The ongoing pandemic has revealed a lot about our society and the nature of work, including the fact that lots of people can be just as productive doing a 9 to 5 from home. Office space isn’t as critical as corporate America once thought it was, so Herman Miller is introducing a new collection of temporary desks that cater to workers who only occasionally pop into an office during the work week.
As much as many employers like to insist that in-person collaboration is critical to help justify their ongoing leases on sprawling office complexes, the reality is now quite different, and in many fields employees simply don’t need to endure the hassle, stress, and cost of a daily commute. Some companies are introducing more flexible work schedules as a result where employees only need to visit an office a few days a week, but that new approach then makes it hard to justify giving every employee a permanent desk when it’s going to sit unused at times.
Herman Miller’s solution is a new collection of smaller customizable desks that can be assigned as needed and quickly configured to suit every employee’s needs. The OE1 Micro Packs (which were actually created by the London-based design firm, Industrial Facility, co-founded by Sam Hecht and Kim Colin back in 2002) currently come in three configurations: single mini-desks for employees working by themselves, or three and four mini-desk multi-units for small teams that occasionally need to collaborate in person.
Each of the individual mini-desk stations offer electronic height adjustments from 27 to 42-inches to accommodate workers who prefer sitting or standing desks, as well as both standard outlets and powered USB ports on each desk for running computers, displays, and charging phones. However, to make the OE1 Micro Packs easy to setup at a moment’s notice, each unit, even the four desk option, connects to an outlet with just a single power cord.
As with most modular desk and cubicle systems, the OE1 Micro Packs can be extensively customized with various colors, materials, finishes, and accessories such as mounts for displays and even additional furniture pieces like matching rolling whiteboards, but as with most of Herman Miller’s pieces, they’re not cheap.
The single OE1 Micro Pack option, which isn’t self-standing and can only be used when mounted against a wall, appears to start at just over $2,800 for a version without the privacy wall and without power. Max it out with all the optional features and a premium finish and the price soars past $4,700. The 3-pack version starts at $7,684, by comparison, while the 4-pack is $10,915, but can be configured to almost $20,000. Maybe this is Herman Miller’s way of convincing employers that letting staffers work from home all week long is really the only way to go.
Update, April 5, 3:31 p.m. EST/EDT: MillerKnoll has reached out to Gizmodo to clarify that the the price book linked through the Herman Miller website only specifies the “list price” for these various pieces, which is “the maximum price something could be purchased at—not the final price, which is usually much lower.” The OE1 Micro Pack pieces are also only available for purchase through a “certified dealer or Herman Miller Professional” which will often include “discounts that fluctuate for a variety of reasons, including size of order, amount of units, etc.” that are not available for Herman Miller products sold to regular retail customers.