David Parkin jumps off the shelf to become office pin up

IF you are looking to find some positivity amid the continuing pressures of the pandemic then look no further than Britain’s growing army of entrepreneurs.

They come in all shapes and sizes and from every kind of background.

They don’t have much in common but they all have good ideas and a capacity for risk to back themselves to succeed.

The stories about those made redundant who have launched new ventures are inspiring and it is no surprise that many of the success stories involve businesses “pivoting” to online.

But what about those operating in sectors that weren’t expected to thrive during or after the pandemic?

One of those is definitely office buildings.

A year ago, at a time when it seemed most of the country was working from home there were a lot of people predicting “the death of the office”.

Even when restrictions were lifted it was forecast that many would never return to their places of work, certainly not 9am to 5pm for five days a week.

That was about the time that Hull entrepreneur Shaun Watts told me that he was investing in expanding his firm, Chameleon Business Interiors.

After 20 years of steady growth, Shaun decided on a step change for the company which specialises in commercial interior design, office fit out and furniture supply and installation.

“I saw our competitors furloughing their staff and closing down their sites,” he told me.

“We had to figure out how to keep our sites operating and to keep everybody safe.

“We did that and then I thought that this was the time to move into new areas.”

The company, which already operated from Hull, Leeds and Birmingham, opened in Manchester, Nottingham and Newcastle.

“We invested in highly talented people to help us grow the business,” says Shaun.

“There are always companies that are doing well and someone needs to service those clients.

“We could see that things were going to change quite clearly and there would be a big requirement to work with companies that were looking at a new way of working.”

Over the last 12 months Chameleon has grown significantly and now has a team of 27 people including a new business development team, site managers, project managers, a brand manager, a buyer, an estimator and taken on an apprentice.

“We are investing for the future and bringing a young apprentice into the business – someone who can be a really strong addition to the team as they gain experience – is about investing for the long-term,” says Shaun.

“What we are seeing now is a real shift around how people are being enabled and encouraged to work.

“It’s like a hybrid model with the option to work from home or come into the office.

“It is very rare to see 100% occupancy in offices any more, but offices will be designed as a hub for meetings and social space.

“Why travel an hour to come into the office to sit at another desk when you have one at home?

“People have really missed the social interaction with their colleagues.

“It is often the simple things like ‘what do you think about this?’ conversations with their colleagues.

“And they want to celebrate success with their colleagues.

“So people will perhaps have meetings in the office two days a week or four days a week but it is flexible to you.

“Most businesses are as good as their people and you lose a lot of that personal development and mentoring when people aren’t working together.

“Nobody is going to be mentored properly from home,” he says.

Chameleon’s clients include some of Hull’s most entrepreneurial and successful businesses including Airco, IT@Spectrum and Wykeland, UK law and accountancy firms as well as The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and national names such as Next and MKM Building Supplies.

“People have embraced technology so that they can be more flexible and work remotely and companies that embrace that flexible and progressive approach will be the companies that retain and attract the best talent,” says Shaun.

“Yes, offices will have hotdesking areas but these will ultimately be places for colleagues to meet that suits both the company and the individual.

“If you empower people to work in the way they want to work you will get the best from them.

“What is alien to the modern workforce is a job that is nine to five with an hour for lunch.

“Agile working has been talked about for years but now most firms have been forced into it.

“Health and wellbeing in the workplace is at the forefront of everything we design now – and it should be.

“We were fortunate to have good clients that still believed in the value of the office,” says Shaun, who is quick to point out that a good slice of luck is needed to.

“We have done some really exciting projects during the pandemic for clients that value their people and want to inspire them,” he adds.

If you, like many, are wondering how to welcome back your returning staff by creating a more engaging but practical workspace that works harder for you then Shaun is definitely the man to talk to.



GO on, I know you’ve been desperate to find out about the photo at the top of the blog.

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig and Idris Elba are stars who have graced the covers of international magazines.

Well you can now add Parky to that illustrious pantheon of male beauty.

I always believed it was only a matter of time.

When Gill Laidler, the founding editor of TopicUK business magazine asked if I would be interviewed for the cover feature of an upcoming edition, I was glad it was February and not April 1.

Topic UK is available free across Yorkshire and online at https://topicuk.co.uk/latest-edition/

And from the photo posted by Gill on social media, is also on the shelves of supermarkets stretching from Bradford to Bingley.

I’d like to think that someone thought lots of photos of me would inspire shoppers.

But I wonder whether they actually used them to deter shoplifters from pinching copies of the Daily Mail on the shelf below.

The socially distanced photo shoot with Perrin Read and Lincoln Roth of Roth Read Photography took place at my office at Platform in Leeds city centre and while I’m no wallflower, I later told my valet and personal chef that getting that much attention was slightly disconcerting.

Nevertheless it was an unusual and enjoyable experience and I wonder if I will now need a showbiz agent to coordinate my fashion shoots and personal appearances.

One may soon be taking place at the Dakota Hotel in Leeds where Gill said she would normally conduct her interviews over a glass of wine.

I look forward to getting together with her and her colleague Mandy Taylor to share a glass in between signing copies of TopicUK for adoring fans.

If nothing else, the photoshoot allowed a first outing for the jacket made by Michelsberg Tailoring which has been sitting in my wardrobe for the last nine months waiting for somewhere to go.

If you would like a copy of the magazine, I will be appearing in the car park of my local Asda tomorrow morning at a signing session.

If you can’t see me for the crowds, I’ll be positioned on a small hillock between the trolley park and the bottle bank.

Have a great weekend.

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