Five Minutes With... Graeme Matthews

We speak to Graeme Matthews about how his working day has changed during the pandemic and what he thinks the future of the workplace looks like.

How long have you worked at Bisley?

I started working at Bisley in March 2013, so I’ve been here 8 years now. I became the Sales Director for our Key Accounts in January this year.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I didn’t have any particular professional plans when I was growing up, but I did spend a lot of time doing athletics. I was an international junior athlete, so my hope was to become a professional up until my early 30s, with the plan to then retire and start a new profession afterwards. I was training to become a professionally funded athlete up until I was 26, but after a number of injuries, I made the decision to retire from the sport. After spending a lot of time injured, I thought about becoming a physio. I’d studied Biology at university and there’s some similarity in that. But I had been working in Sales whilst doing athletics and well here I am now! I’ve no regrets at all, I am very happy with how things turned out.

What does your normal working day look like? And how has that changed over the past year?

I’m responsible for a team of salespeople and have a hand in our commercial responses, and the supporting design documentation that we issue to our customers on all project work. Pre-Covid, I would be based out of the London showroom 5 days a week; I would never really work from home as I like to be with the team. I’m responsible for heading our tendering team as well, which works across the public and private sector. I split my time between seeing our customers and then working on proposals.

Post-Covid the work hasn’t really changed, it’s just the method of doing it. I spend a lot of time now on Zoom or Teams in several meetings a day. What I really miss is the interactions you get from being in the office. The spontaneous interactions with my team, other people in the business or customers is something we just don’t have at the moment. However, we need to embrace the new world we find ourselves in and not shy away from the impact the past year has had on us all and how we will work in the future. What is exciting at the moment is helping our customers plan for the ‘return to work’ and how Bisley can be a part of the solution and, help shape the strategy. Conversations are changing from protective dividing screens (thankfully!!) to how we can adapt the office to accommodate new ways of working. We have all had to adapt the way we work and the way we approach the workplace, and our current focus is to provide product and services that will support our customers as they roll out their own strategies. Very importantly though, we don’t want to simply provide furniture for short term benefit. We want to provide highly functional and adaptable furniture as part of inspiring working environments.

What to do you enjoy about working at Bisley? (pre & post pandemic)

I have a generic stock answer that a lot of people say, in that no one day is the same. But I do think this is very true for my team, as we have the public sector and the private sector to look at and they both have different nuances to how you approach the work. It helps diversify what we do as a business. For a few years now, we’ve been doing a lot of product specials on projects, such as MFC lockers and wardrobes from BU5 that have since gone on to become part of new product ranges, which is really great to have been a part of.

Product and project diversification keeps me interested. It’s also good to collaborate with different teams. When you work on these projects, no project is won by an individual on their own and the wins and final delivery really show the importance of having a great team in place and this is something we have at Bisley. It takes people from across all areas of the business to be successful - we collaborate and bring the different skillsets together the best we can. I am missing is the human interaction from having a conversation in person with people in the office though.

How do you think the pandemic has changed the way we think about the workplace? What do you think the future holds?

This is an interesting question. I think for a time before the pandemic, a review on working practices was coming to see if people can work from home productively and in different roles. We’ve long been overdue an experiment to see if we had the technology and infrastructure in place to allow it to happen and Covid kind of forced the issue.

But I don’t think working from home full time is the answer. I think people enjoyed it to start with, but slowly they are finding it draining now, 5 days a week working from home. Certainly if you don’t have the space for an office, with many working from their bedroom, living room or kitchens. People are starting to miss the interaction with the colleagues and friends at work. I think the future is to strike a balance. Individual work tasks could be done at home, but if you’ve got team work to do and need to collaborate then you go into the office. I think it’ll be a nice mix of the two. It’ll change the way the office works.

When we do start to return to work, in my opinion, the open plan office with rows of benching will decline. I think it’ll become more open, with fewer desks and more places for team collaboration and encouraged engagement, safely of course. From a Bisley perspective, there would be a lot more personal storage and unobtrusive division of space including feature walls, plants, which Be and LockerWall are perfect for.

From an environmental perspective, climate change is an important issue affecting us all globally, I think product selection on projects will become even more environmentally considered now. From a health & wellbeing view, how does being in the office effect people and how can product selection tie in and help improve our mutual wellbeing?

What is your favourite piece from the Bisley collections? And why?

For me, it’s more what I’m most looking forward to selling and working with, and that’s LockerWall. We have been supplying the range as project-based specials for a while now, so it’s fantastic to see the product officially launched in 2020. I think it is a great product, a perfect addition to our portfolio and compliments what we do as a business. Having a wood-based solution with LockerWall will allow me to support more of our clients. It’s what I’m most excited about!

What do you get up to outside of Bisley? What does your usual weekend look like?

Well, we had a baby boy in November 2020, so my time outside of Bisley is spent mostly looking after our son, whilst trying to catch up on sleep when I can! He is keeping us busy and very entertained! Once upon a time, I would have been hanging out with friends, going out for meals or a trip to the pub, but that’s not been happening because of Covid - and I wouldn’t be doing that right now anyway! We spend a lot of time at the weekends going for walks round our neighbourhood – we are lucky to have a couple of lovely parks and a nice high street right next to us, which have been great to get out and see as we have been stuck inside with lockdown.

I also do my best to keep fit. I like to say I do a fair bit of cycling and have been doing races on Zwift, though those who knows me very well will tell you I don’t cycle enough!