Work on the world stage

11 February 2020

In his opening remarks to the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology, CEO Sarb Bajwa emphasised the importance of international co-operation to the development of the BPS. In May 2021, the biennial European Association of Work and Organizational Psychology (EAWOP) conference is coming to Glasgow, bringing more than 2000 psychologists from across the continent – and beyond – to our doorstep, creating an unparalleled opportunity to create international connections.  

Dr Roxane Gervais, Chair of the EAWOP’s conference organising committee, and Dr Jon Cox, Chair of the BPS Division of Occupational Psychology, spoke with Zoe Sanderson about what we can expect from the event. 

What’s your vision for the EAWOP 2021 Congress?

R: This is the first time the BPS has done a major international conference on UK soil, so we want to make it worth the considerable money and volunteer time, energy, and skills that are being devoted to it. We want the Congress to be fun and energetic, but also to showcase the diverse and robust evidence base of the field. It will generate new ideas, inform new relationships, and move research forward, helping us adapt to the changing world in which we work.

J: We hope to deliver an event that many people will remember as a defining experience in their professional lives; the ‘best ever’ event of this type they have attended. We’re aiming to achieve a personal welcome and tailored support for delegates – especially for those attending the congress for the first time – in a conference of enormous scale and variety. Delegates should come away having made new contacts, gained new skills, and shared their research and practice with others, feeling inspired and refreshed to continue their professional activities over the months to come.

What will be the best bits?

R: The science is important, but we also want people to enjoy themselves and to make the most of the Scottish context and history – the dialect, food, kilts, history, and the whisky! We’re planning a conference ceilidh and pipers, and after the event people might want to take the opportunity to go up to the Highlands.  

J: Glasgow is one of the world’s most exciting, friendly, and culturally vibrant cities. Our conference facilities at The Scottish Event Campus (SEC) on the regenerated waterfront are world-class, with nearby accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. Those who venture beyond Glasgow will discover a country of spectacular scenery, rousing traditions, and legendary hospitality.

Are you planning any surprises that the delegates can look forward to?

R: We are exploring different ways to present data other than the standard 15-minute PowerPoint presentation. Short insight sessions or quick-fire rounds of data presentation might make some academics a bit nervous, but the younger members of the profession want to do things differently. This is likely to make the event especially accessible to students, building on the success of the recent Division of Occupational Psychology conference that had 140 student delegates. UK students can come to EAWOP to build international networks, and personally talk to the very senior psychologists they’ll be citing in their dissertations and theses. Also, EAWOP has traditionally been academically-focused but here in the UK, the Division of Occupational Psychology is practitioner-rich, and this is reflected in our annual conference. This is one of the main reasons we were chosen to host the Congress; the EAWOP’s Executive saw how we support practitioners and wanted to get them more involved. 

J: Hopefully, delegates will be surprised by the sense of inclusiveness and community we’re able to engender within such a major event.  he social and networking activities will be another highlight, including a buffet supper and ceilidh in the spectacular surroundings of the Glasgow Science Centre. Also, the Division of Occupational Psychology has commissioned a unique ‘Congress Tartan’ that you’ll see on the publicity material and souvenirs of the event!

What are the main messages you’d like UK psychologists to hear about this event?

R: This international event will ensure that UK psychology is on the world stage. Psychologists at all stages of their career need to know that they are not alone, that we are part of a world profession and discipline. We want to work together more collaboratively, so we need networks. This is a fantastic opportunity to make new friends, connections, practitioner relationships and research partnerships. Professions are not insular, so we should not be either.

J: This is a chance for BPS members to be part of the largest ever extended gathering of psychologists to be held in the UK. We should be proud that we’ve been chosen to organise this event on behalf of EAWOP and encouraged about what this tells us about the reputation of the BPS internationally. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to connect with other psychologists working in the same and related fields, to debate professional and scientific issues, and to learn new skills and knowledge.  

The Congress is going to be relevant to psychologists who don’t specialise in work and organizations too. Indeed, the event will be of value to any psychologist who is keen to broaden their horizons beyond the traditional boundaries of their own specialism, and anyone who is simply interested in learning more about this field. The world of work and organisations has some relevance to nearly all aspects of psychology, and there is much unexplored synergy between the various disciplines. In particular, for students and early career psychologists who are perhaps deciding which branch of psychology to go into, the Congress will be a useful ‘primer’ to the field of work and organizational psychology.

On a practical note, we’d encourage BPS members to consider how they can offer support to this event at individual and organisational levels. Booking will open in July 2020 with early discounts on the registration fee, which includes two years’ membership of EAWOP, so please save the date now and watch out for further news about the Congress and our plans in the coming months.

What are you personally most looking forward to?

R: When it ends and I can rest! Seriously, when the event starts it will be wonderful. Between now and May next year it will be very hectic, but when everyone is piped into the room for the opening ceremony, I will feel great satisfaction at knowing that this will be an excellent Congress because we’ve worked hard to make it that way.

J:  I echo that! To be honest, as a member of the organising committee, I’m looking forward to feeling the relief when all our efforts have paid off and the Congress has met – and hopefully exceeded – our expectations.

The 20th EAWOP Congress will be held from 26 May 2021 at the SEC in Glasgow, Scotland. Find out more via the website.

See also Zoe's interview with current EAWOP President, Professor Frederik Anseel.