IFMA World Workplace Europe

This month, delegates of the World Workplace Europe event hosted by IFMA congregated in Schiecentrale, Rotterdam’s former power plant and now much-loved national monument, to share ideas, stories, and best practice.

The FM conference programme delved into the theme of fostering harmony and cohesion among ever-diverse, dispersed, and evolving employee expectations and workplace challenges.  

Managing director Jo Sutherland and senior consultant Sabrina Stubbs attended the event and share their key takeaways.

From burnout to bore-out

The concept of ‘burnout’ and the emerging notion of ‘bore-out’ offered a nuanced perspective to the discussions on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. The audience was challenged to recognise and address the myriad of challenges faced by employees, from the pressures of burnout to the disengagement associated with ‘bore-out.’ By fostering supportive environments and promoting work-life balance, organisations can empower individuals to thrive and contribute meaningfully to their roles.

Happy people stick around

During a session entitled “Happy People Are Happy To Stay”, Tom Ryckaert, co-founder and managing partner at 2nRich emphasised a shift from a building-centric to an employee-centric approach in the workplace. Ryckaert addressed the importance of fostering connections and reducing psychosocial risks at work – that is, anything that gets in the way of people feeling psychologically safe or socially accepted.

Touching on the three dimensions of work happiness, namely balance, belonging, and brain, Ryckaert shared strategies for optimising brain function, fostering belonging, and achieving balance. The emphasis was on creating environments where employees can choose how to perform their tasks effectively.

Out with the old

In agreement, Kay Sargent, director of workplace thought leadership at HOK, expressed the need for organisations to adapt to changing environments or risk being left behind. Multiple speakers aired the importance of creating adaptable spaces, listening, responding to employee needs, and aligning people strategies with real estate strategies. If the phrase – ‘if you build it, they will come’ rings true, workplace teams must be open to trying new ideas. And as it doesn’t take a long time for the new to get old, the onus is on facilities and workplace managers and their teams to constantly evolve and challenge the status quo.

In with the new

It’s not just workplace strategies that need to embrace the varying needs of the diverse workforce. The workforce needs to embrace the varying needs of their colleagues. Cue the intergenerational debate sparked by Esmee van den Heuvel and Floor Butzelaar, both self-aware, charming, and energetic Generation Z students at the Breda University of Applied Sciences studying Facility Management.

The duo shared light on the aspirations and values of their generation in the context of the assumptions made by the baby boomers and millennials before them. They also touched on Gen Z’s expectations in the workplace and advocated for a shift in workplace norms to accommodate longer working lives, recognising the need for breaks and sabbaticals to prevent burnout, given they’ll probably be working until they’re 70 or 80.

The human side of tech

New beginnings in the workplace world are only possible with technology. The event delved into AI’s evolving role in the workforce, including its potential to relieve employees of repetitive and mundane tasks. The moral dilemmas in using AI were also raised, and how its inherent bias can impact its decision-making. Despite AI’s capabilities, it lacks common sense and struggles with abstraction. And there’s no fix for that, so there will always be room for humans. Phew. 

Sustainable ideas

Consider your supply chain and the circular economy was the message from Waste to Wonder Worldwide’s managing director Michael Amos. To date, Waste to Wonder has saved 70 million tonnes of office furniture from going to landfill. Waste to Wonder’s ethical office clearance solution has equipped over 1,300 schools and charities in 32 countries with furniture supplies. This initiative delivers a social and sustainable impact for customers and a generational impact for young people and disadvantaged communities around the world. The results speak for themselves – one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Why should office furniture ever go to waste?

Michael Grant, COO and co-founder of Metrikus, talked about balancing climate (energy) and comfort (people). It’s important to gather data from both sides to make efficient decisions. Change always needs a clear ‘why’.

Energy used to power, heat and cool buildings is responsible for 28% global emissions and from that, 30% goes to waste – so turn the lights off! Data needs to be collaborative and not siloed in 100s of systems. Cleaning schedules can be demand driven, and lights can turn on and off automatically based on occupancy. Grant talked about the Castellana 85 building in Madrid, where savings have amounted to €29,000 within the first 3 months by closing unused floors and using sensors to inform demand-based cleaning schedules.

High levels of CO2 in buildings can cause 23% impairment in decision making and an 11% drop in productivity. Sick building syndrome caused by bad air quality costs US $60 billion per year. Currently, the regulations of CO2 in buildings in the UK are so low that building managers can get away with doing the bare minimum. However, this is set to change.

For every question asked of AI, for example, whether that’s a ‘Hey Google’ or ‘Alexa’ command, 11-13 grams of CO2 is emitted. Geertrui Mieke De Ketelaere, adjunct professor at Vlerick Business School explained that 10ml of water is required to cool down the servers every time someone asks ChatGPT a question. That’s 383,250,000,0000 litres a year to support 105 billion queries. Thirsty work. It means that AI is not necessarily the solution to the world’s ills that may have been assumed. We’ll all think twice before using AI now.

In summary

IFMA World Workplace Europe served as a catalyst for meaningful dialogue and collaboration, challenging participants to embrace diversity, foster unity, and strive for balance in an ever-evolving landscape. By leveraging technology responsibly, nurturing employees and cultivating strong partnerships, stakeholders can pave the way for a more harmonious and resilient future.

If you want to optimise your business’s employee communications strategy, get in touch.

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Jo Sutherland