Plain talking on the future of work at Copenhagen conference

Talking straight and tackling the big issues head-on, this year’s WORKTECH Copenhagen conference was a convivial exercise in Scandinavian pragmatism

How can we improve support for employee mental health? How will our workplaces be affected by generative AI? How can we create a great workplace experience across a wide variety of roles? These questions and more were answered at WORKTECH Copenhagen with a kind of Scandinavian straightforwardness that put everything into perspective.

Hosted at the stunning Danish Architecture Centre on 4 October 2023, the views over the city would have been inspiring enough, but the speakers at the conference were full of practical, hands-on approaches to inspire change.

Getting the workplace shipshape

Anne Heinsvig and Anna Carin Andersson are the architects behind RITA Arch and their impressive transformation of the headquarters for shipping company DFDS had tongues wagging. After a workplace tour around the space the day before the conference, Anne and Anna Carin were on hand to talk through the ins and outs of the design.

From the two deck-like outdoor seating areas to the shape of the building that curves like a wave to reduce noise pollution in an open-plan environment, right down to the weather-themed privacy screening for the meeting rooms and the coordination of the furniture colours to the colour of their vessels, the RITA Arch designed space offers a masterclass in branding and shared experiences.

The transformation of the office also coincides with a transformation towards new working practices and its settings reflects these new values – with a games room, auditorium and large social spaces for eating and relaxing as well as a range of meeting spaces. Designing transformations may not be easy but it certainly looks straightforward when in capable hands.

Equality of experience

Maja Frigelj is the Head of Workplace Experience at Adidas and has had her work cut out for her. With over 2,000 locations in Europe, including showrooms, shops, distribution centres and offices, the question on Maja’s lips is how to offer everyone a great workplace when their environments vary so significantly. With her ‘same, same but different’ slogan, she guided the audience through the worlds of work and place at Adidas, reflecting on the challenges of remaining flexible, developing new ways of working in such a large company, and extolling the virtues of taking the time to conduct in-depth research before taking any big steps.

Flat-pack wellbeing

How do you create a workplace that is characterised by wellbeing? That’s the question that Lisette de Jonge and Julia Cornu are tasked with answering in their capacity as Health and Wellbeing leaders at IKEA. With their respective backgrounds in psychology and business management, they are a powerfully effective force. Their approach, they explain, is to create a better everyday life for all their staff and this means intervening before a crisis of wellbeing can occur, as well as supporting staff through difficult times.

Using a data-led approach and being responsive to disruptions such as the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis, they have trialled some new approaches with success – including a mental wellbeing training program, a health and wellbeing app, and tailored support for those affected by major global events.

AI projects get real

How much time would you save if you could automate all your admin tasks? How much more engaged would you be with your work if all your most boring duties were whisked away? These are the questions that Suzana Drakulic, Head of Workspace Nordics at Google, wants you to be asking. And not because this might be the future, but because this is the reality that Google is offering right now to users of its workspace with Duet AI.

This can write you an email in your voice, help write a meeting invite, generate images for you for presentations, all without any risk to your data, Suzana claims. She herself has found this tool transformational, but how will it help you? Another practical takeaway from a very pragmatic event.

Find out more about WORKTECH Copenhagen 2023 here.

Echo Callaghan is an interdisciplinary researcher and writer with WORKTECH Academy. She holds degrees from the University of York and Trinity College Dublin.
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