In conversation with Chris Moriarty
Chris Moriarty is the Director of Insight, Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management and will be chairing the Assets and Estates Theatre on 26th June.
What are the biggest challenges facing facilities and workplace managers with regard to changing working patterns, such as working from home and flexible hours?
Technology is having a huge impact on how we work. New opportunities have set new expectations and our workplaces, largely unchanging in approach during the 20th century, have been sluggish to adapt. Agile or activity-based working and flexible working options have left workplaces underutilised, inflexible and simply unfit for purpose. Understanding of what ‘good’ looks like is increasing. The real challenge is in organisations recognising the value of optimised workplaces in organisational performance and investing in them.
Strides are being made to use green energy and create sustainable workplaces – where do you think this can be pushed to create even more environmental impact?
IWFM’s Sustainability Survey this year showed that this is an area that more organisations are focusing on, given the rising consumer consciousness around plastic waste and carbon footprint. A lot of attention has been on energy management in the building but there is more that can be done with the people in that building. Behaviour is the main challenge, so better education of how people and their decisions impact our environment could mean better progress. Our research also recorded the emergence of wellbeing and social value as sustainability issues. Putting social value at the heart of procuring and delivering services is a key lever that both public and private sectors can use to drive this important behaviour change.
What is the most exciting innovation happening in the facilities and workplace management landscape at the moment?
It’s hard to look beyond technology as smart buildings and ‘prop tech’ starts to explode onto the scene. Right now, so much of the focus is on building management, and I’m excited to see how this evolves into creating better workplace experiences – we’ve already seen that in pockets and the results have been really impressive. Not without their teething problems; these projects have focused on the employee first and then looked at how technology can
augment the workplace experience rather than simply providing the facilities manager with more information about building performance.
What does the workplace of the future look like?
There are two typical trains of thought. Those who say that the ‘office isn’t dead’ and will evolve to be a place where teams come together for social connection, collaboration and ideas generation. Perhaps blending that with focused work either in the space (if well designed) or elsewhere (home, or third space). Others think we’ll be purely digital, engaging with colleagues through VR-enabled glasses without leaving the comfort of our own home.
The reality is that it will probably be a mixture of the two, but it is also going to be driven by work itself. With automation likely to come to anything structured, repeatable or predictable, we need to see how that affects the work that organisations need to do and the workplace needs to respond to that. Workplace and facilities management professionals have an amazing opportunity to create amazing places for people to do the amazing work that only people can do. Grasp that and we’ll always have a role. But as tech strategist Antony Slumbers told IWFM’s spring conference, “we are at the end of office as a spreadsheet.”