It’s a weird time for designers of office furniture systems, because it’s not yet clear what the post-COVID office looks like, nor if people will even return en masse. In the near future we’ll likely see companies taking a stab at new types of office furniture, and not all of it’s going to stick.
Spacestor, a London-based designer and manufacturer of office systems, is guessing that all the Zooming we did at home will persist even at the office, because not everyone may be willing to come back. That situation would drive the need, the company believes, for what amounts to a Zoom booth (even if that’s not what they call it).
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“We all have a new emerging challenge as we gradually return to our workplaces,” says Nic Baxter, Managing Director at Spacestor. “It’s no longer video conferences where everyone’s at home but a blended or hybrid situation where some are now back in the office. Electronic noise and half-conversations are very distracting for nearby colleagues and of course some meetings need to be completely private, too. Residence Connect meets all these needs, comfortably.”
The company makes much of the fact that the Residence Connect unit is designed for good UX (adjustable lighting, ventilation and height of working position) and maintenance, with removable panels to access various components; but curiously, they make no mention of air filtration, an issue I’d imagine would be top-of-the-list.
A small, enclosed booth is an easy volume to quickly filter air within, and I think I’d have no problem getting into one that another person had recently used–if there was some visual indication that an air-scrubbing cycle had taken place in between. Maybe after someone gets out of it, a sensor confirms the booth is empty, the door locks, a red light comes on, you hear the whine of a high-pitched fan, then the light turns green. And while it seems COVID spreads largely through the air rather than via fomites, I’m guessing the most cautious would prefer the interior be blasted with a UV light for good measure.
Another thing is, I know that some companies had installed phone-booth-style closets prior to COVID; do you reckon those were ripped out in panic? If not I’d wager it’s pretty easy to drop a ring light and a computer in there for Zoom calls. (If we’re not doing the air filtration thing anyway, that is.)
Time will tell if all offices in the future will have the Residence Connect, or something like it. But in its current form, I’m a bit skeptical. What do you think?