How to achieve happiness at work and other key takeaways from BCO

What we learnt from the 2019 conference in Copenhagen

June 18, 2019

Arbejdsglaede was the theme of this year’s BCO Conference - a Danish word meaning happiness at work. Copenhagen has been described as the happiest city in the world with one of the most productive workforces, which made it a perfect destination to explore this theme.

The changing modern workforce is inevitably having an effect on the development and design of workspace.

Abbie Smith, South East Office Agency

Key takeaways from this year’s BCO Conference, in Copenhagen, were: how to achieve happiness at work, how to measure this using emotional artificial intelligence, how the modern workforce is redefining office design and architecture in mixed-use development and what drivers for change have formed the updated 2019 BCO Guide to Specification.

Copenhagen has witnessed 23% population growth since 1995 and is seeing an increasing amount of families wanting to stay in the city rather than move out to the suburbs. This is a result of the blurring of work and life balance and employees achieving happiness in both.

Making the office a happy place

Alexander Kjerulf, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Woohoo, and Professor André Spicer from Cass Business School spoke about the ways we can achieve this happiness. They explained that providing employee benefits such as gym memberships, massages, ping pong tables etc will never make a workforce happy as happiness cannot be bought. It must come from a meaningful progress which is made up of three elements – focus, connections and local meaning.

An employee has to have the ability to focus effectively in their workspace, must make genuine connections with people and colleagues and finally, comprehend the local meaning of the task they are performing.

The continuing development of technology in the office sector offers a method to measure this emotion in the workplace through emotional artificial intelligence.

Thimon de Jong, of Whetston, shared an interesting case study. British-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever use a software platform called Hirevue which has transformed their recruitment process.

It is used in their first-round interview process rather than a face-to-face discussion, can be programmed to meet diversity rotas and provides an honesty rating to candidates’ interview answers. The software has made the process four times faster at finding the right candidate for Unilever roles.

Modern workspace design

The changing modern workforce is inevitably having an effect on the development and design of workspace. Bjarke Ingels, the founder of BIG architects, illustrated how design has been developed to offer entirely new ways of providing workspace accommodation for the millennial generation.

He has worked on an impressive list of projects including the Google HQ in Kings Cross and interactively showed us the process of designing an entire Google community all from the needs of each individual employee. 

Finally, we learnt about the updated BCO Guide to Specification 2019 which encompasses key drivers for change that the office sector has seen since 2014. Including the rise in flexible offices, the growth of robotics and AI, the climate change agenda and data security.

Interestingly, BCO’s most recent occupancy study put the 2018 occupational density at 9.6 square metres per workstation – a figure that is virtually unchanged from the same study in 2013 which put it at 9.9 square metres per workstation. The study also found that average desk utilization is only 44% but that this is very much sector dependent. The BCO Guide for Specification 2019 can now be interactively accessed on an online dashboard via the desktop, mobile and tablet.

This article was written by Abbie Smith, Graduate Surveyor, South East Office Agency.

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