Business Profile - Replanning the office by Joe Roberts, Roberts Limbrick
22nd May 2020
Writing on the future of workplace design in such uncertain times seems very strange, especially when most people reading this are working from home.
From many recent online meetings and workshops, I have noticed every kind of imaginable space has become a workplace - from first floor landings to cloakrooms and bedrooms.
I have personally never spent this much time in my new home office - formerly known as the spare room.
In terms of trends, there is no question a considerable part of the future of the workplace lies in the virtual world and the adoption of flexible working procedures.
But for now, attention for both Roberts Limbrick and many of our clients lies in the challenge of planning our return to the workplace.
We are very busy working with many of our clients to assist them in the re-planning of their existing workspace.
This work is raising a huge number of questions and challenges.
Not so much the longer term, bigger picture questions such as 'Will the office ever be the same again?' but rather questions around who comes back, how they come back and, importantly, how many can actually come back at the same time?
In reviewing the floor plans of a wide range of clients, both local and further afield, it is clear most open plan layouts may only be able to accommodate 40-50 per cent of desks being occupied at the same time.
In a social distanced environment, toilets, tearoom/kitchen provision and any other shared facilities are a major obstacle to achieving maximum occupancy.
These challenges are leading us into further discussions around whether staff return on a rota, whether clients actually need more space or whether to convert other existing spaces into workplaces in the same way e are converting spaces in our homes.
It is clear that, despite a market saturated with fantastic new furniture solutions to the pandemic, investment in the workplace at this time is challenging for most companies.
We are trying to find pragmatic, creative ways to work with the existing furniture and spaces and produce space planning proposals that allow clients to make educated decisions about their return to their workplace.
We are also striving to find the middle ground where necessary, to carefully balance existing furniture and flexible or temporary solutions to make the most of the space available and ensure the workplace is safe and compliant.
Our interior design team, led by David Billingham and Nadja Hornblower, has extensive experience working on large-scale interiors and space planning projects for a wide range of companies all over the country.
This experience enables us to support existing and new clients in the redesign of their workplaces to create solutions that meet Government guidelines for working safely during COVID-19 in offices, contact centres and, in the longer term, to assist entertainment and hospitality venues to adapt to the 'new normal'.
The challenge of what happens next, once we have returned to our workplaces, is certainly an interesting one.
Only a few months ago we were working on several refurbishment projects for major local employers, which included large, open plan workplaces, collaborative spaces, flexible hot desking solutions and lecture spaces.
Suddenly, we are pondering the unimaginable, the potential death of hot desking and open plan environments and the return of the office cubicle.
Whatever happens next, the COVID-19 pandemic will unfortunately leave social and emotional scars which will influence the future of workplaces and, indeed, how we use all building types.
We can imagine how this might change our world in different ways, but for now we are dealing in the here and now and are available to assist all clients (old and new) that need our support in readying them for a return to work and safe operation of their facilities.
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