There was a time when working where and when you wanted was primarily limited to freelancers and digital nomads. But that was before the COVID-19 pandemic paved the way for new remote working trends. Since, the days of daily commutes to large open-plan offices with coffee corner chats and in-person team meetings have, for a large part of the workforce, been replaced by remote video meetings in improvised home-offices or coworking spaces.
Working remotely has today become commonplace for many employees and is forecast to become more than just a passing trend. A shift accelerated by the global public health crisis and lockdown restrictions which have prompted organizations and industries of all types across the globe to create work-from-home policies in record times and embrace flexible remote work practices.
While flexible schedules and working elsewhere than in the office was previously seen as a “perk” for employees and a practice met with resistance from businesses, in the past year, an unprecedented number of high-profile companies – with big tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon leading the way – have announced that they will remain remote even after the pandemic or adopt a hybrid and more flexible approach of working remotely. In 2021 alone, the percentage of workers around the world that are permanently working remotely is expected to double.
Consequently, the workplace as we know it is changing and adapting to a new reality leaving many to wonder where is the future workplace, if not in offices, and more interestingly, how is this growing mobile workforce in fact an unprecedented opportunity for hotels?
Workplace mobility trends: from office, to home, to hotels?
The coworking and flexible workspace trend was booming before the pandemic. Since 2010, demand for flexible office space has risen annually by 21% and shows no sign of slowing down. Designed to be a low-cost alternative to working from isolated kitchen tables or renting expensive offices, coworking spaces solve the downside of working from home and bring professionals together. As a result, the number of coworking spaces worldwide is projected to reach 40,000 in 2024, double of what it was in 2020.
Remote work has for many been a blessing, if not a revelation. Away from the hustle and bustle of animated open spaces, traffic jams and rush-hour commutes has meant less distractions, increased productivity, greater autonomy, more time for leisure and family and improved work-life balance. Many people are enjoying having greater control of their workstyle and are not ready to go back to the office anytime soon.
According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index surveying 30,000 people from 31 countries, 73% of workers want their employers to continue providing flexible remote work options after the world returns to some semblance of normalcy. This shift from traditional ways and places of working is resulting in an exponential growth of remote working professionals and the remote working economy. In turn, it’s driving a growing demand for alternative, flexible workspaces – and hotels are proving they can be the answer to cater to the needs of this mobile workforce.
Hybrid hospitality: an all-in-one offering
The value of coworking spaces in hotels
The value of integrating coworking spaces into hotels as part of a hybrid hospitality model – meaning a mix of hotel rooms by night and inspiring workspaces by day – are countless. After all, there are many core qualities to hotels that give them an edge over offices and traditional coworking spaces. As global real estate advisor Colliers International shares in a report published August 2020 on ‘Hybrid Hospitality’ as the future, these qualities include:
- Plenty of adaptable space: From private rooms to meeting and event rooms or shared spaces and communal areas, hotels provide a variety of suitable workspaces be it for private calls, coworking or socializing. If adjustments are needed, underused areas, business centers and hotel lobbies can be transformed relatively easily into modern, vibrant working spaces.
- Excellent on-site amenities: In addition to proposing work areas, hotels boast of a whole range of additional facilities from gyms and pools to restaurants, bars, clubs, and even rooftops, adding to the workers’ experience and loyalty, especially if discounts or freebies are part of the package.
- Round-the-clock services and access: Unlike offices or coworking spaces that are closed evenings and weekends, hotels are open 24/7 accommodating various workstyles and needs.
- Maximum flexibility: An unquestionable appeal for businesses and employees is that hotels do not require long-term obligations, leases or expensive guarantees and instead offer day-to-day flexibility for renting workspaces.
- A ‘hospitality-first’ experience: Personalized high-quality services and creating pleasant environments and experiences for guests are in the hospitality industry’s DNA.
- Connectivity in every sense of the term: aside from fast reliable internet, hotels have an ability to connect travelling professionals, entrepreneurs and local communities in dynamic, centralized locations.
Another appeal of coworking spaces in hotels, even more critical today than ever, is that these establishments adhere to strict hygiene and cleanliness protocols to ensure their guests can enjoy safe and clean environments.
A recipe for success
Workplace mobility trends: an opportunity for hospitality
With the hospitality and tourism industry being hit hard by the pandemic, it’s a prime moment to rethink the business model and capitalize on hotels has having a mixed purpose – being both a place of leisure and business, of mobility and connectivity, of work, sleep and living. According to Colliers International, turnover could be increased by up to 20 percent where hotels provide office spaces that enable co-working and interaction.
"Hotels creating a place not only to sleep and eat but also to rent out space to meet, collaborate, socialize and work is a key way that underperforming areas within the building can be optimized from a revenue and income perspective. You can use hotel space twice while traditional workspace only once.” - Dirk Bakker, Head of Hotels for the EMEA region at Colliers International.
Savvy hotel operators have already begun harnessing this workplace mobility trend to generate additional income. From, independent hotel venture Zoku in Amsterdam, which pioneered the hybrid hospitality concept, to Eaton House in Hong Kong or the Virgin hotel in Chicago, or from bigger chains like Ace Hotel or Moxy by Marriott, the concept of encouraging flexible working in hotels has been tried and tested, and proven its appeal and success.
Accor Hotel has gone even one step further and launched its own coworking brand – WOJO – with the workspaces being launched within Accor hotels across Europe. As the CEO of Accor Europe Frank Gervais said in an interview in 2019 with Hospitality Net : “"We have the assets (brands, spaces, teams), we have the services (restaurants, bars, meeting spaces) and we are open 24/7. By participating in WOJO's ambitious development, we are optimizing the use of these assets and are creating value for our owners by being open to a new type of customer, i.e. coworkers."
As global government-imposed travel restrictions have left hotels void of their usual international business and leisure travelers, turning to a different kind of guest and local customer is proving a smart way to boost business.
The hybrid hospitality model ensures a more efficient use of the real estate property, aligns well with the hotel rhythm of peak and off-peak, and overall is proving more sustainable. Rather than being limited to foreign travelers, hotels become more integrated and connected with the city and neighborhood in which they find themselves and it allows for all of the hotel’s amenities to be optimized and used more efficiently. Sounds like a win-win situation.