To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of “the demise of the workplace” are, to say the very least, greatly exaggerated.

That was certainly the consensus after an event we recently hosted at our brand-new Bristol base which attracted leading members of the city’s business community.

It took place against a backdrop of the rise in working-from-home during the pandemic that transformed our professional habits, with the onset of Zoom and Teams meetings facilitating work-related get-togethers from all manner of locations.

The way we earn a living has even raised questions in some quarters about the very future of the workplace. And it’s fair to say that the panellists who took part in our ‘Future of the Workplace’ roundtable event, hosted by South West Business Insider Editor Chris Ward, delivered plenty of insight for our guests to consider.

Here is a summary of the key themes and talking points that were aired by our expert panellists on how to ensure workplaces are not only able to attract talented people but also retain them as well.

A growing need to re-imagine workplaces

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SmartBear, Bath

“It is a misconception to say that employees simply want remote or hybrid working as standard,” said Paramount Managing Director Helen Bartlett.

“The office remains a crucial hub for both employers and employees despite reports in the media suggesting physical workplaces are becoming surplus to requirements.

“Office spaces are not being killed off because of Covid and if you look at the market in the South West of England for example, it is buoyant. Bristol saw a record take-up of office space in the first half of last year, so the demand is there but what we are seeing now is a growing need to reimagine office spaces.

“If you want to bring people to your workplace, it principally needs to be a place that people want to be in. That means focusing on what is a draw for employees and prospective employees considering your company as their next employer.

“The Paramount team are trying to create spaces that gives people a ‘home-from-home’ feeling which means we moved away from the formal office of years gone by.

“Our business moved to a hybrid solution early on in the pandemic and we’ve not looked back since. It was a bold move, but it worked for Paramount, and it meant that we didn’t have disparate groups of people. It’s also vital in terms of personal development because when you are collaborating with people around, you are also learning from them.”

Home comforts are vital for office life

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Offspring Films, Bristol

That was the opinion of Isla Robertson, Managing Director of five-time Bafta award-nominated television production company Offspring Films, who share Paramount’s Dock House base in Bristol.

She told our Dock House gathering: “Our production hub is very much the office – the heart and soul of what we do from coming up with ideas together, pre-planning shoots, working out logistics and then physically pulling together to get bags packed and ready for a shoot in some far-flung destination.

“The office is vitally important for all those aspects, but it is also somewhere for people to come back to, hang up their camera equipment and rest up after a long, tiring shoot. That is why we have had to work hard to ensure our office feels like our company home.

“For the people that work for us, the office is more than just a place where they come and do their work. Our employees live and breathe their work, they’re not typical nine-to-fivers so the office environment has to suit that lifestyle and that’s why we’re so happy with the space that Paramount has created for their neighbours in Dock House.”

Offices are a cradle of creativity

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Altus, Bath

There is clearly no place like an office to get the creative juices flowing among teams.

“Throughout the pandemic, we saw how people were trying to work out new solutions for their workplace on an almost day-by-day basis,’ said specialist HR journalist Sarah Rice.

“As we have emerged from the pandemic, HR teams have been coming together to establish new modes of working and a more solid base for future working.

“Perhaps the physical space has been undervalued in those discussions because their office space was built pre-pandemic and was not fit for purpose, so had its existence called into question. But what we are seeing increasingly is offices are a way of sparking new ideas and, arguably more significantly, living and breathing company culture.

“HR people are still having to wrestle with work patterns and second-guessing employee behaviour, but they’re also beginning to see the long-term value of their workspaces as a signpost towards employee benefits again.

“You’re creating culture but fundamentally it’s really about productivity and that is at the heart of great collaborative workspaces so you can build successful businesses.”

Focusing on ESG

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Fusion Point One, Cardiff

According to Ben White, director of commercial property investment and asset management company V7 which worked with Paramount to transform Dock House, ESG (environmental, social, and governance) is a growing factor for the workforce.

“More and more importance is attached to the environmental credentials of a building both in terms of the building itself and in terms of the green transport amenities offered whether it be electric car charging points or bike storage facilities,” Ben told the roundtable event.

“Everybody wants a great place to work but there’s an increasing focus on the environmental side of things at a corporate level and also via staff and their expectations for social responsibility.

“For us, great workspaces will be amenity-rich, boasting high-quality interior design and they will be ESG-led schemes through the reuse and refurbishment of buildings, rather than knocking them down and starting from scratch.”

Balancing priorities

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Amber Resourcing, Bristol

The competition for talent in the jobs market means employers have to raise their game to keep up with expectations on the working environment and that’s especially the case in the world of technology.

Tom Ponting, the founder of tech recruitment specialists Amber Resourcing, said: “Prospective employees in the tech sector are now far more discerning about the type of business they are looking to work for and increasingly value company culture and its ESG credentials and quality of workplaces.

“Not so long ago it was acceptable for an office to be 90 per cent for working with a little space for a kitchen in the corner with a kettle. But now there is an expectation that you will be joining a company where it is half and half – 50% workspace and 50% dedicated to fun and play and things that foster creativity and collaboration.”


- Dock House this must be the place - Paramount D&B
Dock House, Bristol

There is an old saying that image is everything and that could be applied to the workplace in the digital-first era.

“As a new generation of worker comes through,” Sarah added, “you’re seeing millennial and Gen Zed recruits change their expectations and that’s why we are seeing more and more workplaces almost shift to an environment that a creative agency would have been in the 1990s or 2000s.

“Those companies that are succeeding in attracting the best young talent and people are thinking outside the box because they are aware that a workplace should be an extension of some people’s social media presence and a backdrop to their Instagram account and somewhere they want to be seen to be working in and somewhere to be proud to call their working environment.”

Flexible needs

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Freshwater, Cardiff

Paramount Sales Director Kevin Mashford believes that companies are ready to go the extra mile for their employees.

“Research around workplace says it’s vital to create a workplace where people feel safe, comfortable and welcome, and feel a sense of belonging,” Kevin said, “and when that’s the case you’ve got a workspace that people want to be part of.

“Flexibility will ultimately be one of the most important things to people nowadays and that should be reflected in the office space.

“If the last two or three years have taught us anything is that workplaces of the future will need to be flexible in order to cope with the ever-changing needs of employees. That is invaluable.”

A sense of community

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Dock House, Bristol

It is no coincidence that a sense of community pervades Paramount’s new Dock House office in Bristol.

That hierarchical model with partners in their offices on the outside of the building, and everybody else in the middle is outdated.

“We’re creating neighbourhoods and communities within workspaces. And as human beings, we crave that environment. It’s very much about creating a culture so people want to feel part of something and feel valued as well.

“It’s with that in mind that we have created neighbourhoods within our space at Dock House where you can sit comfortably and not work at a desk in a traditional way. It’s a hybrid way of working within your workspace.

“You can have those relaxed conversations about multiple projects, and before you know it, you’re making huge progress.”

With thanks…

To our Helen and Kevin, alongside Tom Ponting of Amber Resourcing, Isla Robertson of Offspring, Ben White of V7, Sarah Rice of HR World and Chris Ward of Insider Media.

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Do you have big plans for your workspace this year? We’d love to help! Get in touch.