THE role of Merseyside Metro Mayor is going to be a massively important job for the region’s economy. Don’t worry, I’m not about to get all political – I’m far too upstanding for all of that – but it is worth noting the positive impact this new status could have on our economic fortunes. Responsible for delivering the region’s devolution deal from central government, he or she will be able to oversee vital issues such as transport strategy and regeneration, with various additional powers expected to be devolved over time. The enormous scope and gravitas attached to the role is no better exemplified by the calibre of candidates who have come forward for nomination. Such is the scale of the opportunity, two prominent Labour MPs have declared a willingness to swap Westminster for West Derby, alongside a grandee of Merseyside politics. Steve Rotheram, widely regarded as Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand man in the shadow cabinet, and notably also a former Liverpool councillor and Lord Mayor of the city, has thrown his hat in the ring, He has been joined by Luciana Berger, herself a part of the opposition front bench until recently, and an ambitious and highly articulate politician who gives me every reason to believe that she would represent our interests very well. The trio is completed by Joe Anderson, the incumbent Mayor of Liverpool, who was re-elected only a few months ago and is keen to expand his sphere of influence across the entire region. In addition, we may eventually see experienced politicians like Esther McVey enter the race for the Conservative Party, while the Liberal Democrats and Greens are also expected to post their own challengers. No matter who comes out on top, they have the opportunity to genuinely unite the city region under one banner and make it a formidable force for attracting inward investment and making Merseyside a truly international destination. Hopefully it will mark a watershed for the bad old days of regional infighting and narrow thinking, with Liverpool as the ‘attack brand’ leveraging its goodwill and burgeoning reputation across the world, to the benefit of all those who live and work in the surrounding boroughs. That can only be good news for every business that already calls this region home. The death of the open plan office? A universally popular choice for commercial landlords and business owners since the 1950s, open plan offices have long been considered the definitive solution for encouraging more collaborative working and improving workers’ productivity. However, in recent times, I increasingly hear murmurings from design experts, researchers and our own customers which suggest that the days of open plan working may be numbered. All of which has led me to question; is this the death knell of the open plan office? An international survey of employees two years ago found that more than two thirds were dissatisfied with their working environment, many citing lack of privacy as a major factor in their response, while a separate survey showed an overwhelming majority craved discreet, quiet spaces in which to speak confidentially. Meanwhile, it has also been suggested that staff working in open plan offices are more likely to take short-term sick leave. All of this new thinking is leading some businesses to turn their backs on open plan offices for something more intricate or individual. For me, the important factor is not the actual layout of the space, but rather what it is intended to achieve and how it fits within the wider working ethos of the business in question. It’s fair to say that global organisations like Google and Facebook have had an enormous impact on what businesses think makes a contemporary office, with features such as bean bags, Playstations, football goals and picnic tables now commonplace across the UK. What’s crucial, however, is that businesses don’t lose sight of what marks them out as unique and make every effort to ensure their space remains authentic and true to their own values, rather than assuming a colourful or ‘fun’ space is automatically going to generate creativity or make their staff happy. Those businesses that can boast truly effective offices are the ones which consult with their staff to find out what’s important to them before planning their space. As a result of that approach, there’s not so much an abandonment of the open plan dream, but more a natural evolution on the theme, where business owners look to preserve the best bits of open plan working, blended with their own personal twists. Open plan +, you might say.