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BIFM London region conference: coffee, productivity, and resilience

Published 9th May, 2016 by Neil Nixon

BIFM London region conference: coffee, productivity, and resilience

Just as Chancellor George Osborne started unveiling his latest Budget in Whitehall, across the capital at King's Place, Principle Cleaning's Douglas Cooke was getting ready for business. Starting in a traditional pinstripe suit, Cooke was soon down to a cleaning polo shirt and cap as he described his time as an undercover boss. The BIFM London region conference's sponsor 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, to motivate and respect staff, and to pay them a decent wage - all of which bought a higher rate of employee retention and a more committed workforce for the employer.

One thing that any cleaning operative needs is resilience and this was the topic of the presentation from Monica Parker from HATCH who talked about the grim working conditions that, for many, is a daily reality. Visually comparing a prison to a workplace, she argued that a 'good day in prison can be the same as a bad day in the workplace'. Anxiety, she told the 135-strong 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 £1.7 billion. 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 wellbeing. In fact, there is a higher mortality rate for loneliness than for obesity or smoking. How do we tackle this? Parker said we need to have a sense of purpose, drive, to put things in perspective, and to have an optimistic outlook.

One of the key causes of stress in the workplace is companies stressing their property assets and cramming more and more people into smaller spaces. Chris Moriarty from Leesman discussed the tipping point at which a space is so packed its people become unproductive. Using the Leesman statistics, he explored whether the current trend of focusing on the property asset actually means that the workforce, and consequently productivity, is negatively affected. Moriarty said that when cost or physical features become the focus, the value is engineered out, and performance can also be affected.

Where you work and what your workplace looks like greatly affects how well you work. Leesman's data revealed that just over 50% of people agree that the design of their workplace enabled them to work effectively. What about the other 50%? 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,” he said. “Data enables us to make more informed decisions.”

The main source of many people's productivity is coffee, and the event's pre-lunch session from Bartlett Mitchell and Bewleys focused on coffee provision in the workplace from an FM's perspective. Delegates learnt that coffee is the second biggest traded commodity after oil, the global market being worth £60 billion. The interactive app-based quiz left everyone a little wiser, and thirsty for the coffee!

Mark Downes from Engie UK and former Olympic project director and head of service, London Legacy Development Corporation, took the legacy of the Olympic Park as a case study to kick off the afternoon. Although the 2012 London Olympics are beginning to feel a distant memory, the legacy lives on. Just one year later the park reopened and is largely being used by locals. Downes said the FM industry can learn from the park, both how it was then and how it is now. He cites 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 all parts of London to grow together.

Downes was followed by Peter McLennan, MSc course director in facility and environment management at the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, UCL, who discussed career progression in FM and urged everyone to have a career plan.

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, including the many emotional experiences, the life-long friendships he had made, the lessons he had learnt, and the memories that will stay with him.

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