GRAND RAPIDS - Steelcase, number 2 on the FDMC 300 list of largest wood firms in North America, has partnered with a Chinese electronics firm on its new furniture piece: The Flex Mobile Power unit, which is capable of charging up to three laptops or personal devices for a full day. 
 
The unit is aimed at open offices - places where it can be hard for employees to conveniently charge a battery. In many open offices, Steelcase observed employees sit around the perimeter, and that's where most of the outlets are located. This can make it hard for some employees to find available outlets.
 
Steelcase's mobile power unit, a rolling cart equipped with several large battery packs, addresses this problem. Each battery holds up to 218 watt-hours of charge and they're returned to the cart for recharge. The unit is pricey, reported Gizmodo, running at $7,500 for the cart, five batteries, and the required recharging tray. The unit is set to hit the North American market in December.
 
“People work in fast-paced teams with changing activities, and they need to be more mobile than ever,” said Hyun Yoo, principal designer, Steelcase. “We wanted to truly empower teams to work however and wherever they want, so we collaborated with Anker to design enterprise-level mobile power for the workplace that is not only functional but beautiful.”
 
Open offices have been met with mixed opinions. Advantages can include greater employee freedom and increased collaboration. They can also save money by reducing real-estate footprint. However, they can cut down on desired privacy, increase noise and distractions, and reduce efficiency. 
 
Steelcase is worth $3.4 billion and employs more than 12,000. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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