Symons House: 74 designs student living at its finest
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What did Katrina Kostic-Samen, the outgoing BCO President, say by way of advice?
I don’t think Katrina offered any specific advice – but what I can say is that she laid out important objectives that I share and will continue to pursue. Katrina was committed to creating an organisation embracing equal opportunities, one that better reflects wider society. She also encouraged the BCO to be far less formal. This helped make the organisation feel more inclusive and made the BCO more accessible.
What do you see as the chief role of the BCO?
The BCO is a highly professional and innovative organisation, and I am committed to promoting this. In particular, the Council provides brilliant, industry-leading thought through its Guide to Specification and research on office space. Our industry is moving faster than ever, so it is essential that the BCO’s guidance and research continues, keeps pace and is ahead of the curve. In addition, the BCO provides unique networking opportunities. We have a well-informed, intelligent and curious membership and our regular, nationwide events help the membership mix and share expertise.
What major initiatives would you like to implement as President?
I want to promote wellbeing, which was the theme of this year’s BCO Conference in Copenhagen. Wellbeing can sound like a fad, but it isn’t. Understanding wellness is crucial to us workplace professionals and, through research and events, I aim to help our industry gain a firm perception of what it is and why it matters.
As part of this, I also want to promote a greater input from occupiers, something I promoted as Chairman of the BCO Membership Committee. We cannot hope to explore, design and deliver ‘well’ workplaces unless we truly understand the people using them but, to do this, we need their input at all stages of the design process.
Wellbeing also includes a greater focus on mental health. Our industry can and must get better at how it deals with mental health. We can’t hope to design workplaces that promote a balanced work/life relationship if we ourselves are struggling. People need to be far more perceptive about mental health, particularly at a time when our industry is changing more quickly – and therefore more demanding to work in – than ever before.
Finally, I aim to increase our membership. Being a part of the BCO is brilliant. I want more people to experience it and contribute.
Our industry can and must get better at how it deals with mental health. We can’t hope to design workplaces that promote a balanced work/life relationship if we ourselves are struggling.
If you had to choose, what is the one major current theme in the workplace?
Unsurprisingly, I would say wellbeing or work/life balance. It is an idea that is reshaping our industry. No longer are we just building grey, identikit offices. Modern designs aim to help people feel their best at work.
What would you like to be remembered for when you finish your term as President?
It might sound glib, but making people happy. Yes, that involves promoting wellbeing, work/life balance and improved mental health, but it also has other implications. For instance, I hope people remember the conference I organised in Copenhagen. Putting it together was a very different experience to my day job, but I hope it made people happy.
What are the biggest challenges you and the council face?
Of course there are external factors which can’t be controlled, such as market fluctuations. Beyond these, one of our biggest challenges is the pace of change. Not just in terms of technology, but also expectations. People want so much more from an office now and the BCO must keep pace. That said, I believe we can. The BCO brings together an exceptional array of talent. Often, members are the ones leading the change.
You first joined the BCO 25 years ago. How has it changed in that time?
When I first joined, the BCO was far smaller and had limited expectations. It wouldn’t be unkind to say that it was just a few people having a chat. Now, the organisation’s role is diverse and far-reaching. We are also a truly national organisation that spans the length and breadth of the country, rather than just London.
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