My father was an early adopter of portable technology, and I remember the day he brought a briefcase-sized Compaq portable computer home from the office in the mid-1980s. This was when individual desktops were still rare, and most office workers went to the “computer room” to do anything technology-related. Working from home, or even the concept of ubiquitous, cheap computers (the Compaq my dad brought home cost over $10,000 in today’s dollars), was utterly foreign.
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Today, not only does our technology rarely stay isolated to our desk, but many of us have moved our entire offices into our homes. Creating a home office has been relatively easy, and perhaps even fun for people with the space and resources. For many others, remote work has made a forced daily ritual of cramming laptops, paperwork and other tools into whatever corner of the home or apartment is available and then hastily shuffling the setup into a bag or shelf at the end of the day.
Worky, a startup that describes itself as a “home lifestyle brand focused on improving your remote work experience,” recently introduced its first product, the Worky Home Office. It’s a large, white briefcase that might be confused with an instrument case or piece of luggage, measuring 26 inches by 16 inches by 3.5 inches and weighing in at just shy of 18 pounds when empty.
The otherwise nondescript case opens to reveal a portable office, with key tools like a magnetic whiteboard, lighting that illuminates the office and serves as a videoconference light, a power strip, a file and paper organizer, and a spot for your laptop that includes a “safety belt” to keep it securely positioned during transport.
All the accoutrements
The Worky Home Office has a nice set of features and accessories that covers everything you’d need for a typical home office setup. There are three storage compartments for cables, pens and pencils, and paperwork, with the latter serving as a flat desk area when closed for notetaking or writing. A two-outlet power strip is located in the back of the unit and has standard USB and USB-C plugs for charging phones or other gear.
The whiteboard at the rear of the unit is magnetic, allowing the user to put up notes with a magnet, which is a nice touch for putting speaking notes within your line of sight for a video conference. There’s also a helpful headphone hook and an anti-close lever of sorts that prevents the lid from being inadvertently closed and potentially damaging an open laptop.
The whiteboard is surrounded by a strip of LED lights with two settings. The lower setting provides ambient workspace lighting. In comparison, the higher setting offers a video conference light that creates an effect similar to popular ring lights and was extremely effective at producing well-lit video for Zoom and Teams calls.
Some minor misses
The setup is clearly well thought out, to the point that I was a bit surprised basic productivity tools like a set of dry erase markers and a few magnets were omitted. Perhaps a starter set with markers, an eraser and some magnetic noteholders would make for an obvious future accessory.
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The other thing I wasn’t wild about was the white color of the case. The clean, bright white worked well when using the Worky in office mode, but clearly stands out and prompts questions from the curious and potential unwanted attention when being transported and risks getting dirty and dingy if regularly transported. Like the early Ford cars, you can have any color you want as long as it’s white.
I also found the latches on the three accessory drawers a bit finicky at times. While functional and robust enough to keep contents secure, they didn’t always fully close without an extra push, making the writing desk area uneven until corrected. The other minor ergonomic challenge is that Worky elevates your laptop keyboard by about 3 inches. I found this slightly shifted the weight in my arms, making for a somewhat different typing experience than using a laptop directly on a table or counter.
It’s also worth double-checking the dimensions of your laptop before ordering a Worky. My 13-inch and 14-inch MacBooks fit with room to spare. However, our 15-inch Lenovo family laptop did fit in the laptop area, but it was a bit too large for the Worky to close. The company recommends a laptop that’s 15.6-inches or less when measured from corner to corner, and our Lenovo misses the mark by a couple of tenths of an inch.
Have office, will travel
The Worky is a bit too big to regularly schlep down to the local coffee shop, but it should sit nicely in most vehicle trunks or back seats, allowing you to take a complete office setup on road trips for vacation or work. The increasing popularity of workcations dovetails nicely with Worky’s ability to quickly close up shop and have all your tools in one place and ready to go at a new location.
The most surprising benefit of the home office
After using the Worky Home Office for a couple of weeks, the most surprising benefit was mental health-related rather than purely functional. A significant concern for many remote workers has become a sense of living at work rather than working at home. With the workplace a few paces away at all hours, there’s a feeling that one never is done working for the day, and many find themselves opening their laptops at all hours.
With the Worky Home Office, I could quite literally close up shop at the end of the workday, closing my laptop and slipping it under the seatbelt strap that keeps it from moving in the case, filing papers and notepads in the organizer drawer, closing the lid of the Worky with a satisfying click of the latches, and removing it from whatever flat surface I was using and putting the “office” away in a corner until the next workday.
I found the sight of the closed Worky less unsettling than a closed laptop reminding me of unanswered emails and unfinished presentations, and it was also lovely to have all my work-related tools in one place each day, versus searching the kitchen for a notepad that someone had moved to make way for dinner.
Worky is greater than the sum of its parts
At $150, the Worky Home Office is surprisingly reasonably priced, considering you get a whiteboard, video light, power strip and some basic storage, all in an integrated portable package. More valuable than these components is the mental health benefit of being able to close the office at the end of the day, a psychological benefit I didn’t imagine would come from such a seemingly simple concept.