The European Conundrum

I see that yet more research on workplace changes has now been published, this time in the form of Johnson Controls’ Collaboration 2020 report. JCI based their findings upon the responses of some 1,700 people in 7 countries (respondents were from the US, UK, Germany, Australia, India, Canada and China) – not a bad number, and one that should be able to provide a pretty clear indication as to whether expectations are continuing to change as technology becomes increasingly available.

The findings indicate that team working, and the use of collaborative technologies, is on the rise (no surprise there, I guess). At the same time, the demand for traditional meeting spaces is likely to drop, with a decrease of 13% in respect of likely demand for such facilities in 2020 compared to today. Even the ubiquitous desk phone seems set for obsolescence in the not too distant future. Key findings of the survey included:

• Web conference – 19% reported high use currently, with 57% anticipating higher use in 2020
• Two-dimensional video conferencing – 18% to 51%
• Team spaces with incorporated collaborative technologies – 20% to 52%
• Dedicated collaboration room – 18% to 36%
• Instant messaging – 33% to 54%
• Traditional meeting room – 40% to 27%
• Desk phone – 50% to 33%
• Three-dimensional video conferencing – 44% of office workers anticipate high use in 2020.

This all seems like pretty conclusive stuff, but I was struck by one of the quotes from the report that was included within BIFM’s summary in FM World Daily:

“Failure to invest in collaborative technologies and updated workspaces will hamper productivity. This has an impact on people designing new workspaces or retrofitting existing ones today.”

To my mind, this highlights a deficiency of the report, in that it took its samples from a very limited geographic footprint; in particular, very little from mainland Europe and nothing at all from the central European belt or east thereof.

I’ve had a fair amount of experience in dealing with both FM outsourcing and office redesign/fit out across Europe, for some of the world’s largest corporates. What I’ve tended to find, though, are two things that hamper the harnessing of efficiencies through intelligent design and sensible utilisation of technology:

1) “Local” management operates with a large degree of autonomy, and is usually adamant that it will “re-engineer” central process and approach to suit.
2) Central REFM functions are unable to insist on a common approach and methodology across geographic boundaries, as to a large extent their role is advisory (less so in terms of acquisition/disposal, admittedly, but certainly in terms of the issues under discussion).

The inevitable consequence is that objectives get diluted, and that – particularly in central and eastern Europe where views tend to be a little more traditional than here in the UK – opportunities to embrace new ways of working are lost. What starts out as an admirable intention to drive the organisation into a new age becomes a whole lot less than that.

I’d be interested to hear the experience of others who have worked across Europe, and have encountered similar difficulties. It’s an interesting and challenging issue, but until the large multi-nationals determine to address it I suspect the consequences are inevitable.

  1. #1 by Fred Kloet on September 3, 2011 - 11:03 pm

    Hi Tony,
    At your useful links list i miss EuroFM. Could you add that? A lot of CEE FM/space experts are member of EuroFM (directly or indirectly). It might help sharing more knowledge from west to east.

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