BIFM London Regional Conference 2016

(Written by Cathy Hayward)

This year’s conference, attended by more than 130 Facilities Management professionals, was held at King’s Place. The insect canapés of last year’s BIFM London Regional Conference were nowhere to be seen. Those attending the event were treated to copious amounts of coffee.

The pre-lunch session on coffee provision within the workplace from an FM’s perspective delivered by Bartlett Mitchell and Bewleys caused much excitement (and some competitiveness!) with the interactive app-based quiz. Everyone left the hall a little wiser, and several (including myself) thirsty for coffee.

We learnt that coffee is the 2nd biggest traded commodity after oil, the global market is worth £60bn and 42 beans are used for an espresso.

On a more serious, non-food and beverage related theme, the other conference sessions looked more closely at those working within FM. Particularly health and well-being, communication and importance of community.

Principle Cleaning’s Douglas Cooke talked about his experience of going undercover and working as a cleaner within the company. He said the cleaners were, what the Equality and Human Rights Commission, calls a “Hidden Workforce”, working at night with inadequate equipment and for little reward. Cooke called for an end to night cleaning, greater flexibility and better pay. He said that it was hugely important to build a sense of teamwork, motivate and respect staff and to pay them a decent (living) wage. Cooke told the audience that it was necessary to fit around both workforces, and more importantly for them to help each other. Cooke said that by making these changes there was a higher rate of employee retention, lower turnover and a more ethical and sustainable workforce.

Monica Parker from HATCH gave a thought-provoking and inspiring talk. Parker looked at health and well-being in the workplace. She focused on “Resiliency and why it matters”. Parker spoke about the grim, poor working conditions that, for many, is a daily reality. She even went as far as saying that a “good day in prison can be the same as a bad day in the workplace”. Anxiety, she told the audience, is the most common feeling in the workplace and mental health is the single biggest issue affecting workplace health. Each year it costs the UK economy £1.7bn. Parker said resiliency and a more rounded approach when responding to and tackling trauma is crucial.

Parker said being part of a community at work and feeling close to co-workers has proved to be a major factor in well-being. In fact, there is a higher mortality rate for loneliness than for obesity or smoking. How do we tackle this? Parker says we need to have: a sense of purpose; drive; to put things in perspective; and to have an optimistic outlook. HATCH works to help ‘inspire positive action’.

Chris Moriarty from Leesman (a client of Magenta Associates) looked at occupation density and the cost of real estate in the capital. Moriarty asked whether various more modern factors actually benefitted companies. He gave the example of flexible working and said that whilst working from home may be beneficial for productivity, a well used and well designed office space is better for interactivity and happiness.

Using statistics, he explored whether the current ‘trend’ of focusing on the asset i.e. property, actually means that the workforce, and consequently productivity was negatively affected. Moriarty said that when cost or physical features becomes the focus, the value is engineered out, risking social cohesion and performance also being engineered out.

Where you work and what your workplace looks like can greatly affect how you work. It needs to be fit for purpose. In a 2015 survey by Leesman, just over 50% of correspondents agreed that the design of their workplace enabled them to work effectively. What about the other 56%? Moriarty said there needed to be a shift from ‘cost-reduction’ to ‘waste-reduction’ and more data to drive understanding. “Until you’ve got data, it is just an opinion”. Data enables us to make more informed decisions. Finally, the workplace must be seen as a source of competitive advantage.

Mark Downes from ENGIE UK and former Olympic Project Director and Head of Service, London Legacy Development Corporation took the Olympic Park as a case study and also its legacy. Although the 2012 London Olympics are beginning to feel a distant memory, the legacy lives on. Just one year later the park re-opened and is largely being used by locals. The venue might have changed but it continues to grow, and this growth still has an impact on the FM industry.

The more environmentally friendly low-carbon system has been embedded in the venue and continues to be supported through a single-service provider. Environmentally, this means there is greater sustainability and 34% less CO2 being produced than conventional systems. Socially, the Olympic Park is now a place for the community. Local people are connected to the park through employment, training and volunteering.

Downes says the FM industry can learn from the park, both how it was then and how it is now. He sites the location of the park as a key factor – it is one of the best connected places in London. It has created enormous value, focuses on the need of the client, is a source of learning, and perhaps most importantly, has allowed both sides to grow together.

Finishing the day on a high was Mike Lynch, commander indigenous covert operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lynch served for almost two decades with the British Army. He talked about his ‘behind the lines’ experience. He spoke of the many emotional experiences, the life-long friendships he had made, the lessons he had learnt and the memories that will stay with him.

Lynch told the audience to “believe in yourself”, that ‘I was a landscape gardener and ended up at Prince William’s wedding!’. However, the main message I took away from his talk was how important good team work and strong leadership was for all walks of life.

For live reporting from the event go to Twitter and follow @BIFM_London and #LondonConf16

(Photos by Albion Images)

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