neighbor whether they would like the dividers up or down. In terms of technical specifications, each individual section of desk (i.e. the space where one person would sit) is 60” long, 30” tall, and 28” deep. These are fairly standard desk dimensions. The file cabinet is wide enough to fit standard files, and the dividers are 2” thick and 20” tall.

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We believe that this product is an innovative and practical solution to the issue of balancing privacy and collaboration in the workplace. Since it would be very inconvenient and difficult for an existing office to replace all of its desks with new ones, our product would be marketed towards startups or companies that are looking to move into their first/a new office. Marketing efforts would emphasize the importance of this privacy/collaboration balance in order to convince companies that our desk will maximize worker happiness and productivity.