Workplace design is an intense field of study, driven by design companies and business school researchers trying to get the most for their corporate clients. Yet empirical evidence is mixed, at best, on whether open plan space fosters collaboration or enhances productivity. There's definitely a way to make open plan work for any environment, however.
Last year, I reviewed three portable laptop stands, suitable for coworking when you commute and hotdesk, as opposed to if you have a dedicated desk. The Roost 2 was the unequivocal winner and it became my everyday stand.
Earlier this year, the designers of a new stand, called the Majextand, sent me a prototype to try out. I’ve used it for about six weeks now, enough to get a solid feel for it. It has two important advantages over the Roost 2. First, it’s even smaller and lighter than the ingeniously engineered Roost 2. Second, it’s one less thing to take out of the bag when setting up in the morning, because it’s attached to the bottom of your laptop. It’s not perfect, as I explain below, but it’s an effective design. Would it replace my beloved Roost 2?
The Majextand’s trick is that it attaches to the bottom of your laptop like a flat sheet of stamped metal, with two adhesive strips. It’s only 1.7mm thick (0.07”) and 5.5” square, and weighs only 4.8 ounces. So it’s always with you and you won’t notice it when you’re not using it. To be sure, it comes with rubber foot pads that you can use to boost your laptop’s existing feet, so that the laptop still sits flat when the Majetand is not expanded. The additional feet were definitely appreciated. The overall build quality feels solid.
To deploy the Majextand, you pull two hinged sections out to form a triangular tube, which then locks into place. The laptop is then supported by one edge of that triangular tube and by the laptop’s front edge. (It’s easier to see in the photograph than to explain.) The result is more stable than it looks: The laptop doesn't budge when I shake the table. You break it down simply by depressing tabs on each hinged section and it folds back into place. No need to stow and pack it separately, because it’s attached to the laptop. Clever and effective.
With that said, there are few things to bear in mind. First, it takes a little thought to get it positioned right, because it has to be close to the hinge (or else it could tip backward) and mounted exactly parallel to the front edge of your laptop. It also can’t cover-up access to essential components. This isn’t an issue on a MacBook, but other laptops have things like removable battery packs that might be covered over by the stand. My backup computer is an old ThinkPad, for example, and the Majextand would cover a few access screws.
If those form factor details work out for you, there’s one other thing to bear in mind. The Majextand does not raise your laptop screen as high as other laptop stands. The general guideline for a laptop stand is to put the center of the screen just slightly lower than eye level or to put the top of the screen just above eye level. The Roost 2’s highest and lowest height adjustments put the center of my MacBook Air at about 15 ¼” or 12”, above the desktop, respectively. The highest height seems to fit the recommended height for me.
With the Majextand, the center of the screen is about 9 ¼” above the desktop. The designer notes that the bottom of the screen is the same height as the bottom of an Apple Cinema Display. But that places all of a MacBook Air display significantly below eye level.
I thought the lower height would be a limitation for me. But after using the stand for six weeks, it turns out I’m comfortable with that height. I wear glasses with progressive lenses, so the lower screen works in my favor, because I have to look through the bottom half of my glasses anyway.
And it’s surprisingly nice to take one fewer thing out of my bag (laptop, keyboard, mouse, power adapter, headphones…) every morning. So, although I was skeptical when I was first contacted, the Majextand has become my new everyday laptop stand.
I recommend the stand, as long as you’re comfortable with the limitations I’ve noted.
Edit: You can purchase the Majextand here: www.majextand.com/
If entrepreneurship is a social good for communities, must anything that helps entrepreneurship also be a social good? Maybe not.
It’s true that entrepreneurship is a generally a positive force. It often falls to startups to create gales of “creative destruction,” as economist Joseph Schumpeter called the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within.” Startups fill unmet consumer needs and are engines of job creation. To be sure, it might not be so clear cut – those statements are often backed by cherry-picked data. Still, I haven’t heard the argument that entrepreneurship is bad for the economy or society, even if there’s a little too much attention on things like messaging apps.
So businesses that grease the wheels for entrepreneurship must also be producing a social good, right? And that means we should call coworking offices “social enterprises” for their role in the startup community. Not so fast.
A social enterprise is commonly defined, with some semantic variation, as an organization that applies commercial strategies to improve social and environmental well-being. And social well-being includes creating well-paying jobs as well as filling unmet consumer needs – which is exactly what many startups that fill coworking offices strive to accomplish.
But many coworking offices in the US, Europe and Asia cater more to major corporations. Coworking provides real-estate flexibility and lower costs to those corporations, and maybe stimulates more creativity and collaboration. But I don’t see those coworking offices as social enterprises working to improve social and environmental well-being.
To be sure, I’m not talking about coworking spaces that cater specifically to non-profits and other social enterprises. There are a lot of them and I have no reservation in calling them “social enterprises.”
On the other hand, there are coworking offices, incubators and accelerators that are in places that could sorely use a boost in growth-oriented entrepreneurs. So coworking offices in places like Ethiopia or Zimbabwe, for example, have the potential to produce more a lot more social and environmental outcomes through their tenants. So, to my mind, whether coworking is a social enterprise comes down to the classic real estate aphorism: location, location, location.
What do you think?
Usually, I find press coverage of coworking to be rather facile. Think of this Boston Globe article, which referred to coworking members as "Millennials in hoodies." That's hardly the case in most coworking offices I visit. Most of the time, the press doesn't really get to the heart of what coworking is actually like.
One exception might be this CNBC explainer video, which is a reasonably good primer and also notes the different ways that large corporations are delving into coworking. Check it out.
Are coworking brands strong enough to power retail products? I was recruited recently to help Workbar with its Workbar Essentials kit, sold at 27 Staples locations (but not on the Staples website). Apparently inspired in part by my own mobile laptop stand and the time I spent finding the right combination of products (see my post here, for example), Workbar connected with Staples to put together these bundles. They combine a Roost laptop stand - one of my favorite products - with Logitech bluetoooth keyboard and bluetooth mouse. And they also recruited me to appear in endcap displays! Naturally, I went to tour a few of them.
Workbar@Staple is the fascinating tie-up between the Workbar coworking network and the office supply retailer. Staples is making a strategic move into providing different kinds of business services, in the wake of its failed merger with Office Depot. The Workbar coworking agreement is an interesting test - and in my experience it really works.
I'd be curious to hear if any other coworking brand is doing retail products? WeWork has its Creator magazine, but it's focused on its own community. And I'm sure every coworking office has mugs and pens and whatnot. But a retail product, designed for non-members? Let me know if you know of any.
I've been coworking since 2010. which has taught me a few things about making it work. I have a lot left to learn.