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Meet the occupier: Portsdown talk RTW, upcycling and new opportunities

As Government restrictions lift and the doors at Lakeside grow increasingly busy, we caught up with Will Kelly, owner and director of design-led workplace provider Portsdown, to see how the experts are planning their own return to the office.

Local family-owned business

“Portsdown is a family business, started by my father in 1983 and now owned and run by myself and my brother Leo. The company is so named because of Portsdown Hill that sits behind us at Lakeside.

“Our business moved out to Chicester, but given the chance, we were keen to come back to Portsmouth. Portsmouth is where are people are and the history of our business.”

Think Portsmouth, think Lakeside

“Everyone has always known Lakeside, back in the day I’d often come to meet friends on site for lunch – so when we moved, Lakeside was the natural fit for our business. We have space, a balcony, a wonderful lake, and we’ve seen commercial benefit too – what’s not to like.

“We started selling furniture to offices in Portsmouth, and over the years we have built the business into a leading design-led workplace provider, working with global brands, from Amazon to Cambridge University, and in turn growing from a £2million to a £10million company.

“But our family ethos remains strong, we are passionate about problem solving for our clients – whether they need to grow collaboration, attraction or retention. We work closely with Steelcase, the largest global manufacturer of office furniture, to bring global research to support solutions for our clients’ challenges.”

Overcoming new challenges

“The pandemic has made these challenges even more relevant – suddenly no one had an office that was suitable. The workplace has to work much harder than it has ever needed to before, it needs to attract people back, and for the first time in 30 years it has to tick the safety box too.

“Everyone is looking to create the post-Covid agile, hybrid workplace solution. And that’s exactly what we’re putting into practise. We’re utilising our research to create an office that works for our staff, designing it around what they want to see.

“We want somewhere that our staff will say, ‘do you know what, I want to go to the office today – it’s safe, inspiring and is the right work setting for me to collaborate’. As we all know, the biggest thing will be collaboration and facilitating people coming together.”

Looking towards the ‘new normal’

“As people have taken desks and chairs home, it has left a void of furniture that needs to be replaced. Whilst you will need to address how your workplace functions, it doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch.

“We’re looking at sustainability, re-use and upcycling. To create the right workplace, you can replace elements, re-upholster and make the most of what’s existing whilst topping up with new elements.”

Holistic approach to RTW

“Businesses are currently unsure about what the right thing to do is, and how to get their people back. We are here to help people find the right way for them – this is no longer about just ‘doing up your office’ but has to consider HR policies and homeworking strategies – and who really is responsible for doing the DSE assessments in people’s homes? Good quality products at home will be as important as goo quality products in the office.

“The biggest thing will be to attract your staff back. It’s better to wait to bring people back to the right office, rather than bringing someone back to the same office as that from March 2020. The world has moved on dramatically and offices need to follow suit.”

Portsdown are on the front edge of workplace changes, and available to provide advice on office strategy and the design of a post Covid workspace. To find out more, visit portsdown.co.uk or contact Will directly.