Workplace Futures 2021: what’s next for the world of work?

As a fresh-faced recruit at Magenta Associates, my understanding of the facilities management (FM) world was limited, and my experience in virtual conferences even more so. However, I’m not a stranger to the ‘traditional’ conference format pre-pandemic, attending many both nationally and sometimes internationally.

For attendees and exhibitors, these face-to-face events can be fundamental for career and business development. There’s a certain magic attached to these conferences that I just couldn’t imagine would be replicated with a virtual experience.

That was until I attended Workplace Futures 2021. It was an excellently designed conference, hosted and attended by some of the nicest people I’ve spoken with.

Workplace Futures 2021

Let’s start with some background. Workplace Futures is the most challenging annual FM conference and isn’t afraid to tackle the key issues affecting the sector. Workplace Futures combines high quality content with a desire to engage and stimulate audience participation and debate.

The conference started with a bang with a welcome from Martin Pickard, chairman of Workspace Futures. I was blown away by the comment section. Numerous industry leaders were introducing themselves, communicating with each other, and showing huge respect for their industry peers.

The Magenta team found the minute silence Martin introduced quite emotional. Hundreds of people in the virtual crowd typed a message of support or goodwill in respect for those we’ve lost from COVID-19 and those still fighting on the front lines. Never before did I imagine a conference opening could make me weepy, but oh my it did.

After a couple of tissues were used and coffee was brewed, the day kicked off in earnest. The first topic was ‘looking for certainties in uncertain times’, a subject matter we can all relate to. What I found most fascinating was the discussion on hybrid workspaces. The working from home lifestyle we’ve all adopted means everyone’s grown more accustomed to the freedoms associated with homeworking. There will be some who want (or perhaps expect) an element of ongoing flexibility when we return to the workplace. With support from workplace technology, hybrid models of work will become a necessity for many organisations. It will be down to workplace leaders to find the balance between home and office life while still making sure the workplace doubles up as a collaborative and social hub.

Supporting each other through a crisis

I attended this event with an open mind, in the hope of tuning into industry trends. One talk that really resonated with me was from Baskar Sundaram, theChief Executive at Baachu, who shared the importance of a well thought out marketing strategy. His main message was: ‘be human’. The idea is that during this current crisis it’s not all about sales but rather being there for people in these dark days, supporting them to push through whatever difficulties they’re facing, and caring for their wellbeing above all else.

I experienced a true feeling of togetherness attending Workplace Futures 2021. Despite the limitations of virtual communication, I saw the friendships these FM leaders have built, the admiration they have for each other, and the genuine care in bettering the world of work. It looks like there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel with a roadmap to bring us out of lockdown. When the time comes, I know I’ll enjoy meeting these FM industry leaders in person, but until then at least I know it is possible to put together a bloomin’ good virtual conference.

Oscar Martin