‘Emerging stronger’ from IWFM Conference 2021

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23 September 2021

After almost two-and-a-half years, several lockdowns and one virtual Conference, IWFM returned to St Paul’s, London on Monday 13 September to help our profession with ‘Emerging stronger’ post-pandemic.

Aiding us were a curated blend of expert voices from inside and outside our profession to inform, guide and inspire delegates attending in person and online at the Institute-first hybrid event.

Our three mega trends of climate action, technology and the future of work were served brilliantly by talks from Leo Johnson, Carl Benedikt Frey and Rt Hon Camilla Cavendish; these were sandwiched between our outstanding keynote speakers Deborah Frances-White and David Olusoga OBE, who also bookended several breakout sessions throughout the day from valued insight partners, collaborators and colleagues.

Our opening keynote speaker, comedian Deborah Frances-White, started us off by looking at diversity and inclusion (D&I) with a strong emphasis on belonging. Inclusion is only part of the battle, she argued, because a person can be included but won’t feel they belong without those who do belong making a concerted effort.

The first of our mega trend speakers was Leo Johnson, Head of Disruption Practice at PWC, who took on climate action in an engaging and very interactive session. Leo’s message was one of positivity as he highlighted that eco tech is booming and new solutions – from international legislation to IoT – are emerging all the time. He closed with a story about a wine venture that almost went sour until a new acquaintance suggested using an Iranian sugar to salvage the unpalatable libation. The message: action between strangers drives innovation.

Technology mega trend speaker Carl Benedikt Frey, economic historian and Oxford Martin Citi Fellow at Oxford University, took us through history to look at the impacts of the second tech revolution we are currently living in. The rise of automation puts lower skilled workers at greatest risk of their roles becoming obsolete, he said; they are also the roles that are less likely to be carried out remotely. However, uniquely human qualities that cannot be replicated by AI, like creativity and perception, will protect many roles. Similar to Leo Johnson, Carl argued that chance encounters bring innovation and mandatory office time was the best course to get the best out of workers.

Our third and final mega trend speaker was journalist Rt Hon Camilla Cavendish, who spoke about the future of work and the changing demographics of the UK workforce with people living longer and more people working later in life. Another proponent of people coming together for the best work to happen, Camilla said organisations should think about: when people use offices to maximise time together; how to entice workers back to offices by capitalising on the fear of missing out; ensuring there is a divide between work and home; encouraging collaboration. Camilla also made the point that many people meet their partners at work – a path to love that would be lost without people coming together in the office.

Closing the day was historian David Olusoga OBE on diversity. Silence or inaction in the face of racism is complicity, he argued, while noting that ‘Something as random as skin colour impacts life chances’. Speaking to the mostly white audience, he urged them to ask themselves tough questions because only through reflection will we create the fair and equitable society people want.

Catch up on the Conference until 11 October

Physical and online delegates who missed a talk or want to enjoy the content again can access all of the mega trend speakers and a selection of the breakout sessions on the Conference online platform until 11 October 2021. To access the platform, please use the email you received ahead of the Conference.

Listen to Ricoh’s Conference podcast

Ricoh, our partners on our ‘Creating better workplaces’ hub, used their time at the Conference very productively as they recorded a podcast featuring IWFM Head of Research and Insight Peter Brogan and delegates to discuss ‘How Facilities leaders are shaping the hybrid workplace’. Click here to listen to the podcast.