Workplace360 Issue 1

Page 1

business supplies and beyond O O business supplies and beyond ISSUE 1 - JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023 LAUNCH ISSUE
FLYING INTO 2023 To secure your place, or for more details about the BOSS Charity’s Patron Scheme, please contact the charity’s Vice Chair, Kelly Hilleard, at Tel: 07717 201821 The BOSS Business Supplies Charity Inaugural Patrons’ Dinner A special gala networking event to celebrate our industry’s support of the BBSC. Not a fundraiser Tickets just £110 pp inclusive of drinks reception, 3-course meal, wine and entertainment The deadline for ticket sales is 3rd February 2023 with Guest Speaker Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards Stationers’ Hall, Thursday 16 February, 6:30pm Dress: Black tie and gowns Our 2023 Corporate Patrons are: Avery, BIC, Brother UK Ltd, Fellowes Brands, Highlands, OPI, OT Group, Pukka Pads, Ryman, SC Johnson Professional, Uni Mitsubishi Pencil Company, Viking Honorary Patron: BOSS Federation


First and foremost, the Workplace360 team would like to offer its sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Exertis’ Tim Holmes, who sadly lost his battle with cancer late last year. You can read some of the heartfelt industry tributes to Tim on page 10.

It’s been an exciting time at OPI – parent company of Workplace360 – putting this magazine together, and we hope you enjoy it. Our primary focus is on empowering and guiding the entire channel by providing insightful and relevant content to inform current and future business decisions.

Inside these pages, you’ll find interviews with Office Power’s Mark Heath (page 16) and ECI’s Brian Bowerfind with ES Tech’s Paddy Donnelly (page 36). Some of our well-known industry leaders also offer their thoughts on the year ahead (page 24).

Each issue will shine the spotlight on a dealer that is really engaged in innovative business practices, with Harlow-based Upstream kicking off the series on page 12.


Michelle Sturman is the Editor of Workplace360, having joined OPI as News Editor in 2014 to manage the online and magazine news service. In 2015, she was made Deputy Editor, working across both the digital and print side of OPI, which covers the magazine, website, social media, digital newsletters and podcasts.

Steve Hilleard is CEO of OPI, Workplace360’s parent company. A former dealer himself, Steve has worked in the office supplies industry for 36 years – with the last 28 years as a media guy at OPI. In 2019, he was the recipient of the BOSS Federation Outstanding Achievement Award.

Steve is very involved with industry charities, including fundraising for cancer research via the Climb of Life and Ride of Life initiatives, and he is the Honorary Treasurer of the Society of Old Friends.

Health and well-being is often a motivator for many people at the start of any new year. Making wellness work, starting on page 28, delves into this topic and looks at opportunities for our sector. On page 34, the subject of keeping staff mentally healthy is explored.

Over and above the highlighted articles, there’s plenty more to read, with industry experts delivering advice on sales, marketing and much more. All content is designed to support the evolution of the entire UK business supplies sector into the workplace solutions industry.

This magazine will also be available online as a digital edition on the website (, which features tons of other content. You can stay up to date with the latest news and information by subscribing to the free weekly e-newsletter.

Feel free to drop me a line (michelle.sturman@ if you have any thoughts or comments, new category areas you want to see investigated, industry captains you’d love to see interviewed, or even if you’d like to be featured in Workplace360.

Chris joined OPI in 2006 as VP North America and the UK and for almost 12 years was responsible for the management and development of customer accounts in these regions and Australasia. In 2018, he was promoted to Head of Media Sales and now has full responsibility for all print and digital media sales worldwide.

Andy is News Editor at Workplace360. He has been writing about the office and business products industry since 2003 and joined OPI in 2008. Since then, he has built a reputation for providing a fair and balanced approach to editorial content, covering stories from around the world.

Janet has been working in the business products sector since 2000, when she joined OPI to run its events across Europe, Asia and the US. She became a Director in 2006 following a management buyout and now, in addition to events, oversees Workplace360’s operational activities, online presence and lots more besides!

Aurora joined OPI in 2015 as Digital Marketing Manager. Having worked in digital marketing since 2003, she has a wide knowledge of the industry. She has worked for online advertising agencies as well as for publishers (B2B and B2C) and ran her own online marketing firm.

Kelly joined OPI in 2016 as the company’s Finance Manager. Six years on, that role has expanded to cover HR, H&S and Operations. In January 2022, she was appointed Vice Chair of the BOSS Business Supplies Charity.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. With more than 15 years’ experience in media graphic design, Joel is responsible for making everything for Workplace360 as beautiful as can be.

Janet Bell Director Michelle Sturman Editor Andy Kelly Hilleard Finance & Operations Chris Turness Head of Media Sales Aurora Enghis Digital Marketing Manager
03 Editor’s note 06 News 12 Dealer spotlight With a rebrand, category diversification and significant internal investment, Upstream is focused on the future 22 IMO Andrew Mawson explains how hybrid working can benefit everyone 34 Mental health Well-being first aiders are a starting point for mental health in the workplace 40 Sales According to Kevin McGirl, AI is changing the sales game 42 Marketing Gareth Kirkham looks at the undervalued significance of bespoke marketing 44 ESG Green Thinking dealer survey results 46 Events Ambiente 2023 preview 48 Heart of the industry Ride of Life 2023 preview 49 Heart of the industry Climb of Life 2022 review 50 Heart of the industry BOSS Awards 2022 52 Backchat Fellowes Brands’ Louise Shipley on wellness 54 Exposed! Darren Washbourne from Beeswift CONTENTS In conversation with... Office Power’s Managing Director Mark Heath January/February 2023 16 36 ECI and ES Tech talk about the recent acquisition and what it means for the UK industry Category focus When it comes to wellness in the workplace, the pandemic has changed how businesses keep employees healthy, both physically and mentally 28 EDITORIAL Workplace360 Editor Michelle Sturman 020 7841 2950 News Editor Andy Braithwaite +33 4 32 62 71 07 Freelance Contributor Bruce Ackland OPI Editor Heike Dieckmann 01462 422143 SALES & MARKETING Head of Media Sales Chris Turness 07872 684746 Chief Commercial Officer Chris Exner 07973 186801 Digital Marketing Manager Aurora Enghis EVENTS Events Manager Lisa Haywood PRODUCTION & FINANCE Studio Joel Mitchell Finance & Operations Kelly Hilleard PUBLISHERS CEO Steve Hilleard 07799 891000 Director Janet Bell 07771 658130 Executive Assistant Debbie Garrand 020 3290 1511 Follow us online: Website: Linkedin: business supplies and beyond O O business supplies and beyond Workplace360 c/o OPI, Focus7 House, Fairclough Hall, Halls Green, Hertfordshire SG4 7DP Tel: 020 7841 2950 CBP0009242909111341 The carrier sheet is printed on Satimat Silk paper, which is produced on pulpmanufactured wood obtained from recognised responsible forests and at an FSC® certified mill. It is polywrapped in recyclable plastic that will biodegrade within six months. No part of this magazine may be reproduced, copied, stored in an electronic retrieval system or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with provision of the copyright designs and patents act of 1988. Stringent efforts have been made by Office Products International to ensure accuracy. However, due principally to the fact that data cannot always be verified, it is possible that some errors or omissions may occur. Office Products International cannot accept responsibility for such errors or omissions. Office Products International accepts no responsibility for comments made by contributing authors or interviewees that may offend. Workplace360 is printed in the UK by 24 Industry leaders give their predictions for the year ahead An OPI publication EMAIL US... To email any of the Workplace360 team, use the following: first name.surname@ 4 WORKPLACE360 - JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023

New era at EVO

reseller clients as part of what he called a “back to basics” approach. Adding that VOW and the reseller channel was the group’s “bread and butter”, he emphasised the importance of getting stock and delivery propositions “right” and giving resellers “a good service”.

The new CEO also had a message for vendors and said they shouldn’t fear change. “We’re looking to grow. That means we’re going to be buying more, which should be good for the supply base,” he said. He underlined the need to be “joined up” with suppliers in order for EVO to be able to deliver on its promises to customers.

Gale said vendors should take it positively that Simon McLoughlin has returned to EVO as Buying Director, while Steve Forde has been brought back on a part-time basis on the inventory side. Related to this, one of the key differences at EVO in the first half of this year will be changes to the stock range as part of a drive to improve service levels. Meanwhile, one popular figure that won’t be part of the management team going forward is Isabel Spence, who left on 6 January, saying it was the “right time” for her to leave.

Other areas that Gale will be looking at include Banner, where he recognises the need to differentiate key private and public sector accounts and mid-market customers. News of a sales leadership appointment at Banner is expected shortly.

The end of 2022 signalled a leadership change at leading multichannel operator EVO, which includes VOW Wholesale, Banner,, Premier Vanguard and – most recently – Complete Business Solutions. Following discussions between then CEO Steve Haworth and private equity owner Endless they agreed it was time for a change with Endless turning to experienced EVO CFO Andrew Gale.

Speaking to Workplace360 about the timing of the decision, Gale said he was keen “to freshen things up” ahead of what is expected to be a big year for the group “in terms of delivering improvement in its financial performance”.

Gale stated: “I’m committed to a UK/Ireland business and I’m committed to a multichannel model. We just need a bit of fine-tuning to make it really fire.”


Just as the new CEO was getting his feet under the table, the financial woes at leading VOW customer Complete Business Solutions reared their ugly head. Towards the end of December, the Wakefield-based £100 million dealer filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators.

It is no surprise that EVO was actively involved in talks to find an acceptable solution to the reseller’s problems. The result was EVO acquiring the trade and assets of Complete through a pre-pack administration on 9 January for an undisclosed sum. Gale told Workplace360 that he was “very pleased” a solution had been found to save all of Complete’s 632 jobs.

“We are a private equity-backed business and we have an expectation that our numbers should be better,” Gale stated. “We are very focused on that.”

One of Gale’s first actions as CEO was to reinstate Adrian Butler as full-time Managing Director at VOW Wholesale, following a period when he had also been overseeing Banner after the departure of Craig Varey at the end of 2021.

Gale promised the VOW team would be “more proactive and determined” on serving its independent

Aside from preventing the collapse of Complete, Gale called the transaction a “pragmatic deal for EVO with a positive outcome for all, bringing Complete into the EVO family”. He highlighted that the priority is to stabilise Complete and get it fully functioning again after the challenging period it has been through.

Eyebrows will no doubt be raised in the UK marketplace given VOW Wholesale’s owner now controls a £100 million dealer.

Gale said this aspect should not be overthought. “Managing a multichannel model isn’t new for EVO. The focus, with an important customer in difficulty and more than 600 jobs at stake, was how we could come up with a better solution for all involved.”

We are a private equitybacked business and we have an expectation that our numbers should be better
Andrew Gale has had a busy start to his tenure as EVO CEO

He added: “The fact is we have been able to turn a business in distress into a chance to save a large number of jobs. We’ll now take that forward and there will be more to say down the line.”

Arthur Hindmarch, Chairman of the UK’s largest family-owned independent dealer Commercial was quick to give his reaction to the news.

“Commercial is fully supportive of EVO’s prompt action to rescue Complete from administration,” he said. “In doing so, EVO has clearly given the business and its employees a second chance to thrive again.

“This can only be a good thing for the dealer channel and I’m confident EVO will ensure the integrity of VOW Wholesale’s dealer channel is maintained. We wish all involved the best of luck going forward.”

ACS makes net zero commitment

UK workplace products and services group ACS has said it aims to become net zero by 2030. The reseller has so far invested £190,000 in a number of environmentally responsible initiatives. These include the installation of 220 solar panels on its head office roof to generate energy, and ensuring the use of 100% recycled filler cardboard in all orders from its distribution centre. In addition, ACS is transitioning to a 100% electric company vehicle fleet and creating an on-site recycling centre in collaboration with TerraCycle. Total investments will reach £250,000 by 2024.

Net zero by 2030 is extremely ambitious and requires radical innovation within our supply chain

The £26 million business worked closely with the British Standards Institute to achieve PAS 2060 –an internationally recognised standard for carbon neutrality – in June last year.

ACS Group Sustainability Manager Tom Taylor said: “We are totally committed to reducing our impact on the environment and helping our customers to do the same. Net zero by 2030 is extremely ambitious and requires radical innovation within our supply chain. All of us at ACS Group hope to influence our stakeholders into making the required changes to ensure a more sustainable future for our industry and our customers.

“We are also committed to reporting openly and honestly as we navigate the ongoing requirements for our PAS 2060 accreditation.”

EVO CEO Andrew Gale
ACS Group Sustainability Manager Tom Taylor

Create your own adventure

Acquisition for Office Oracle

Office Oracle has acquired the customer base of another small dealer based in the UK capital. The company has purchased the business of Graphic Office Supplies for an undisclosed sum, effective 13 December. Graphic’s staff will now move over to Office Oracle.

VOW Wholesale has revealed the details of its H1 incentive scheme, VOW ADVENTURE. From 1 February, registered dealers can win monthly vouchers with different prizes, depending on the level of each brand involved in the promotion.

Open to all VOW dealer customers in the UK and Ireland, the vouchers enable winners to choose what they spend them on or who they are awarded to. Over and above the monthly prizes, this year’s coveted grand prize is a national or regional radio campaign.

Dealers can register online – –and will receive a sales goal for each brand. This year, 15 vendors are participating. Sales can be tracked online, and the reseller with the highest percentage over the target wins. For more information on VOW ADVENTURE, visit


“Following a challenging time during the pandemic and permanent changes in the market, I see further consolidation will arise,” said Office Oracle Managing Director Matthew Phauré. “We are always open to discuss mutually beneficial opportunities for forward-looking dealers and salespeople.”

Office Oracle was founded in 2011 and forms part of the OO Group. It operates a number of divisions in the facilities management, business interiors, communications, print as well as supplies segments.

Don Ruffles appoints General Manager

Former dealer group executive Mark Allan has taken on the role of General Manager at online business equipment reseller Don Ruffles. Until recently, he was Senior Business Development Manager at Nemo Office Club.

Allan has more than 30 years of experience in the business supplies industry. In addition to Nemo Office Club – where he spent almost 13 years – he previously worked for Mitsubishi Pencil and Kingfield Heath.

Don Ruffles is a Nemo Office Club member, which will certainly help Allan in his new role. Managing Director Michael Knight called the appointment a “fantastic opportunity for the business”, adding that it will allow himself and fellow Director Tracey Knight to step back “more meaningfully” from the day-to-day operations over the next few years.

Reid moves to Spicers

The Sales Director at dealer services organisation Nectere has moved to wholesaler Spicers. After eight years at Nectere, Adrian Reid confirmed in a social media post that he has taken on the role of Business Development Director at OT Group-owned Spicers.

Reid has been in the UK business products sector for more than two decades, including 18 years at Lyreco.

Pukka Pads makes senior commercial appointment

Alex Bonarius has joined well-known UK vendor Pukka Pads as Global Sales Director. Prior to this, Bonarius spent six years at Rapesco, most recently serving as Director of EU Business.

During his time at Rapesco, he successfully developed the brand in key European markets as well as secured exclusive partnerships in Australia and New Zealand. His new role will see him assuming overall responsibility for all Pukka Pads’ sales channels and markets across the business and its multiple brands.

“With Alex’s appointment, we feel Pukka Pads is well positioned to grow in all channels, specifically overseas where there is much opportunity which we haven’t been able to address until now,” said Pukka Pads CEO Chris Stott.

The 2023 VOW ADVENTURE grand prize is a national or regional radio campaign

Tim Holmes passes away

Workplace360 was saddened to learn that Exertis Supplies’ Tim Holmes passed away on 26 December following a short battle with cancer. Tim was a true gentleman in the business products channel and will be greatly missed by his colleagues and industry associates.

Fittingly, he won the Business Leader of the Year award at the 2022 BOSS Awards in November for which he received a heartfelt and emotional standing ovation. He had spent the past eight years at Exertis Supplies, building a business products wholesaling business that is based on an ethos of partnership with vendors and customers.

Tim joined the OP industry in 1998 when he took on a sales role at ACCO Brands. He then had spells at Fellowes Brands, Lyreco and Staples before joining Exertis Supplies in 2014. Workplace360 extends its deepest sympathies to Tim’s family, friends and colleagues.

The following are a mere handful of the many, many tributes paid to Tim from industry members via LinkedIn (some edited slightly for clarity).

Mike James, Managing Director, Dundale Associates

Tim was a great guy and life had not been kind to him in recent years. He kept his sense of fair play and humour till the end.

Hugh Darcy, VP Business Machines Marketing ACCO Brands Europe

Great colleague and a great friend. I was privileged to spend time working with Tim both at ACCO Brands and Fellowes Brands. Tim was an innovator, coach, inspiration and leader.

Brian Hall, International Commercial Director, RAJA Office

I worked with Tim at the start of our office supplies careers over 25 years ago at ACCO Brands. We were both part of a fantastic young team back in the 1990s! A great positive attitude, team player and a real gent.

Steve Hilleard, CEO, Workplace360 Rarely have I met anyone so universally respected and liked in our industry. I am just very glad he was able to be present at the BOSS Awards in November when he collected the Business Leader of the Year accolade.

Mark Daisley, Managing Director, ExaClair Words cannot explain how his passing has saddened me, but I’m also grateful to have known Tim and call him a friend.

Steve Harrop, Head of Commercial, Nectere Simply heartbreaking to hear this. Over many years, Tim had been an outstanding player in our industry with a real finger on the pulse of what was happening. Even in his difficult times, we were able to chat positively and with great humour about stuff.

Ken Trenberth, Managing Director, Rocada UK Exceptionally sad news, but so pleased he was able to collect his recent award and spend Christmas with his family. He will be sadly missed, and I have certainly enjoyed having him as a friend.

Geoffrey Betts, Managing Director, Stewart Superior His industry stood for him in Manchester, and it was the perfect response to a life and career of distinction.

Pilot UK contributes to ocean charity

The Pilot Pen Company (UK) is supporting the Marine Conservation Society, a leading ocean charity. Starting in January 2023, Pilot Pen will make a donation of 5p to the charity from the sale of every Pilot B2P (Bottle to Pen) Gel rollerball and B2P Ecoball across all business channels.

Launched in 2009, B2P pens are made of at least 86% recycled bottles and now include reclaimed ocean plastic too. “We hope the contribution made through sales will go towards aiding the charity in its amazing work, from beach cleans to its education programmes,” said Adam Smith, Marketing Manager at Pilot Pen.


Swimming upstream

In the grand scheme of things, Harlow-based dealer Upstream is a relative newcomer to the business supplies sector. Not so its owners – Andy Greening, Trevor Corrigan and Ian Gibson. The former two are well-known in the UK industry, having served their time at companies such as ISA, Vasanta, and Pitney Bowes.

It was only a year ago that Upstream officially rebranded, so it may not be as instantly familiar as its previous incarnation as OfficeScape. The company was founded in November 2011 by the aforementioned shareholders, with the trio recruiting salespeople and settling on a shotgun approach of selling office products to as many businesses as possible.

Greening – Upstream’s Managing Director – admits that while this plan was nothing new, their strategy was to execute it extremely well. “There was an exceptional

level of sales discipline in being diligent in our follow-up and approach to customers,” he says. It worked. The team initially garnered around 2,000 customers, many of whom remain with Upstream today.

This sales process matured over the first five years, eventually morphing into more strategic client management in terms of prospecting and customer acquisition and is now sharply focused on a specific size and type of private sector business. “We already have industry-leading clients on our books, perhaps a level below in size of household names such as Coca-Cola, British Airways or HSBC. Once we have them, we rarely lose them,” notes Greening.

Upstream is also eyeing expansion into the public sector and actively hunting for tender/SLA opportunities – aiming at the £100 million turnover mark and above.

Certainly not your average dealer, Upstream has carved out a space that sees the company working with thousands of vendors and able to supply just about anything

In the same way that Upstream has evolved and nurtured the account management and business development side of the company, so too has the product range been strengthened through diversification. This started pre-COVID as the cyclical decline of traditional office products and the impact of digitisation has increasingly taken its toll.


Nevertheless, Greening is quick to point out that the office supplies category still possesses value –representing around 30% of Upstream’s turnover. However, he admits the advent of pureplay e-commerce players has created additional challenges on pricing visibility and product availability.

“We realised we weren’t going to be as successful by staying in the box we’d created for ourselves in terms of office products, toner and a little bit of next-day furniture,” says Greening.

This was brought home when trying to break into the facilities management, catering, furniture and technology categories. “We were getting pigeonholed as an office products supplier and some customers were a bit sniffy about it. Our brand needed to resonate better with clientele in relation to the breadth of the product range we supply, as well as relate to our supply chain management service for clients. All of this combined prompted our decision to rebrand as Upstream,” he says.

Today, Upstream offers nine distinct product categories –Care, Office, Workwear, Interiors, Technology, Facilities, Catering, Branded, and Source. It is the latter Greening is most keen to talk about –Source offers a solution for “analysing, consolidating and managing” the troublesome long tail spend on behalf of customers.

Initial learnings for Source were derived from an arrangement with a French industrial supplies business that deployed staff on-site at major manufacturing production companies. Upstream handled any requests outside the French company’s remit, which included some “wild and wonderful things”.

Says Greening: “Our client recognised the inherent challenges

in setting up different suppliers, managing them, obtaining credit terms, organising the supply chain, etc, and the associated cost of that. Essentially, we shifted the cost of managing all of this into our business and set up a transactional structure to optimise efficiency and minimise operational cost, and it is now a large spend client for us.”


However, the COVID crisis was undoubtedly the trigger for Source – opening up the vendor supply chain as clients proactively asked for product they didn’t know how to obtain. “What we discovered –which had really gone under the radar until lockdown – is that we have an exceedingly large blue-collar, industrial customer base.

“Those businesses had to keep the wheels turning during the pandemic, and it was amazing to see the cutting edge of what these companies did to ensure staff remained safe during this time. You name it –mobile handwashing stations, temperature entry gates, etc, and all these requests came to us.”

DEALER SPOTLIGHT - UPSTREAM 4,000+ NUMBER OF VENDORS UPSTREAM WORKS WITH 30% PERCENTAGE OF TURNOVER ATTRIBUTED TO OFFICE SUPPLIES Upstream has achieved quite a feat, having won the BOSS Awards Dealer of the Year twice in the past decade
furniture 13 WORKPLACE360 - JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023
We realised we weren’t going to be as successful by staying in the box we’d created for ourselves in terms of
products, toner and a little bit of

Prior to the pandemic and the creation of the Source business unit, Upstream typically utilised around 30-40 manufacturers – now, it has a 4,000-strong vendor list. As a result, it has not only introduced a far more diverse product set than your average independent dealer, but also renewed its focus on development within the company in areas such as purchasing.


Aside from experienced product specialists in furniture and technology – two key areas the dealer is actively pushing – the difficulty of foreseeing what ‘wild and wonderful’ product requests are coming down the pipeline means Upstream prefers to hire people with broad skillsets.

Greening says one key advantage the company has is its people, which especially rings true when pitching against contract stationers for mid to large private sector business. Regularly, he comments, dealer owners and senior sales representatives will present against a junior account manager from larger incumbents.

“When you’re talking to a procurement director, they respect the fact you’re independent, can make your own decisions, say yes or no, and don’t have to go up the chain. They see that level of responsiveness and depth of knowledge.

“We can recount experiences with similar types of clients as we’ve been around the block a few times. Dealers know how to run a business, and most have worked in the industry for some time. It’s an inherent USP and I think it frequently offsets the ‘size’ question.”

According to Greening, in-depth industry knowledge is not only critical from a customer acquisition and a business development perspective for existing clients, but it’s also vital to develop the next generation. Upstream places an emphasis on building and championing the team internally, and he acknowledges the company is lucky to have some fantastic younger employees that are soaking up support.

He believes that to thrive, a business must always ensure the next generation is coming through and that they’re motivated, incentivised, developed and mentored. “I think this is the most important thing you can do as a business owner. You probably derive the most pleasure from seeing the younger employees progress, not just in their professional life, but their personal ones too. You go on a journey with them.”


The future looks rosy for Upstream following substantial organic growth of over 60% in 2020-2021. In 2021 and 2022, significant investments were made in both building the team out and in its existing employees. As Greening explains, individual components of the business were examined – supply chain, purchasing, finance and sales – to determine if they were fit for purpose to support expansion.

He adds: “There was a lot of development in the sales department in 2022 and this year, we’ll probably cycle back to functions we feel we can improve upon. As for the road ahead, it will be more of the same, but doing it better and keep turning the flywheel.”


A journey that Upstream Managing Director Andy Greening and the team are especially proud of relates to sustainability. This includes its partnership with environmental organisation Ecologi which – at the time of writing – has already resulted in the planting of almost 6,000 trees in forests globally.

Through this association, Upstream has also offset over 350 tonnes of CO2 by supporting 40 schemes so far, including preventing deforestation in the DRC, the first-ever wind power project in Honduras and turning waste biogas into electricity in Thailand.

As a member of The Recycling Association, the company is not only looking to improve what it is accomplishing in terms of plastic and paper recycling, but help customers do the same.

Elaborating further, Greening adds: “Following the guidelines and advice from The Recycling Association, we try applying it to what we do with our clients. As a small business, there’s only so much that is able to be achieved, but if we can facilitate this in some way for much larger businesses with thousands of employees, that makes a difference.”

Dealers know how to run a business, and most have worked in the industry for some time. It’s an inherent USP and I think it frequently offsets the ‘size’ question
From left:
Trevor Corrigan and Andy Greening

Operating on full power

In September 2022, industry veteran and former owner of dealer Bluefish, Mark Heath, stepped into the newly created role of Managing Director at technology and service provider Office Power. On a damp and miserable December morning, Workplace360 CEO Steve Hilleard took a stroll with him to find out how it’s going…


Workplace360: Mark, welcome to Workplace360. Let’s kick off by understanding your career to date. Mark Heath: Thanks Steve. I could be considered an industry veteran given I started as a teenager, but what I’d really like to talk about is how the industry has reshaped and reinvented itself and how I can bring my experience to bear.

I’ve been part of start-ups, scale-ups, takeovers and exits as well as wearing dealer, owner and manager hats, so consider myself to be well-placed to understand the challenges from all sides. It also means I believe I am a good problem-solver.

W360: What attracted you to Office Power then?

MH: I sold Bluefish back in 2019 for personal reasons, and then 2022 came around with the chance to write my next chapter.

I’ve known Simon Drakeford, CEO of EO Group –which includes Office Power and Euroffice – for a long time. He got me excited about what Office Power was doing and I wanted to be part of it.

W360: This is one of the few occasions you’re going to get in this interview to pitch what you do as a business. So, please explain what the Office Power model is, why it was created and how it’s evolved.

MH: We offer dealers a mix of software and services which, when combined, is immensely powerful. We talk about customer-first software and I know, as a former dealer myself, you always have a solid backoffice system and then try to shoehorn a website around it.

Starting with a customer-first system totally changes the dynamic of what we develop for our dealers and, more importantly, what they create for themselves. We see Office Power as next-generation – providing dealers with a grown-up infrastructure, the ability to deliver something different and enabling them to move onto the front foot.

The software is great – that’s a given. Now include the services and the support we offer dealers in managing their business and we can honestly say Office Power is a fantastic platform for growth.

W360: Let’s dive a little bit deeper and talk about the software side first. The general perception is you test it out in Euroffice and make it available to dealers. Is that, in a nutshell, what you’re offering?

MH: Originally, perhaps. However, as we’ve acquired new dealer partners, it’s taken us in an entirely different direction. Without a doubt, the kick-off point was an excellent product that sat in Euroffice, but what we have now is rapidly evolving to cater to the needs and desires of dealers.

W360: What are some of the bells and whistles?

MH: Recently, we have added ‘sign on glass’ delivery and full punchout integration. We’re looking at stocking systems and working on services such as drivers with iPads who can check stock cupboards and sign off on customer requirements there and then. We’re also making it easy for dealers to build in diversification and extend their range.

W360: You mentioned services. Talk us through some of those.

MH: Looking back at the Office Power of old, it was one-size-fits-all. Today, our dealer partners can subscribe to as many services as they want and shape the menu to suit specific business requirements. It includes training support, marketing, customer service, finance and operations. Dealers may join the programme wherever they want, which makes it tremendously scalable for bigger partners going forward.

W360: What you’re saying is that it’s more of a menu now, and people can choose to retain elements of their own business and then hand over parts to Office Power?

MH: Absolutely. It’s the SaaS model. Take the software and apply the services and the style that suit your business. ‘Your Business, Your Way’ is our mantra now.

It’s the SaaS model. Take the software and apply the services and the style that suits your business. ‘Your Business, Your Way’ is our mantra now

W360: Can you share any statistics about how many dealer partners are currently working with you on the platform and how that’s trending?

MH: We’ve witnessed a 10% growth in dealers since the end of 2021, with a swiftly rising upward trajectory. It’s always challenging to look at the overall number of partners in terms of size and scale, but we are unquestionably on a big growth track with a robust pipeline and we have an engaged partner community.

W360: What do you attribute that to?

MH: Hopefully, I’ve completed the jigsaw in that Office Power has incredibly talented people, great software development and more experience in dealer culture, which is starting to close the loop. We hold our feet to the fire to ensure we deliver what our partners require and, most importantly, understand their needs.

W360: You quite often, rightly or wrongly, get compared with dealer groups. Does that frustrate you?

We’ve witnessed a 10% growth in dealers

MH: It definitely inspires our work. We see ourselves as the next generation of software and services, with a unique offering through a single platform and a system deeply invested in our dealer partners. It’s not just about buying and reselling products, it’s an entire business DNA.

W360: You’ve run your own business, so you’ll understand how a lot of the dealer principals reading this interview will be operating. What do you believe are the major hurdles they have to overcome to embrace a new model?

MH: For any dealer right now, it’s about successful diversification while retaining control of their business. Don’t chase shadows.

W360: That leads us nicely to the reason why we’ve created this publication. What do you think are the challenges facing our industry as we embark on or continue the journey into being a broader workplace supplies environment?

MH: I think an issue over the past 12 months has been the realisation that the historical market is behind us. Everyone has been comparing their sales to pre-COVID times and many now recognise what


their lower level of revenue is – essentially their new baseline, even if they don’t like it. We can start building business models armed with this information and ensure we have partners and a supply chain that are more durable.

What dealers provide is an excellent concierge service to a me-too product, and I’m a firm believer that, as long as you’re adding value to your partners, opportunities still exist. We talk about recession, not depression – no one dealer has an enormous market share, so the possibilities are huge.

W360: We’ve experienced a lot of macroeconomic headwinds over the past few years, but people continue to buy product and services. Employees may not be in the office five days a week, and there are many other issues at play, but we still have a reasonably buoyant opportunity.

MH: I thoroughly agree. There is enormous headroom for a business that applies itself logically and strategically, harbours ambition and works hard. At Bluefish, we used to have a saying that if you can tell me when it was easy, I’ll reduce your targets. It’s never been easy. As it stands now, it’s just a different sort of difficult.

W360: Let’s talk about some of the broader issues. A recent headline suggested people are back in the office on average one and a half days a week. This obviously has had a substantial impact on our industry but are we overexaggerating it?

MH: Looking at Google mobility data, for example, roughly 30% of people are at home at any point and it’s tough. Clearly, there’s been a huge recalibration, but the good news is we now understand it which

means we can work with our partners to develop flexible businesses that suit the new ways of working.

W360: What about other headwinds like the cost of living and energy crises?

MH: I think we tackle them head-on. The cost of living is an interesting one and it’s vital to support and look after your team as best as possible. Some people are talking about more inflation in the system this year, although admittedly, it hasn’t been completely detrimental to our sector.

With the level of downturn in overall volumes, increased prices have helped somewhat. Paper is a prime example – maybe it was too cheap for too long, but the reversal has been profound.

W360: As an industry very reliant on the wholesale community, I’m interested to hear your views on some of the events we’ve seen happening over the past couple of years.

MH: If you go back to the end of 2019, we had a wholesale industry that wasn’t sustainable, overservicing people and filling gaps that it likely didn’t have to. I heard it described recently as a knife fight in a phone box. There needed to be healthy reformatting, although it was quite painful for dealers and probably a little dramatic in the way it happened.

We have got to be supportive of the channel but hold them to task and ensure they’re doing the job they’re expected to do. Equally, we must give everybody enough room to breathe – dealers and wholesalers have both been guilty of knee-jerk reactions in the past. If you divide the wholesale relationship into commercial and logistical, then we require continuity and consistency in both areas.

It’s not just about buying and reselling products, it’s an entire business DNA
From left: Steve Hilleard and Mark Heath

W360: The issue of content and data rears its head frequently. I think the UK is reasonably well-serviced, particularly with the FusionPlus Data model. How does that dovetail with what you do at Office Power?

MH: It constitutes a really exciting part of the next chapter for us if we can get the data right and offer the market the service and the full range dealers want. We’re having conversations with manufacturers regarding the thousands of lines in the UK that they’re unable to get to market effectively. Unfortunately, this leaves the door wide open for Amazon to step through. We’ve got to turn the tide. It boils down to an extended range, marketplace and product access – the most successful dealers are already doing this well. I believe Office Power is well positioned to grab this opportunity by the throat and become the best.

W360: What’s the outlook for the next few years for this sector – assuming there are no more wild things to come?

MH: I derive great comfort from what I said earlier – a good business can diversify and build an even better business; it just needs the tools and the desire to do so and that’s why Office Power’s flexible software and services model combined with the partner community is so well-suited to today’s and the future market. The next few years will be about winners and losers. But then life always is, isn’t it?

W360: Thank you, Mark, and good luck in this new chapter of your life.

It boils down to an extended range, marketplace and product access – the most successful dealers are already doing this well

The transition begins

Before COVID-19, office working represented the status quo for most knowledge workers. Since the pandemic emerged, it has clearly shifted to working from home

Now that the pandemic is subsiding in most western geographies, many leaders want their people to return to the old way – at least for part of their time. They believe, rightly or wrongly, that home working is diluting their organisational culture and diminishing a great source of creativity, productivity and cohesion. As a result, employees are being forced to go to the office for 2-3 days a week whether they like it or not.

The problem is that people have developed new habits and patterns of working and living while anchored to their homes and believe they can do their work effectively without attending the office. After all, they did it perfectly well for the past two years, so why should they start making the commute again just because some ‘out of touch’ manager says they should?

You can see the dilemma. With this in mind, it’s worth exploring some of the powerful reasons that people may not want to head back to the office:

• Cost: Working from home might increase energy bills, but it also reduces the cost of the commute. For people on an ‘average’ salary, this could amount to as much as a 25% tax-free wage rise. As the cost of living increases, disposable income is at severe risk of reducing.

• Further away: During the pandemic, a great deal of people decided to move away from the city to more remote locations for quality of life. This group doesn’t want to commute long distances on a daily basis now that they are further away.

• Value of the office: These days, lots of knowledge workers have jobs which involve interacting with people in different regions and have less to do with colleagues in the nearest office. Many returning to the workplace for the first time have found the very people they need to collaborate with are not actually at their place of work on the same day anyway.

• Personality: The office was the domain of extroverts, who enjoyed the community that the office offered. The opposite was true for introverts or the socially anxious, which make up a substantial percentage of the population.


Of course, with hybrid working, with the right leadership and thinking, organisations can have their cake and eat it too. Knowledge workers can do all the things that require focus at home (assuming their environment permits) and go to an office when they need to work on complex tasks with others, socialise, attend events or drink at the cultural well.

Social cohesion is the lubricant of the knowledge work world. Although it can be nurtured online, there is no substitute for having a coffee or beer, breaking bread or getting around a whiteboard to work on a tough problem. But does everyone need this every day? I doubt it. So, the question is: how do we arrive at a new hybrid working norm that makes sense to everyone? Pre-pandemic, firms needed ‘change

People have developed new habits and patterns of working [...] while anchored to their homes

management’ or ‘transition programmes’ to help their employees move to new agile work models and get rid of old habits that were generated through years of repeated office practices. Post-pandemic, the same is true.

To overcome the new habits and attitudes generated through the COVID crisis, change programmes will be needed again to help organisations and their people adapt to new hybrid norms, balancing face-to-face-inthe-same-space with online interaction.


hybrid teams

Setting a 2-3 day minimum number of days policy on-site isn’t cutting it. Employees feel their intelligence is being insulted by these mandates, which as they see it, are patronising and make no sense in the context of their working roles.


Moving forward, companies must engage employees in developing new working principles and rules, and communicating these through champion networks and other mechanisms to get everyone excited. Then, they

need to raise people’s awareness of the value that being together brings.

Leaders need to upskill so they can understand what it takes to manage hybrid teams, including facilitating new team-based working arrangements to support the business, the team and the individual.

Teams have to work out how they will maintain each other’s trust, strengthen relationships and share information whereby they indicate when they are on duty and off duty. They need to determine the best times to use video or have physical get-togethers. Most importantly, they should figure out when it’s OK to say ‘no’ to tasks placed on them, and how they will deal with tensions in the team.

It’s clear that there’s no going back to pre-pandemic working arrangements. But making the new hybrid world work will take more than an email or two from the C-suite. The transition to hybrid working will require a proactive and well-designed programme of reinvention for organisations to get the most from this new age.

need to upskill so that they can understand what it takes to manage
Andrew Mawson is the founder of Advanced Workplace Associates, a company that helps business leaders use scientific research to enhance human and organisational performance

Just when we thought it was time to take a breather following the waning of the pandemic and the loosening of some supply chain constraints, Russia invaded Ukraine. Ergo, 2022 witnessed rising energy and food prices, contributing to rampant inflation and increases in interest rates.

In addition, last year saw the revolving door of 10 Downing Street with three prime ministers in as many months, the disastrous ‘Trussonomics’ economic policy, strikes and, some may say, the still unfulfilled promise of Brexit.

The chaos has resulted in a cost of living crisis and a recession expected to last until 2024. Additionally, our sector must deal with the rise of hybrid working and the loss of staff hosted permanently in offices.

So what will 2023 have in store for us? Workplace360 spoke to leaders in the business supplies space, and the following pages contain some of their thoughts on the months to come. While recent and upcoming economic woes were frequently mentioned, on the other hand, they were equally upbeat about future prospects. The overwhelming belief is that, as the industry demonstrated its fortitude throughout the COVID crisis and recent calamities, it will survive – if not thrive – this year.


Naturally, everyone used the word ‘challenging’ to describe what’s ahead but, in the same breath, talked about the ‘opportunities’.

Office Friendly Managing Director Jeanette Bresitz says: “Bring on 2023! While some may worry or be fearful of the economic outlook, it’s been proven time and again, our industry can weather a storm well. We identify creative ways to maintain and grow our businesses while supporting customers through cost-savings, efficiencies, or new services.”

TALKING POINT - 2023 Are you ready for 2023? What will this year hold for the workplace solutions sector? Workplace360 canvassed industry leaders to get their opinions on how they think 2023 will shape up WORKPLACE360 - JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023

concurs, noting that in the past few years, the industry has evolved more rapidly than ever before. He says we will face the upcoming challenges and all be stronger for the experience when better days are reached.

Despite the confidence, Campbell is under no illusions. “In 2022, Langstane celebrated its 75th anniversary, and it may well be 2023 is the toughest year yet. We are in an unprecedented period, with so much instability and uncertainty, making it impossible to provide reliable predictions on what lies ahead.”

With the war in Ukraine still ongoing at the time of writing, the future remains unpredictable. But, as ExaClair Managing Director Mark Daisley points out, the financially strong and innovative businesses have survived because of adaptability and their capacity to raise funding.

On the flip side, he believes that if the offering from the wholesaler and dealer community is not complete and their online presence is not up to scratch, there will be a drop in sales because somebody else will be doing a better job.


For Integra Business Solutions CEO Aidan McDonough, the key to dealer success in the upcoming months will rely on two critical factors. The first is diversification, whether it be interiors, packaging, workwear, promotional gifts, etc. The second is the ability to strengthen gross margins to help absorb the escalating overheads in an inflationary operating environment and passthrough increases effectively.

Nemo Office Club Group Managing Director

Tim Beaumont agrees, saying those dealers that proactively seek to address post-COVID rising costs, supply issues and expensive distribution are the most likely to succeed this year. Although, he warns not just to sell on price but to

add value, address environmental concerns and broaden supply sources.

On the latter point, Beaumont states the return of Spicers as another wholesaler option can only be good. He notes that lessons of the past seem to have been learnt, with the wholesalers focusing on shifting boxes and distribution and leaving the marketing support to dealer groups.

In agreement is Advantia Managing Director Steve Carter who says, first and foremost, dealers are an incredibly “resilient bunch” and, over the past three years, have adapted and expanded their offering and done it extremely well. He thinks this will continue beyond 2023 and, like Beaumont, believes all dealer groups can fulfil a significant role as facilitators.

“There will be continuous hurdles put in our way, but out of those will follow opportunities. It’s then a case of identifying them and providing a solution,” adds Carter.



Bresitz predicts companies will start reviewing their service providers due to tighter budgets, so the industry needs to be ready for prospecting. She also believes that although our sector continues to introduce extended services and product categories to satisfy broader client demand, we’re still not scratching the surface of what some of these introductions could mean for manufacturer and dealer growth.

She notes: “Quality product data for the backoffice and e-commerce is often unsupported

Langstane Managing Director Colin Campbell
There will be continuous hurdles put in our way, but out of those will follow opportunities

and causes much duplication for those who invest the time to try and build this themselves, or it results in a lack of buy-in from the wider community. If we could get this fundamental requirement right and make more available from suppliers, everyone will reap the rewards.”

Prima Software Managing Director Ian Buckley agrees with Bresitz’s assessment. He says suppliers and service providers must continue to assist the independent reseller community in their need to extend ranges, diversify category offerings and deliver lowtouch solutions for traditional office supplies.

“Technology, automation and unrestricted, free-flowing product data are critical to this, and as suppliers and providers, we must go above and beyond to help the dealers in these areas.”

Director Ken Trenberth reckons there is plenty of scope for suppliers and dealers to pull together to offer a broad range of product options and improved content and service propositions. He feels this is where dealer groups play their part – by enabling quick access to communicate with members and form partnerships to support the flow of marketing information.


Several of those Workplace360 talked to expect a significant return to the office this year, although hybrid working has ultimately embedded itself as part of the work setting.

Lyreco WISE Managing Director Michael Milward surmises that the shift to hybrid working will continue to evolve, and the industry must be responsive to this dynamic.

As it currently stands, building occupancy rates remain below pre-pandemic levels – especially in Greater London – and new approaches to flexible working, including the four-day week, are being explored and tested.

ExaClair is just one vendor constantly churning through data to aid customers in understanding why and where the market is changing. “This is helping to figure out what we can do together to fill gaps, switch priorities and adapt with innovative and environmentally friendly solutions that customers are increasingly demanding,” explains Daisley.

Rocada is another manufacturer that acknowledges the power of an industry working in harmony. The company’s UK Managing

Despite this, he predicts the increasing cost of homeworking and the fear of tightening economic conditions may see some employees returning to the office on a more regular basis. Either way, health and well-being has become a priority for businesses trying to entice employees back to the traditional workplace environment (for more on this topic, read Making wellness work on page 28).

GOJO Industries-Europe Managing Director UK & Ireland Chris Wakefield says it’s clear cleaning and hygiene will remain high on the agenda to safeguard staff health and well-being – whether this is in a hybrid working model or a back-tothe-office mandate à la Elon Musk.

Milward also believes staff will be challenged financially and mentally by the cost of living emergency and supporting them through this period will be very important. “In 2023, organisations will need to double down on their approach to employee well-being.”

Related to health and well-being, several business leaders mentioned sustainability as a hot topic for this year. Wakefield and Milward think our sector will make headway in terms of sustainability as companies actively seek environmentally friendly, effective and competitively priced products.

Integra’s McDonough is of the same opinion that sustainability will take a more front-andcentre positioning regarding work practices and product selection moving forward.

Whatever 2023 manages to throw at us, it’s clear industry leaders are confident that, by working together, the business supplies sector will also weather this particular storm.

In 2023, organisations will need to double down on their approach to employee well-being

Making wellness work

It goes without saying the matter of a global pandemic has added to the physical and mental health concerns within a work setting. This, says Fellowes Brands Head of European Marketing – Workplace Health Solutions, Louise Shipley, has had a transformational impact on the workplace and workforce. “How, where, and the length of time we work for affects the way we feel and perform. Now, with extra burdens to cope with such as rising energy and living costs, staying energised, healthy and productive is essential.

“Peak performance can only be achieved by those in the right frame of mind and level of wellness to focus on the task or project at hand. Today’s employees expect help and support, and those organisations prioritising health and well-being, along with working flexibility, will be the real winners in attracting and retaining top talent,” she adds. (Read Backchat on page 52 for more of Shipley’s views on wellness in the workplace).

Workplace wellness has customarily been an overarching term. It can signify various things to different people and be adhered to in a variety of ways. In recent years, the increased focus and education involving mental and physical health have provoked a rethinking of what the ideal work set-up should entail.

The holistic belief that a pleasant operating environment creates productive employees has prevailed as companies have looked at keeping their most precious assets engaged, positive and focused.


Nowadays – thanks to COVID – part of keeping staff happy and healthy revolves around cleanliness in the working environment. Employees have become increasingly savvy when it comes to awareness of keeping the transmission of germs low – on surfaces and circulating in the air – and expect their employers to provide peace of mind in this respect.

Says Anna Königson Koopmans, Marketing Director Commercial for Essity’s professional hygiene business: “It is becoming evident that cleanliness and sanitation in the workplace are no longer just a matter of pleasantry, but represent a vital factor for productivity. There are

When it comes to workplace wellness, the COVID pandemic created a sea change in how companies ensure workers stay
healthy, both
67% of organisations include COVID-19 among their top three causes of short-term absence Source: CIPD Health and Wellbeing at Work 2022 survey 28 WORKPLACE360 - JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023

increased hygiene risks than before as workspaces become open plan and staff are back to socialising and sharing facilities and technology.”

As the home of professional brand Tork, Essity knows that, by implementing an on-site hygiene programme, employers can reduce sick days and address cleanliness concerns. A comprehensive study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine demonstrated that executing the correct sanitation and disinfection strategy can decrease the amount of sick leave by over 20%.

This, in turn, helps to simultaneously lower worry as well as improve morale and the attitude staff have towards their place of work.


One manufacturer at the core of ensuring workplaces are kept clean is AF International. The company harbours no doubt about the effect COVID has had on altering the wellness mindset. AF Brand Manager Margaux Lefaucheux explains: “We can clearly see the modifications required during the pandemic: the schedule adjustments, so staff didn’t crowd into the same space; the hasty modifications in office design; and the work-from-home options.

“Following the return to normality, many businesses realised some of the necessary changes over the past few years could deliver real benefits for managing the company’s human resources. Post-pandemic wellness at work means fostering a healthy, comfortable and happy environment in which people feel safe and confident to talk about any essential arrangements.”

This latter point is fundamental. Well-being is now firmly on the agenda and organisations simply cannot afford to overlook it, or disregard employee concerns should they be raised.

Indeed, as Essity has noticed, improving cleanliness without impairing operational efficiency has become the priority for facilities managers and commercial building cleaning companies.

Koopmans notes that no matter the industry, caring for the health of employees and visitors is key to long-term success. “Shared space means shared hygiene. Facilities managers need to provide the appropriate equipment and conveniently accessible products to institute a high standard of personal health within the work setting,” she adds.

This is to be celebrated as something constructive to come out of the COVID-19 crisis since we are becoming increasingly conscientious about our own well-being and that of those around us. Says Lefaucheux: “Health and safety has never been more critical. It’s well-known that a clean space is synonymous with wellness.

“Consequently, there are substantially more jan/ san products available for staff to use. Education has proven vital, not just around hygiene, but how to clean effectively for the benefit of all.”

She also believes having the advantage of rethinking the office layout represents an opportunity, as many traditional workspaces were not designed with employee well-being in mind.

The current redesigning of offices and other areas includes a heavy focus on healthier spaces for the

It is becoming evident that cleanliness and sanitation in the workplace are no longer just a matter of pleasantry
of firms have increased their budget for well-being benefits as a consequence of the pandemic
Source: CIPD Health and Wellbeing at Work 2022 survey

workforce. Becoming part and parcel of the modernised workspace are air purification systems and ergonomic equipment. Once a source of ancillary revenue for dealers, these two categories are presently at the forefront of growth.


The coronavirus crisis certainly highlighted the importance of dealing with airborne bacteria and viruses in closed environments. Companies such as Fellowes Brands, Renz and ACCO Brands have all seen sales of air purifiers skyrocket.

Even as the prevalence of COVID subsides, there are plenty of reasons to increase air quality at home and in the workplace, as ACCO Brands Regional Marketing Director UK & Ireland Elisabete Wells explains: “In the winter, airborne illnesses such as the flu thrive. However, cold and damp weather means it isn’t always possible to open a window to allow in fresh air.

“Expect to see customers and employers looking into solutions to clean the air in their spaces. Air purifiers are excellent well-being tools often overlooked. They’re plug and play, non-disruptive, and offer some wonderful benefits for respiratory health.”


We know keeping hands clean is a key component of preventing the spread of germs in the work environment and that effective hand drying is essential to a good hygiene regime.

Dyson has focused on tackling this vital area of workplace wellness, as Lead Scientist Dr Salome Giao explains: “Effective hand drying is key to ensuring clean hands stay clean – if it doesn’t happen, there are hygiene risks. It is known that wet hands can pick up more bacteria than dry ones.

“Likewise, damp hands can transfer up to 1,000 times more bacteria than dry ones, while wiping them on clothes can add bacteria to washed hands if the clothes aren’t clean.”

A typical office washroom will usually offer one of two hand drying options – electric dryers or paper towels. Depending on who you speak to and on which side of the fence they stand, both options have pros and cons.

Hygiene matters can arise from warm air dryers due to design issues such as physical buttons, long dry times, and other technological limitations. Meanwhile, the classic paper towel comes with concerns around sustainability and doesn’t necessarily fit with modern ideas of corporate social responsibility.

Research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology compared paper towels, a warm air dryer and a jet air dryer, for their potential to disperse viruses and contaminate the immediate environment during use.

The study found that jet air dryers produced “significantly greater virus dispersal” compared to warm air dryers and paper towels at different heights and distances.

While the debate still rages over which drying method is best, the bottom line is that thoroughly and properly washed hands will minimise the spreading of germs.

Effective hand drying is key to ensuring clean hands stay clean


The implications of sedentary office work are welldocumented, with ergonomic furniture and accessories sales already rising before 2020. The impact of lockdowns – with staff forced to work from home, often in less-than-ideal working conditions – has shifted ergonomic set-ups from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘must-have’.

According to Health and Safety Executive statistics, 72,000 individuals recently reported a musculoskeletal disorder directly caused or exacerbated by the pandemic. Furthermore, recent ONS data indicate a 31% growth in the number of people who have dropped out of work because of back and neck problems.

Fellowes Brands’ Shipley says the rise in remote working has delivered many advantages for employees, including a greater work-life balance and a reduction in stressful commutes. But, she notes, it isn’t without its challenges – namely, overworking and the physical impact of unergonomic home offices.

She comments: “Despite employers’ responsibilities to provide comfortable homeworking set-ups, many aren’t complying with their obligations. However, they are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.”

Wells supports the sentiment: “Ergonomic accessories make working from home much more comfortable for people still set up at dining tables or on sofas and can help prevent discomfort and misalignment. Poor positioning when doing desk work has been linked to numerous serious health and bodily issues, so combatting those is a priority for both employers and employees.

“Desktop peripherals like laptop risers, computer mice, keyboards, monitor arms, backrests, and footrests should be essentials for everyone. These tools are massively beneficial for preventing aches and pains and promoting proper body alignment when working.”

Mark Powell, ACCO Brands Manager & Account Manager at wholesaler JGBM, agrees that a healthier workforce is more important than ever in the postpandemic world: “As employees settle into hybrid arrangements, the idea of wellness spans locations and includes both mental and physical well-being. They need to look after themselves on both their remote and onsite days and require the proper products to do this.”

With the current trend towards increased wellness in all its forms in the workplace, dealers need to ensure solutions are available for all staff – wherever they happen to be.


Source: CIPD Health and Wellbeing at Work 2022 survey

Source: CIPD Health and Wellbeing at Work 2022 survey

are taking a stronger approach to risk assessment in response to the pandemic
Dealers should be catering to customers’ needs across all locations and helping to tailor the appropriate solutions for each workspace
organisations take a strategic approach to employee well-being

£2.7 billion

Value of workplace wellness in the UK in 2020

Source: Global Wellness Institute, The Global Wellness Economy: United Kingdom, November 2022

Wells concurs that dealers shouldn’t solely focus on the office environment, as most people have two working spaces nowadays. She notes that while both might require the same types of products, they may differ in size, design, colour and weight.

“Dealers should be catering to customers’ needs across all locations and helping to tailor the appropriate solutions for each workspace. This offers an additional chance to target the facilities managers and those responsible for purchasing the equipment, as well as the

homeworker. It also means double the opportunity for increased growth and margins.”

Fortunately, wholesalers, manufacturers and dealer groups are offering as much help as possible to provide the necessary tools to be successful. Support includes marketing assistance, free hygiene consultations, identifying opportunities to improve cleaning quality and introducing ergonomic and air purification solutions to help meet the needs of dealers and their customers.

JGBM, for example, has its award-winning ‘Supercharged Partner Programme’ with free online training across the various categories of products it offers, as well as an ‘Intelligent Street Price’ to enable dealers to be competitive in selling business supplies.


Sustainability is rapidly becoming a major component of health and well-being, with employees expecting companies to do better. A recent Tork Eco Office Survey revealed 84% of respondents wanted a more environmentally friendly setting, 78% think their employer could make a greater effort to transform the office into an eco-friendly place, while 43% are now more aware of how ‘green’ their workplace is than before the pandemic.

It’s a time of opportunity and the entire business supplies sector has a chance to play a role in creating healthier and more sustainable workspaces.


of firms are extremely or moderately concerned about the impact of the pandemic on employees’ mental health

Source: CIPD Health and Wellbeing at Work 2022 survey

are providing additional line management training to support employee well-being

Source: CIPD Health and Wellbeing at Work 2022 survey


Mental health at work

Well-being first aiders: the starting point for mental health

Business leaders aspire to create workplaces where each individual enjoys good physical and mental health and is able to thrive. As a result, it may be the epitome of teamwork, motivation and productivity, with low levels of absenteeism, high retention rates and job satisfaction. For some companies, such aspiration may come to fruition, but unfortunately, for many others, there is a bleaker reality.

Recently published data by HSE in Health and safety at work: Summary statistics for Great Britain 2022 make for stark reading:


The subsequent impact on business cannot be overlooked, and for those individuals concerned, the human cost may be greater still. Absenteeism is not the only concern; increasingly, presenteeism is also a productivity issue, with employees working while struggling with their mental health. For some, the risk of burnout is a real threat.

Outside of the workplace, a lot of us desperately spin far too many plates as we scrabble for that ever-elusive work-life balance, manage the current cost of living crisis and deal with the often relentless onslaught of everyday challenges. No wonder we are often at best somewhat frazzled and at worst struggling to cope.

We may venture into work with our mental capacity stretched to its limit or severely diminished and hope no one will notice. Although mental health is no longer taboo, sadly, stigma remains, and we might fear being judged or discriminated against. Whether real or perceived, fear can prevent us from speaking up and seeking support.

Most of us are accomplished at presenting an upbeat, positive façade when inside, we might feel anything from wobbly to broken; we offer the mantra ‘I’m fine, everything’s fine…’, perhaps even trying to convince ourselves. And so, we struggle on, all the time adding to our own ‘pressure pot’, keeping under the radar until we risk mental health problems exacerbating to mental illness, such as depression or anxiety.


Many companies regard their duty of care to staff as much more than a box-ticking exercise. They strive to create an environment in which good mental health is promoted, and wellness strategies form an intrinsic part of the corporate culture. Such openness about mental health helps break down stigma and other obstacles that prevent people from asking for assistance.

Proactive companies seek progressive ways to nurture employees’ wellness and to deliver emotional and practical support – and this increasingly includes the provision of ‘Well-being First Aiders’.

Proactive companies seek progressive ways to nurture employees’ wellness
914,000 workers
suffering from long-standing workrelated stress, depression or anxiety 17 million working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety 372,000 workers
suffering from a new case of stress, depression or anxiety


Prima Voca delivers skills-based and regulatory-compliant training, enabling businesses to provide physical first aid and mental well-being support to colleagues in need.

The two-day, workshop-style, Mental Health Wellbeing First Aid courses are relaxed and interactive. Delegates completing the course will be awarded a nationally recognised certificate, valid for three years.

All Prima Voca course leaders are qualified and experienced educators, mental health professionals or both and committed to making a difference in the workplace.

Contact Prima Voca: / / 07709 024981

Well-being First Aiders are trained to notice possible signs of declining mental health and have the competence and confidence to approach a colleague to give valuable help before they hit a crisis point. Such an intervention cannot be underestimated: quite simply, it can be a lifeline. While a Well-being First Aider seeks neither to diagnose nor treat, they are able to offer an empathic, non-judgemental approach, are equipped to signpost formal and informal avenues of possible support, and can suggest helpful coping strategies.

The earlier mental health problems are recognised, the quicker the journey to recovery may begin, with subsequent benefits to both employee and employer.

Physical and mental well-being training firm Prima Voca delivers courses for the workplace setting, which can take place online and face-to-face. The courses present participants with the opportunity to develop proactive ways of taking both preventative and supportive action, as well as providing a toolbox of transferable skills.

Upon successful completion, delegates receive certification as Mental Health First Aiders. With a focus on understanding mental health, challenging stigma, knowing how and where to seek help, and exploring coping methods and self-care, the courses are designed so that any employee will benefit.

From left: Séan Faulkner, Caroline Barrett and David Langdown

Opportunity knocks

It came as little surprise when ECI Solutions acquired ES Tech Group last year, but what does the deal mean for the wider industry? Workplace360 CEO Steve Hilleard spoke to ECI Solutions President Office Products & Contract Furniture Brian Bowerfind and ES Tech Group Managing Director Paddy Donnelly to find out…

Workplace360: Paddy, please provide a potted history of ES Tech Group, the organisation you’ve just sold to ECI.

Paddy Donnelly: We started in 2006 and offer two lines of business. The first is EvolutionX, a B2B e-commerce platform, built from the ground up specifically for the office supplies market in the UK and Ireland, which then spread to other industries and verticals.

The second is FusionPlus Data. The problem FusionPlus seeks to resolve is how to fill a website with tens of thousands of SKUs. FusionPlus works with brand manufacturers and buying groups to aggregate and pull together their content, standardise and then syndicate it downstream into an EvolutionX store. It reduces the complexity to a few checkboxes, with a dedicated team in the background ensuring the data is up to date.

Today, ES Tech is the dominant provider of e-commerce platforms to business supplies dealers in the UK, Ireland and Canada. As you mentioned, we recently sold the company to ECI.

It was a no-brainer in terms of utilising its global reach for our next-generation platform products and services.

W360: Brian, tell us about ECI. Brian Bowerfind: ECI has been around since 1999. Our core competency is building and developing vertically specific ERPs that focus primarily on the SMB market. There are five divisions: Distribution, Field Service, Manufacturing, Residential Home Construction, and Lumber & Building Materials. ES Tech resides in the Distribution segment.

The deal was also a no-brainer for us. Postpandemic, e-commerce has become the most important channel, gaining a lot of well-deserved visibility and growing faster than any other. Bringing together the two competencies of ECI and ES Tech made sense.

Content has always been crucial, but it is becoming the starter of almost every conversation we have with the independent dealer community in the US and overseas.

Brian Bowerfind

Dealers need to be able to sell additional products to bring in top-line revenue, and you can’t achieve that unless you have the relationships from a content perspective.

W360: How did this deal come about? Why now?

PD: I started the company 17 years ago knowing one day Brian would show up!

W360 [laughs]: The whole industry knew that. But I’m curious as to why last October.

BB: From an e-commerce perspective, we were losing some deals to ES Tech. I like competing, but I’m also realistic. This industry is not big enough to constantly engage headto-head in certain verticals, so Paddy and I started discussions. If a customer felt like ECI’s e-commerce solution fitted better, we both wholeheartedly supported this and vice versa with EvolutionX.

The bottom line is that customers wanted us to figure out how to play nicely in the sandbox and secure the best option for them.

Simultaneously, Dave Bent – the other half of ES Tech – was creating a footprint in the US primarily outside of the business solutions sector. This partnership has been successful over the past few years, and the conversation naturally evolved into whether to take the

relationship to the next level and partner under the same roof.

ECI is a private equity-backed organisation with a lens towards organic and inorganic growth. We purchase assets that are growing, have a rich customer base and a strong balance sheet.

I believe the momentum we’ve already felt in the first few months of the new relationship proves our acquisition thesis was correct.

W360: Now the deal is done, what’s changing? There’s invariably a temptation with private equity-backed businesses to tinker. So, what have you tinkered with, and what’s off-limits?

BB: A great question. This was not what we call a synergy acquisition, so there has been no reduction in headcount, for example, and no plans for it either. In fact, we’ve created a 2023 budget for ES Tech which infuses a lot of capital into the business, enabling it to grow.

PD: I think most importantly, ECI is not looking to break anything that already works. From my point of view, nothing has really changed, and I have full autonomy in running the company. We are still doing it our way and maintaining our culture, but with the additional support of Brian and ECI.

W360: Let’s talk about the UK market specifically. What do you perceive as the benefits for the community you now serve as a combined entity?

PD: We will continue to do more of what is already working well. I think there are still dealers and FusionPlus catalogue partners we can sign up and the acquisition allows us to accelerate the plans we already have in place for the UK market.

BB: Some manufacturers may feel more secure spending their hard-earned money with bigger organisations. During recent meetings with various large UK vendors, Paddy has been able to say he’s part of an organisation with 22,000 customers and 1,900 employees.

PD: I agree. It has definitely helped in some of the conversations we have been engaged in.

W360: What’s going to happen with ECI’s existing e-commerce solution? Are you planning to continue to support that or migrate everyone over to EvolutionX?

BB: The plan right now is to give customers

Customers wanted us to figure out how to play nicely in the sandbox and secure the best option for them
Paddy Donnelly

options. If they’re happy with their current e-commerce system, there is no intention today to change it.

W360: Paddy, you had a fairly agnostic position in the industry. What’s the impact of this transaction on the relationships with other tech solutions firms in the UK?

PD: Pretty strained if I’m really honest with you and I think unnecessarily so. When the acquisition was announced, one major concern was whether we were going to restrict access from other ERP vendors to FusionPlus. The simple answer is no. We will continue serving them the same way as all FusionPlus clients.

We’re drowning in opportunity right now

It’s been hard to get FusionPlus to the position it’s ultimately grown into, which is an entire industry resource. Starting to kneecap people and removing access would ultimately just screw that up.

Although agnostic, ES Tech and the software vendor community have always made for awkward bedfellows as we are all competitors. Nothing has changed in that regard. We will continue competing in the e-commerce arena and soon on the ERP side.

W360: The word coopetition springs to mind.

PD: Yes, exactly.

BB: The FusionPlus business was a big part of the acquisition. It would not make sense, as

Paddy says, to kneecap it, especially as the aim is to serve every vendor out there with richer and more robust content.

W360: Final question. To what extent, Brian, did the looming recession and economic crisis make you waver over your decision?

BB: During any economic slowdown, I firmly believe technology companies are in a unique position. If you look at what happened at the end of Q1 2020 when the pandemic took hold, companies started to reel back and leaned more on technology.

Typically, if tech companies offer valuable products that are relied upon, they thrive in a downturn. Of course, we will be prudent, but e-commerce becomes increasingly vital in a recession because it’s not just an order-taking channel. If executed properly, it’s a selling channel that can promote and support your company in a slump.

PD: This deal is a long-term deal. Recessions come and go, and we’ve always done well during those times for the reasons Brian mentioned. Legacy costs associated with running an organisation tend to be reduced or lost and people rely more on their websites and technology to drive efficiencies.

ECI is uniquely insulated because its revenue is split across various industries and divisions. It’s great to be diversified and we have an opening to become an e-commerce solution for ECI across these business units. We’re drowning in opportunity right now and I see this continuing long into the future.


How AI-guided selling is changing the sales game

Addressing sales pain points with artificial intelligence

Selling is hard in good times, and we can’t ignore the added challenges of today, like burnout and the labour shortage.

Gartner data shows three-quarters of B2B sales organisations will augment traditional sales playbooks with AI-guided selling solutions by 2025. These will facilitate guided intelligent selling, giving reps more informative and productive interactions.

AI-powered technology is a salesperson’s caddy. Just as a good caddy improves golfers, AI-guided selling provides information that can support customer relationships. Technology offers science, and the rep brings the human touch. This is game-changing for today’s sales rep – and we don’t take this phrase lightly.

AI-guided selling is helping dealers address pain points such as:

• Burned-out salespeople – Gartner reveals 89% of representatives report being worn out as fewer cover larger territories.

• Arduous onboarding – onboarding reps is a long process, with months of training around products and territories.

• Overwhelming data volume – pulling and analysing data to provide the value sales reps are looking to add takes much work on their part. And that’s assuming the rep wants to be consultative. They may not have the time or the energy.


Gartner cites a “high burden of non-value-added administrative tasks” laid at the feet of sales reps. It includes data collection and preparation

and reporting, and communication. So, how is the rise of guided selling, enabled by AI, reducing this load?

• AI can help you identify the most promising prospects from your data, establishing who a salesperson should call next and what to sell them based on behaviour, segment, and other factors. Such priority-based selling means sales representatives will spend less time on low-quality leads, and each call will be more meaningful – and successful.

• AI-enabled tools may also help short-staffed teams keep a pulse on the entire customer base. Sales reps can only nurture relationships one at a time. AI is able to catch and flag key risk indicators across all customers’ buying behaviour. This means sales teams can be proactive to prevent losses.

• Uncover opportunities in existing accounts and target them with relevant offers, something that’s difficult to do manually at scale. For example, suppose you identify a customer who only purchases high-quality printer paper monthly. You could offer a deal on ink cartridges, toner, or supplies such as labels, stamps, envelopes and mailing bags.

These are just a few examples of how AI drives greater productivity for sales teams. Consider the potential if finance and sales teams got that time back to dedicate to revenuebuilding activities, customer relationship building, and sales.

Over the years, people have developed a misconception that AI will replace sales reps. But that could not be further from the truth. After all, people buy from people. We still need and value the sales representatives.

Technology offers science, and the rep brings the human touch
McGirl is co-founder and President of sales-i, a leading sales enablement technology firm

The undervalued significance of bespoke marketing

Empower your business by ditching the generic

Research suggests entrepreneurs today recognise that the efficient growth of their business relies on a robust marketing programme. However, many company owners are often unaware of the power marketing possesses – typically adopting a generic model, choosing the easy road to push their brand out to the masses as fast as possible.

As prominent online marketer and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk said: “There’s not a single winner on Earth that took it easy.” The significance of a bespoke marketing strategy is regularly overlooked – with some viewing marketing as a sales tool and nothing more.

A made-to-order proposition encompassing a multitude of personalised content, digital strategies and research puts an organisation in a position to achieve and even exceed goals. A personal approach to marketing is a cut above a ‘standard’ one, enabling your business to gain much more than just an improved sales record.


1. Establish a clear brand identity

Simply put – forming strong client relationships and loyalty start with delivering a unique experience to customers. By publishing content consistent with a signature look, engagement levels will be bolstered over time. You’ll witness an increase in sales and even start building longlasting recognition and relationships with buyers and prospects.

Establishing and maintaining specific colours, logos, fonts and language consistent with your brand and communications will be more eyecatching and memorable, and keep your content

in inboxes and hands longer. This will help to stand out from all the junk mail we receive.

2. Accomplish prospecting goals

Wielding a tailored marketing programme paves the way for audience-targeted communication. It provides the freedom to create personalised campaigns, including customised messaging to attract specific individuals or groups. These messages deliver a much greater impact, create intrigue and give you an improved chance of turning prospects into customers.

‘Casting a wide net’ when promoting a brand, products or services has become increasingly ineffective for businesses. Studies have highlighted the immense success of audience targeting – proving the more bespoke the marketing strategy, the better the chances of accomplishing your prospecting and sales goals.

3. People will engage with your brand

The most successful marketing schemes start with understanding as many of your customers as possible. This empowering philosophy allows you to provide content that specific purchasers desire and engage with, via the correct platforms at the optimal times. This can be accomplished by utilising tools such as buyer personas –keeping detailed knowledge of groups and individuals that are part of both the client and prospect databases.

A simplistic marketing plan can work on a small scale, but it’s unlikely to engage your target long-term, therefore becoming a wasted venture. Embracing a customised approach will secure a substantial return on investment by relating to and starting tailored dialogue with current and potential audience groups.

A tailored marketing programme paves the way for audience-targeted communication
Kirkham is Senior Content Marketer at Office Friendly

Room for improvement

The Green Thinking survey – conducted in collaboration with global business products publication OPI – polled UK and European dealers/resellers to find out their stance on sustainability and CSR

Resellers are often the first to witness changes in the workplace. In terms of environmental, social and governance (ESG), this is certainly evident in the responses to the 2022 Green Thinking survey, with dealers reporting high incidences of clients requesting greener products and services.

Customer expectations are also pushing them to embrace ESG initiatives, although the majority believe it is the right thing to do anyhow. What is clear is that while ESG is climbing up the agenda, there is still lots more work to be done.

Are customers asking for more environmentally friendly products? 50% 6% 44% What percentage of your current sales is due to ‘green’ products? In which categories do customers request more sustainable products? 88% 75% 69% 44% 44% 25% 19% Stationery Jan/san Office paper Education/school Breakroom Office furniture Safety 81% Yes, definitely 19% Not noticeably so How important is sustainability to your organisation? Very important Important Not important 63% 31% 31% l 1-25% l 26-50% l 51-75% 44 WORKPLACE360 - JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023
Specifically referring to single-use plastic, are customers asking you to reduce this? Do you think the move to the ‘sustainable office’ will transform your product mix? No 6% 75% 19% Yes, all of it Yes, some of it What more should the business supplies industry be doing? • Shorten the supply chain, especially from China, as local manufacturing is perceived to be better for sustainability. • Better branding for repairable products and making customers aware of refill possibilities. • Vendors need to take the bold step of launching only new products that are sustainable at the highest level and backing this up with clear certification. • Talk to customers more about consolidation [of deliveries] to reduce packaging and carbon footprint. • Make sustainable packaging alternatives more affordable. ESG - GREEN THINKING SURVEY DEALER COMMENTS… Do you have a packaging takeback scheme? Yes 50% No 50% No 50% It’s the right thing to do Customer expectations Good for the brand New product opportunities Employee expectations Legislation New category opportunities 81% 69% 44% 37% 37% 31% 19% What are the primary influences driving the importance of sustainability in your organisation? Have you taken steps to reduce your carbon footprint in the past 12 months? No 13% Yes 87% 76% 12% 12% Do you have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme? Yes Working on it No 13% Yes, for customers 25% Yes, for my own business 19% Both 37% No 6% What’s e-waste? Are you working towards attaining the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? 63% It already does 37% It will soon Yes13% No 87% Do you have an e-waste policy in place for customers and/or your own business? What are SDGs? 25% Yes, several of them 38% Yes, one or two of them 12% No 25% Do you offer customers packaging that is more environmentally friendly? 45 WORKPLACE360 - JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023

A work in progress

2023 marks the first Ambiente Working exhibition in Frankfurt following the demise of Paperworld

After last year’s cancellation of Paperworld, trade fair organiser Messe Frankfurt quickly moved to consolidate its consumer goodsfocused exhibitions. Taking place 3-7 February 2023, there are now three co-located events –Ambiente, Christmasworld and Creativeworld.

While it might not be a bad thing for suppliers targeting the B2C paper-based hobby, crafting and social stationery sectors, where does that leave the B2B workplace supplies channel? A new ‘Working’ theme has been added to Ambiente, with Messe Frankfurt’s sales pitch based very much on the blurring of the lines between the home and office environments. This is something that makes sense given the rise in hybrid and remote working over the past three years.


“Workplaces are increasingly changing into social places,” says Yvonne Engelmann, Director of Ambiente Living, Giving and Working. “The establishment of coworking spaces as a new form of office organisation meets the urgent need for flexibility and mobility. This requires adequate rooms and equipment for (co)working as well as professional, attractive communal areas.”

With that in mind, the Future of Work section will sit in Hall 3.1, in close proximity to the interior design product space. A complementary programme of lectures and guided tours will take place during the first four days of the show. Monday 6 February will feature talks on purchasing in the modern workplace, the use of AI, and document management.

Tuesday 7 February sees Sustainable Office Day taking over the Future of Work zone. Run by German

sustainability organisation BAUM, it will include practical examples of what a ‘green’ office looks like, how to implement sustainable procurement in the workplace, and the promotion of the circular economy.

For those who remember business products suppliers covering three floors of the Messe Frankfurt showgrounds, the new Office area may come as a bit of a shock. Although occupying only about a third of Hall 4.2, it will feature well-known brands like Acme United, Durable, HSM, Hopax, Novus-Dahle, Rocada and Trodat.

A regular visitor to Frankfurt over the years – and a proponent of the networking opportunities it affords – has been Geoffrey Betts, Managing Director of UK supplier Stewart Superior. However, he won’t be making the trip this year.

“We are very focused on programmes and expenditure, and can’t justify the expense,” he notes. “The market continues to change and I think the collapse of Paperworld demonstrates the fundamental shift perfectly. I might look at going next year, but would regard it as unlikely.”

Workplace360 will keep an open mind about the relevancy of the Ambiente Working format and hopes to bring you a full report of the show. Look out for feedback in the next issue.

The market continues to change and I think the collapse of Paperworld demonstrates the fundamental shift perfectly

Get on your bike

The Ride of Life business supplies industry cycle ride returns in 2023 in aid of the Institute of Cancer Research

Started in 2018 by Safescan UK and Ireland General Manager Steve Robinson and former Durable UK Managing Director Sean Starkey, the third Ride of Life takes place in May.

Conceived as a cycling sister event of the longrunning Climb of Life (see page 49), both are in aid of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR).

The first two Ride of Life events in 2018 and 2019 took place in the Surrey Hills. Now it’s back postCOVID, and this year’s ride is in the Cotswolds, taking in the stunning scenery in and around towns and villages such as Burford and Bourton-on-the-Water.

On 18 May, riders will set off in small groups on either a 50 km or 100 km route through the country lanes of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, with cyclists climbing to about 1,000 m on the extended course.

According to ACCO Brands EMEA Country Manager UK & Ireland David Richardson, the journey will be signposted and supported by volunteers.

“Each group will ride at their own pace and there will be plenty of opportunities for rest stops and lunch along the way, making it enjoyable and accessible. We are inviting entries from riders of all abilities from throughout the business supplies industry to help raise money for the ICR,” he adds.

The start and finish point are The Heyford, located in Bicester, Oxfordshire, where riders can also stay if they wish. Post-ride, a celebratory meal will be hosted at the boutique hotel.

For more details on how to participate, volunteer or sponsor the event, e-mail: or

It’s ok to be SELFISH We don’t judge you for not wanting to share your copy of Workplace360 Get your colleagues to subscribe so they can have their own Workplace360 magazine – it’s FREE Visit for more details and to subscribe HEART OF THE INDUSTRY - RIDE OF LIFE 48 WORKPLACE360 - JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023

Climb of Life ICR donations hit £1.75 million

90 participants took part in the Climb of Life on 4 November last year as the UK business products industry once again went the extra mile to raise funds for the Institute of Cancer Research

While 2022 was the 35th year of the annual Climb of Life (COL), it was christened ‘Sweet 16’ to mark the 16th year the event has supported the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR).

Tackling cold, damp and windy conditions in the Lake District, eight groups of hikers conquered a total of ten peaks between them, raising almost £51,500 in the process. In total, COL has now donated more than £1.75 million to the cancer research charity.

Spearheading the 2022 fundraising efforts were OPI (parent company of Workplace360), Hamelin and EVO, with Avery UK and Office Power also recognised by organiser Philip Lawson for raising significant amounts.

OPI Director Janet Bell thanked all those from around the world that supported the charitable endeavour. “I have taken part in the Climb of Life for 12 years and it is a fantastic cause. Together, the UK business supplies industry has raised over £1.75 million which is an incredible amount of money. We are proud to support the Institute of Cancer Research and the lifesaving

work it does. Even if it means getting cold, wet and windswept every time, it is worth it.”

The 2022 climb saw a number of first-time attendees – around 20 of the 90 walkers were new to COL. Mark Heath, Managing Director of Office Power (read In conversation with… on page 16 for an interview with Heath) was one of the new participants: “It’s a great cause with industry members doing something really good. It was different but fun.”

Says Lawson: “Despite the seriousness of the intent of the event and the important fundraising COL does, everyone has a great time. Some of the participants have gained lifelong friends through their early involvement. They continue to come along each year for the feeling of fellowship and to renew those longestablished relationships.”

The 2023 Climb of Life will take place on 10 November, and Lawson encourages anyone interested in getting involved to book early. After a brief hiatus, walkers will be based once again at The Swan in Grasmere – the original home of COL for over 25 years.


Oh, what a night

It was full-on celebration mode at the BOSS Awards held late last year and most thoroughly welcomed by the industry

The combined BOSS Leaders of the Future (LOTF) conference and BOSS Awards ceremony was once again a resounding success. Held towards the end of November last year, the LOTF event featured an inspirational keynote address by Leanne Spencer, who provided a fascinating insight into mental and physical well-being in life and at work.

This was followed by roundtable sessions hosted by six experienced UK business products executives

covering topics such as stakeholder management, leading change, conflict resolution, and developing highperforming teams. The educational day was wrapped up by BOSS Chairman Simon Drakeford with a summary of the key takeaways.

He was back in action later to introduce the BOSS Awards to the industry’s finest, who had gathered for the evening’s festivities and networking and, of course, to find out the 2022 winners.

LOTF co-Chairs Rachael Lewis and Alex Stone

It was an excellent night of acknowledging accomplishments, drinking, live entertainment, more drinking, and dancing as industry members partied hard into the early morning hours and enjoyed the chance to catch up with one another.

Talking about the awards, BOSS CEO Amy Hutchinson said: “The 2022 BOSS Awards recognised individuals, teams and businesses that have excelled throughout the year. We at BOSS feel privileged to have brought together over 450 colleagues to celebrate these achievements.

“Huge congratulations to the winners. Thank you to all those that took the time to enter or nominate others and to our ever-supportive sponsors that make this event possible.”

If you need a reminder of the 2022 winners, visit

Congratulations to all the BOSS Awards 2022 winners BOSS CEO Amy Hutchinson
BOSS Chairman Simon Drakeford
Comedian and BOSS Awards host Marcus Brigstocke

Workplace wellness

The combination of the pandemic, cost of living and energy crises, great resignation and reshuffle, advancing rate of technology and the rise of millennials and Gen Z in the workforce, are all playing a part in reshaping businesses of the future.

Now, more than ever, employers need to understand how they can meet personnel’s expectations for what they want in a job –especially in an increasingly hybrid world. Many employees are clear about their needs and wants. If their current employer doesn’t meet those needs, they will find a new one that does.

And why would a business owner not be engaged in this topic? The LinkedIn 2022 Global Talent Trends states that if an employee feels cared for, that person is 3.2 times more likely to be happy at work and 3.7 times more likely to recommend working for the company.

Changes bring opportunities, and there are several factors you and your customers should be considering when looking at the possibilities workplace well-being provides. Perhaps some of the following pointers could help you to strike up a new conversation.


According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the wellness market was worth £2.69 billion in the UK in 2020 – the fourth biggest in the world. GWI cites the pandemic for accelerating certain workplace trends but especially for increasing the focus on employee physical and mental wellness. This includes providing equipment for homeworking as well as intensified interest in creating comfortable workspaces that improve mental health and job performance.


Workplaces supporting employee well-being are happier, healthier and more productive. As reported by the British Heart Foundation, the potential economic ROI for a UK business that invests in workplace health initiatives is £4.17 for every £1 spent. Physically active people take 27% fewer sick days and are less stressed and report better morale than their less active colleagues.


Staff must be protected from the health risks of working with display screen equipment (DSE) such as PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. The Health and Safety (DSE) Regulations apply to those who use DSE daily for continuous periods of one hour or more.

By law, employers must carry out DSE workstation assessments and reduce risks in the working environment – including the provision of ergonomic products, breaks, training and information for employees.


Gen Z already accounts for around 15% of the UK population, according to research by Mintel. This generation is looking for career development opportunities such as mentoring schemes and 24/7 access to mental health support, and is more likely to engage in digital well-being solutions. How can your business adapt to attract and retain those born after 1997?

In a constantly evolving world, those organisations that listen to their people, are happy to talk about company culture and can reimagine how work gets done will have a distinctive edge.

The company culture rule book has been ripped apart and re-written
Workplaces supporting employee well-being are happier, healthier and more productive
–why it matters more than ever to businesses

Washbourne Chief Commercial Officer, Beeswift

Who is your hero?

Probably a common answer, but my late father.

Proudest accomplishment?

Again, no doubt a standard response, but my three grown-up sons.

Who makes you laugh the most?

My 18-month-old granddaughter Iris… she is just nuts and beautiful.

What three things do you always carry with you? The usual, I suspect. Keys, wallet and phone. I need to add a fourth now as well – my reading glasses!

What really makes you angry? Automated and poor customer service.

Tell us a secret that your work colleagues don’t know about you. I was due to play for Manchester United reserves at Derby County but arrived late, so wasn’t picked

What would be your last meal?

Charlie’s Chicken. It’s a family friend’s local speciality in Birmingham

What’s something you’ve done that no one would believe if you didn’t have proof? I flew a plane over San Diego, California

What’s your Sunday morning routine? It varies, but mostly chill/run/watch some football.

Most embarrassing industry moment? Singing and dancing to In the Navy by Village People dressed in a wet suit as a Navy SEAL at a Corporate Express sales conference. You’re definitely not having pictures of that!

What’s something new happening in your life right now? Just did my firstever podcast which was fun.

One of your best childhood memories? Spending the summer of 1983 touring Florida playing football – or soccer, as they would say!

Best concert or show you’ve ever been to? Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s Hugh Jackman’s show. I saw the performance in 2019 when he toured the UK. He really is the ‘Greatest Showman’

Last book you read?

Capital by John Lanchester

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