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David Westenberger carries substantial responsibility on his shoulders as chief executive officer of the Indianapolis-based Indiana Youth Services Association.
In fact, the local resident straps on that load every time he moves from one meeting to the next, whether those get-togethers unfold in downtown Indianapolis or downtown Columbus.
“People sometimes will comment,” Westenberger said.
He is referring to his multi-compartment backpack, which contains his iPad and laptop. The 43-year-old Westenberger bikes to many of his appointments, so easy mobility and portability reign supreme in a business world that seems to be shutting the lid on briefcases and opening its arms to backpacks and messenger bags.
He has owned only one briefcase — and he used that simply for storing aviation log books in his small, private plane. That was years ago.
“I never carry documents or anything like that with me now,” Westenberger said.
In recent years, backpacks have migrated from the classroom to the boardroom and beyond. White-collar workers say the electronic age has ushered such a change, as the office is increasingly paperless and most briefcases or attache cases do not comfortably or safely hold components of their wired world.
Some younger workers such as Brad Springman, 29, never have carried a briefcase.
“I have found that briefcases I’ve seen do not have as much storage (as a backpack),” said Springman, who has been shouldering his load in a backpack for about seven years. He said he typically stores in his pack his laptop, various packets of tea and even his tea cup, among other items. He estimates that the cargo weighs in at about 20 pounds.
Columbus chiropractor Dr. Noel Taylor said that seems like a safe weight for most healthy adults, unlike the much heavier packs he sees young students nearly straining to carry.
“Granted, there are some pretty heavy laptops,” Taylor said. “But they usually are not as heavy as the amount of books a student would have.”
Springman acknowledged that maybe the only awkward element of his pack revolves around mixing it with, say, a necktie on a dressier day.
“But being able to carry everything I need during the entire day is very important,” Springman said.
That’s especially true since he moves from workspace to workspace as an IT auditor at the Cummins Inc. office on Third Street.
Cummins’ Nagaian Krishnamoorthy carried a briefcase for more than 20 years until his work became more linked to his computer. Five years ago, he switched to a backpack that he acknowledged looks a bit collegiate, which he tempers by carrying it by hand by the top loop rather than slinging it over his shoulder.
Columbus’ Maninder Singh takes his backpack as a carry-on item with his computer when he travels. He likes the fact that it’s padded enough to protect a laptop and small enough to fit under his seat on a plane.
Plus, he sees another advantage for a pack over a briefcase.
“You’ve got to be able to easily open doors,” Singh said.
He laughed when asked if his dark pack, issued by Cummins when he was hired, blends well when he occasionally wears a tie.
“I really don’t care at all about that,” he said.
Female office workers don’t seem too concerned over the fashion coordination issue, either, said Cummins’ Chuwanda Thigpen.
“Maybe I’m unique, but I don’t give it that much thought,” she said. “It’s just a convenience.”
So much so that, 15 years ago, she traded in not only her briefcase, but her purse, too, on most days, for the pack.
“I don’t know if I’m the norm,” Thigpen said. “But I like to be able to move unhindered.”
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