Design

Fed up with working from home? Try a hotel room

With business travel and tourism in freefall, hotels are now catering for locals with new workplace service offers. The key term: workspitality

With both business and leisure travel limited, the hospitality industry has taken a serious hit in the last 12 months. In response, hotels have been redesigning their service model to offer hospitality-rich workspaces that can be hired on a daily basis. Rather than a business lounge attached to the reception area, this typically means converting underused bedrooms into comfortable work lounges suitable for single – or multiple – occupancy.

‘This means converting underused bedrooms into comfortable work lounges…’

One of the latest entrants to this market is the Wythe Hotel  in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The hotel turned to Industrious, a major US flex space provider, to help develop the offer. As a result, one floor now offers 13 offices which can host up to four people. With a private terrace and room service available, stressed-out workers can enjoy the amenities of a boutique hotel once the working day is done. Although this is a temporary experiment for the Wythe, it may point to a more intertwined future for hotel and workplace providers – particularly as businesses look for more flexible options for providing workspace.

Highly controlled environments

The ratings agency Fitch has predicted a 60 per cent drop in European hotel occupancy as a result of the pandemic, with recovery unlikely any time before 2023. This leaves hotels with a significant problem of redundant space and revenue gaps. Hotels have often provided for work to some degree, but this has tended to consist either of a small business lounge, or of lobbies full of young entrepreneurs perched at their laptops.

Transitioning whole rooms to meet the needs of workers during the day is a new offer – one for which hotels are arguably well positioned. They’re typically highly controlled environments, cleaned constantly, open 24/7, staffed around the clock and can generally offer a food and beverage service.

‘This new work-from-hotel model is understandably strongest in cities…’

This new work-from-hotel model is understandably strongest in cities, particularly where people live in high-rise apartments close to urban centres. Industrious CEO Jamie Hodari identified particular demand for flexible space in mixed-use neighbourhoods that skew residential, where local options reduce the need for long commutes. Meanwhile, the British start-up Tally has found there to be particular demand for hosting meetings when remote working, and in providing younger workers who may have limited space at home with a quiet place to work.

Hotels across the world are getting in on this new game. In the Netherlands, a single site called ‘For the Home Workers’ offers access to a range of hotel rooms from Holiday Inn Express to DoubleTree by Hilton. The chain 25 Hours is offering rooms as offices for EURO 50 a day or EUR 200 a week in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich, Vienna and Zurich, and hotels across the US are also starting to offer workspace and associated services starting at similar rates.

The growth of ‘workspitality’

Although some hotels restrict access to the full range of guest amenities, it’s often about more than just the room rate, with hotels well set up to offer a much wider range of hospitality services to their new short-term guests. The global hotel chain TFE offers rooms in Sydney where, from AU$75 a day, workers have full use of hotel facilities between 9 and 5 including restaurants, pools and gyms. Meanwhile, in Raffles Singapore, guests can work in stylish suites with butler service included. Who wants to return to the office?

DaybreakHotels is an Italian start-up that helps customers to book hotels online. Simon Botto, the Chief Executive, recently explained that he’d seen a lot of new interest from the corporate sector in recent weeks. For organisations looking to restructure their space, he argues that hiring a room for an employee to work in can be up to 50 per cent cheaper than providing them with a desk in an office.

If this trend continues to grow – and businesses seek a more diversified portfolio post-pandemic – then hotels may start thinking about making dedicated private office rooms a permanent offer rather than a solution to temporary pressures. Workplace providers such as Convene have been getting into the hospitality business in recent years. Now it seems that they might have some new – and expert – competition.

Read Imogen Privett’s complete design round-up in our Innovation Zone here

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Imogen Privett is a Senior Research Associate in WORKTECH Academy and Workplace Innovation Consultant at UnWork.
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