Work-life balance and hopes for the future in the Derbyshire Times business review of the year

After another year of ups and downs, 2021 brought many challenges to businesses and organisations across the borough, but also lots of opportunities for growth and success too.
Sarah ElphickSarah Elphick
Sarah Elphick

Despite the uncertainty, organisations have remained upbeat and have exciting plans in place for 2022 as out special end-of-year round table discovered.

Held remotely via Zoom and organised by Destination Chesterfield in conjunction with the Derbyshire Times, the round table brought together key figures from the town’s business community to round up the year and look ahead to 2022. The round table event took place ahead of the government advice to ‘work from home if at all possible.’

Taking part were:

Business leaders met via video conference to discuss 2021 and their hopes for the futureBusiness leaders met via video conference to discuss 2021 and their hopes for the future
Business leaders met via video conference to discuss 2021 and their hopes for the future
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JM – Josh Marsh – Destination Chesterfield Coordinator (Chair)

TG – Cllr Tricia Gilby – Leader, Chesterfield Borough Council

JD – Jo Dilley – Managing Director, Marketing Peak District and Derbyshire

SD – Simon Davidson – Owner, The Cheese Factor

Tricia GilbyTricia Gilby
Tricia Gilby

SK – Scott Knowles – Chief Executive, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire)

SE – Sarah Elphick – Head of Marketing, Superior Wellness

PC – Paul Chapman – Editor, S40 Local

DK – Diane Knowles – Clinical Manager, 360 Wellbeing

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SG – Stephen Gordon – Executive Director, Banner Jones Solicitors

How has your organisation balanced home and office working in 2021 and do you think home working will be as popular in 2022?

PC – Prior to the pandemic, I was based full-time in West Studios. At the start of the pandemic, I relocated to home, however I am now looking to move back into my office space. Working from home is great but then you start to get a bit lonely and want some interaction. I can see there being a real growth in shared workspaces where you can drop in, work and interact with people.

SK – What the Chamber is hearing from its members is that they want ‘touchdown space’ which is a place to work that is better that just going to a Starbucks or Costa; somewhere they can be social and network

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TG – The Northern Gateway Enterprise Centre is an ideal space for businesses as it’s right in the centre of town. We’ve also got Grade A office accommodation going up at Chesterfield Waterside.

SE – I worked at home for five months during lockdown, but I couldn’t wait to come back and see my colleagues. We’ve got a very young workforce and I think it benefits us being together in the office rather than being at home. As w the office team supports the warehouse and distribution functions of the business, it’s more beneficial for us to be in the office full time.

SG – We’ve got about 70% of our people back in the office and we want people in as much as possible. The training of our younger members of staff suffered during lockdown as did businesses in the town centre. We’re lucky that Chesterfield town centre is buzzing again and we’ve got to look after that.

SD – We’ve been struggling with the sandwich side of our business over the last year with more people choosing to work at home. But I think a lot of people are now wanting to get back into the office.

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How have organisations adapted in 2021 and what does 2022 look like for them?

TG – I’ve been extremely proud of the way the council staff have adapted through the pandemic. We’ve managed to bring £45 million into the town this year, as well as respond to the pandemic. We’ve got a fantastic team at the council and work closely with Destination Chesterfield, University of Derby, Chesterfield College and, of course, East Midlands Chamber. There’s been a lot of flexibility from the council and its partners to ensure Chesterfield responds positively to the pandemic.

JD – The visitor economy really has had to adapt, and I feel really proud to represent a sector that’s shown great tenacity and drive to keep their businesses going. The sector is thinking about what a new normal looks like rather than returning to normal. 58% of them are working with fewer staff at the moment, so 85% of them are looking at implementing more automation in their businesses to give customers more self-service options

SE – The pandemic really helped us grow as a business. Everyone was stuck at home and decided they wanted a hot tub, and our sales went up by 400% in a year. We doubled our workforce, moved into a new office and are now expanding into Europe and America. We had plans for growth pre pandemic, but it actually accelerated those plans. Sales have remained high and we’ve brought quite a lot of jobs into Chesterfield

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PC – As a magazine, we rely on revenue from advertisers and, while I have lost one or two regulars, I’ve picked up some new ones. I’d expected to be worried, but I don’t feel worried particularly when I walk through town and see lots of new businesses. I keep a list of places I need to go because I want to support them. I feel very positive about 2022.

SD – I think small businesses, independents especially, are so important in the community. They can adapt more easily and help pull people into the town. We should all champion town centre independents.

DK – It’s also great to see the independents on Chatsworth Road thriving. We need to continue supporting these businesses.

TG – I am delighted to say that all but one of my Christmas presents have been bought from independent traders in Chesterfield this year. We really have got to encourage people to stop clicking as much and get out there to shop, eat and drink. We’ll be backing the town with more events, job fairs and opportunities in 2022.

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How has Chesterfield been affected by the skills and staff shortages some sectors are currently facing?

JD – A lot of businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector have had to rethink their opening times and the amount of people they can service. We’re working with some great businesses that are looking at hospitality charters to the promote the sector, bringing together passionate employers that are offering jobs with bright career paths. There’s a big job to do but we’re out there working hard with these employers. We’re launching the hospitality charter in January with a great PR and marketing campaign behind it.

SK – I would say that skills and staff shortages have affected every business in some way. At the beginning and midway through the pandemic, our job vacancies were getting around 80 – 90 applications now we probably get around 10 – 12.

TG – We need to continue working with schools and colleges to ensure young people get that valuable experience in a workplace. More young people are going direct into employment, and it is a priority for the council to make sure they’re getting the right training.

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We’ve got the MyFuture platform and would encourage all employers to look at that – it might be a way to attract people they wouldn’t normally reach.

JD – The longer-term actions for our hospitality charter are to work with local schools, universities, and colleges to create the right, fit-for-purpose courses. We’ve got to offer the right package to young people and show them the opportunities that are out there.

SE – We welcomed a group of young people to Superior Wellness as part of the Made in Chesterfield campaign. We felt so inspired. We’ve now got a great contact at the school and are going to help with some business projects next year and we’re also going to be offering work experience placements.

SK - Chesterfield welcomed the Kickstart programme in 2021 and, outside the main cities, has had the highest number of successful placements.

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SG – We’ve found the highly trained experienced staff have been very hard to come by. We’ve adapted and found that there are a lot of educated young people coming out of university who are looking for training contracts. We’re getting some really bright people coming in which will address future skills needs in the business. Our motto for 2022 is train, train, train.

What are you excited about for 2022?

DK - The regeneration of Staveley in particular is huge. We want to satellite our business and have a presence in a number of different areas and Staveley would be one of the areas we’d consider.

SK – I’m particularly excited for The Glass Yard. It seems to be going up at pace. Chesterfield is in a really interesting position at the moment, with a number of construction projects all happening at the same time and that’s really positive. There’s a huge amount to be excited about.

SE – We’re really looking forward to Peak Resort. I think it offers lots of opportunities to bring visitors in and for things like team building days.

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SG – We’ve got a very positive council that has made some brave decisions and I’m hopeful they’ll be rewarded for that. We’d love to move into new offices but, given the current situation concerning Covid, we don’t know what type of space will be best suited to us at the minute.

SD – The council’s support over the pandemic has been fantastic and the events have really helped drive footfall. We’re looking forward to next year and think we need to remain positive. I’m looking forward to the market redevelopment.

SK - In 2022, hopefully we get to see a lot of those large-scale events back in Chesterfield.

PC – We’re here to support the town. The opportunities for large scale development are fantastic and seeing investment in Chesterfield is great. It’s important that we keep moving forward and make these positive changes.

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JD – It’s about offering the right mix and I think Chesterfield is doing everything right in that sense. More people are starting to think about a UK staycation in 2022 and people definitely want to give back to their communities, supporting independent businesses. Chesterfield has got everything to play for at the moment.