As the COVID-19 lockdown eases, commercial fit-out and furniture specialist Mobius says companies are already viewing office space differently. Company founder Kevin Lancaster tells Tim Wickham what the ‘new normal’ might look like.Where and how we work are questions foremost in corporate minds as businesses grapple with the complexities of socially distanced working in offices. While work patterns will inevitably change, according to a survey in May commissioned by the British Council for Offices, only 20% of UK adults plans primarily to work from home in the future and only 16% hope working from home replaces the office. Finding the right balance between office and home won’t be easy.
“We could see a win:win situation where employees feel more empowered to ask for flexible working arrangements to continue, while businesses save overheads associated with commercial offices,” says Kevin Lancaster, design and projects director at Mobius, a firm well-placed through its use of digital and virtual reality (VR) technology to support companies searching for inspiration.
If you’re wondering what a COVID-19 secure office might look like then a short video produced by Mobius imagines how traditional workspaces can be transformed into the ‘new normal’.
Re-designed workplaces are likely to combine a mix of desking and video conferencing facilities, so teams can continue collaborating when some members are working from home. Old-style desking is replaced with new layouts complete with discrete Perspex screens.
“Our video is aimed at those responsible for following the latest Government guidance and making their workplaces COVID-19 secure. As yet, there are no definitive rules on office design, but our 3D animation offers helpful ideas,” said Lancaster.
“One thing’s for sure, Perspex is becoming the new toilet roll – it’s in increasingly short supply,” he noted.
“An important consideration at the moment is trust,” Lancaster continued. “We have trusted in the Government to act. Now we need to trust employers to create COVID-19 secure workplaces where people are safe. And companies need to have trust and faith in their employees to work effectively in these new work environments.”
He expects many businesses will look at localising offices when their current leases expire by taking space nearer to where their employees live. “We expect to see smaller offices and ‘communication lounges’ for staff to use combined with home working,” said Lancaster.
He also predicts that the post-coronavirus period will see more stakeholders involved in workplace design decision making. “There will need to be more input from Human Resources on employee wellbeing as social distancing and working remotely will probably be with us for two or three years,” he said. “Now is the time to start thinking about what changes you need to make to your workplace.”
Mobius is making a name for itself in architectural visualisation modelling through a blend of 3D, VR and computer gaming technologies that bring visualisations to life. Detailed laser scans of the space send out millions of beams to build a highly accurate data ‘point cloud’ that creates the 3D images. Clients don VR headsets or stand in front of a 20 square metre screen to ‘walk’ around offices and make design changes in real time.
Like many other Thames Valley businesses, Mobius is supporting the local community during this period of uncertainty. It is donating 20 Oculus Go VR headsets to two charities, ASD Family Help and Autism Berkshire, who help young people with autism and their carers cope better with being stuck at home.
“They are pre-loaded with appropriate content for people with learning difficulties and autism. Carers can also wear the headsets and learn more about what it’s like to be autistic. We’re providing technical help to get them up and running and offering ongoing support. We’re very pleased to be able to help during these difficult times and the charities were thrilled to be approached,” said Lancaster.
As well as changing workspace layouts, another property sector trend Lancaster believes will gain traction is the increased use of ‘digital twin’ plans of office buildings. These are digital versions of buildings that draw on Building Information Modelling (BIM) and other operational data so facilities managers, estate managers and company executives can better control their overheads and operational services.
Mobius is also receiving a steady stream of inquiries from landlords and property agents who are unable to take clients to view properties. Lancaster says the 360° VR views that Mobius makes for its clients, along with digital floor plans, are ideal for creating virtual tours of properties.
For more information contact Kevin Lancaster:
View video: youtu.be/hBQODpTRycw