MANCHESTER: Our Time is Now

14 - 16 June, Manchester 2022


What we learned from the BCO Annual Conference 2022 

For the first time since 2019, the BCO’s Annual Conference returned to an in-person event, attracting over 800 key players from all parts of the office industry to the thriving city of Manchester. The three-day event included an exciting programme of keynotes, plenaries, and site tours which informed our discussions. Here are our key takeaways…  

Manchester: one to watch 

With this year’s conference taking place in the vibrant city of Manchester, which has transformed itself into a real cosmopolitan powerhouse, it was important to acknowledge the significance of our host city during the conference’s opening session.  

Joanne Roney, chief executive of Manchester City Council delivered an inspiring keynote speech, expanding on the opportunities that exist in Manchester – be that through science, culture, education, or industry – all affecting the world of offices and relevant infrastructure.   

According to Roney, Manchester has been identified by government as one of three UK innovation acceleration hubs. Delegates heard how 100,000 people are expected to reside in the city’s centre by 2026, with engineering, science and digital jobs expected to be a major driver of that growth. This growth and development will naturally impact the city’s requirements for office space.  

But Roney also acknowledged the challenges that exist for the industry, specifically creating workspaces that respond to the growing needs of occupiers, where the quality of our commutes and surrounding infrastructure become just as important as the quality of our office space, and where high standards of technology and connectivity have become truly essential.  

In Roney’s words: “To create offices that work for collaboration in a thriving city, we have to have to right infrastructure in place - be that through connectivity, digital infrastructure or transport.” 

Future-gazing solutions 

“There’s never been a more exciting time to be part of the office sector because of the breadth of what we have to deliver in the near future,” said Chris Oglesby, Chief Executive of Bruntwood as he addressed hundreds of delegates from the main stage during a session about transforming office occupancy.  

Regardless of their profession, background or expertise, delegates agreed that, following the pandemic, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to readdress the role of the office in our lives. But one focus area remains top of the agenda; how can our buildings encourage innovative and fresh thinking, while introducing greener and more sustainable solutions?  

While the pandemic dramatically changed the way we use our offices, and indeed the requirements occupiers now have for their workspaces, the issues of climate change and sustainability remain a key focus for the industry, leading to increased scrutiny of the office’s environmental impact.  

As we look to the future, the entire sector has an important role to play in providing buildings and working environments that are better for our planet. 

The BCO’s response to recent disruption 

In response to the recent disruption across our industry, the BCO kicked off the conference by releasing a position paper proposing updated key design criteria, as part of its most recognised publication, the BCO Guide to Specification.  

To reflect the BCO’s industry observations so far, these new design criteria for the office sector reflect the acceleration of recent trends, following the pandemic, changes in ways of working and occupancy rates and the ongoing climate crisis and drive to net zero carbon. 

One key element which was discussed, and reflected in the BCO’s recommendations, is office occupancy. With hybrid working, the peak office occupancy in most offices has changed when compared to the most recent BCO occupier density research, carried out in 2018. As a result, the BCO has issued its proposal for a base level occupancy criterion of 10m2 per work setting and a space utilisation of 60% for typical office use. 

The paper was well-received by delegates and external audiences who discussed the BCO’s recommendations throughout the various sessions, including the popular session ‘Debate: Fit for the Future’, hosted by Neil Pennell, Head of Design Innovation and Property Solutions at Landsec.   

These will be included in the next edition of the BCO’s Guide to Specification, expected later this year. 

Investing in young talent  

As we drive innovation and change throughout the office sector, the younger generation of talent will be key to bringing fresh ideas to life for the workplace of the future.  

The BCO is committed to investing in young talent through its NextGen programme and was thrilled to welcome over xx NextGen members – all under the age of 35 – to this year’s event.  

Alongside a dedicated programme of sessions and activities targeted specifically at younger members, this year’s conference offered well-awaited opportunities for face-to-face exchanges and knowledge sharing which left delegates inspired and motivated to drive more change within the sector, across sustainability, technology and wellbeing to name a few.  

Next year, the BCO will host a second event alongside the national conference, specifically for its NextGen members and young industry talent.  

A focus on mental health and wellbeing 


Throughout this year’s event, the BCO chose to represent two key mental health charities, Shout 85258, and CALM.  

With the challenges brought on by the pandemic, including prolonged periods of lockdown and isolation, mental health and wellbeing remain front of mind in the world of work, and the wider office sector.  

As part of this, workplace wellness has become a key focus area as we consider offices of the future. This naturally became a prominent topic throughout the conference, especially as office designers, builders and occupiers explore how our work environment can encourage healthier lifestyles and act as a magnet for the best and brightest talent. 

Dublin calling  

Next year’s BCO Annual Conference will take place in Dublin June 7th - 9th 2023 

As exciting times of change lie ahead for the office sector, the BCO is already looking ahead at next year’s conference. With the rising emphasis on technology, connectivity and creativity in future office design, the lively city of Dublin, which has been named as the host city for the 2023 conference, could not be a better fit.  

Bringing next year’s conference to life will be a key focus for Despina Katsikakis, executive partner at Cushman & Wakefield, who will take up the presidency of the British Council for Offices in March 2023.  

Her reasons for selecting Dublin as the host city are evident. As the home to Google’s and Microsoft campuses, the city has continued to attract some of the biggest global companies, as well as the brightest entrepreneurial talent, making it one of the world’s fastest growing tech hubs.  

As we continue to adopt alternative ways of working, especially the ability to work from a mix of locations throughout the week, the office is just one element of the wider ecosystem, which includes the home, third-party places and the public realm. A key theme for next year’s conference is already apparent; defining the key role of the office within this wider mix, specifically the impact the office can have on its surrounding areas and infrastructure.  


Tickets will go on sale for BCO members in November 2022 and will be available to the general public in January 2023.