CBI: High skills and the high life in the South West crucial to economic success

The CBI’s South West director has outlined the business and economic priorities for the region as the UK approaches Brexit, at an event in Exeter hosted by property consultancy JLL.

Deborah Waddell, CBI Director for the South West, also gave her reaction to the Chancellor’s latest Budget and the government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper.

One of her key priorities is attracting inward investment into the South West and promoting both the economic and social opportunities of one of the UK’s most desirable regions, alongside the increasing skills-base as more and more experienced professionals make the move westwards from London and South East in search of a better lifestyle.

Taking a more human-centered approach to the workplace can have a positive impact on business success, according to global research carried out by JLL, which was also outlined at the event.

JLL’s Workplace powered by Human Experience report, based on research in 12 countries, revealed that helping people to feel good at work goes to the heart of employees’ levels of engagement, sense of empowerment and feelings of fulfilment.

Progressive companies are recognising that employee wellbeing and experience are a fundamental priority in the workplace and crucial to attracting and retaining the right staff.

Exeter, Plymouth and the South West are already home to state of the art office space offering much more than just a place to work, such as Exeter’s Oxygen House which offers shared, collaborative space that people move around in, rather than being tied to specific desks and offices. The centre benefits from a gym, full service canteen, breakout areas and an outdoor space including trim trail, tennis court and electric charge points.

There is more to come with a new deal soon to be finalised on the sale and redevelopment of an Exeter city centre building to provide contemporary, collaborative business space aimed at the start-up community.

In Plymouth, the Merchant, recently transformed from St Andrew’s Court after a multi-million pound refurbishment, is the most energy-efficient building in the city and places ‘the human experience’ at the heart of its design, offering lots of natural light, communal work spaces, responsive air conditioning and an outside courtyard area.

Commenting on the Budget and the industrial strategy, Deborah Waddell, CBI South West Director, said:

“Further investment in infrastructure will help tackle regional inequalities, while support for housing supply is critical for people and companies, as the ability of people to live near their workplace is very much a business issue.

“Action on business rates, R&D tax credits, Brexit planning and an extension and increase of the National Productivity Investment Fund will help firms to invest and grow today against an uncertain backdrop. And it was good to see focused investment in skills, a crucial the long-term driver of growth that underpins sustainable prosperity.

“The announcement of the industrial strategy itself shows the Government has its eye on the horizon, not just the next few yards. The CBI welcomes the recognition that success will require urgent action in partnership with business.
“But the hard work must start now and businesses in the South West need to know what it means for them.”

Commenting on JLL’s Workplace report, Deborah Waddell, CBI South West Director, added:

“Productivity growth is the only sustainable route to higher wages and better living standards. It’s a fact that happier workers are more productive and this report underlines the importance of ensuring people’s workplaces contribute to their wellbeing.”

Tim Western, lead director at property consultancy JLL’s Exeter office, said:

“At JLL we are passionate about working with the business community to improve employees’ enjoyment within the workplace, create growth and enhance productivity. We strongly believe that a place of work is more than a property. It is a living environment that helps individuals and businesses craft and experience a rewarding fusion of life and work.

Our global research also reveals that experience is a primary differentiator whenever individuals engage with an organisation, and should play a core role in every company – both strategically and operationally.

“The property market in the South West remains very buoyant with both occupier and investor appetite. Any potential negative implications of Brexit are not being shown and that is very positive. It feels like we could be achieving more growth but hurdles keep re-appearing whether that is increased build costs, labour shortages or delays within the planning system.”