Hotels and serviced apartments are transforming their spaces to align with the new ways of working - and fill empty rooms
While many of us are embracing working from home, for others it can be isolating or simply impractical. Zoom calls to colleagues will quickly show you that not every home comes with an office, or even a spare room with space for a desk. Instead, many new homeworkers are having to make do with the edge of the kitchen breakfast counter, or the dining table, battling with interruptions from hungry children and pesky pets.
No surprise, then, that some versatile accommodation providers have turned their hand to offering bedrooms as office space on day lets, spotting a potential new market and, in turn, helping to counteract the dramatic dip in demand for overnight stays.
One of the quickest groups off the block was Accor, whose Hotel Office product is available in 320 properties in Europe, in brands from Ibis to Sofitel, ensuring something for every budget. “In Russia, one business booked multiple Hotel Office rooms in one hotel for two months for its team to use; and we’re seeing interest from younger professionals in house shares, where they are competing for work space and Wifi bandwidth,” says Jonathan Pettifer, Director of Corporate Sales and TMC Partners UK and Ireland.
Serviced apartment group Ascott has launched Work in Residence in 60 of its properties providing rooms for day use, and Space-as-a-Service, working with corporate clients on options such as hosting cloud kitchens and Starbucks kiosks, or fitness activities in apartments. Work suites can be booked on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. In the UK, participating properties include Citadines Barbican London, Citadines Trafalgar Squar, Citadines Holborn Covent-Garden, Citadines South Kensington and Citadines Islington, which opened this autumn.
Ascott’s Chief Development Officer, Leong Teng Wui, said the group was capitalising on the rising telecommuting trend to offer a comprehensive solution for guests to live and work in a safe and private space. He said Ascott’s interior design service team is working with properties and owners to reconfigure and customise Ascott’s spacious apartments to “not only provide a home away from home, but also create a conducive, productive and well-designed workspace”.
In March, Cheval Three Quays converted 21 apartments into a trading floor for a company needing a central location and super fast WiFi, and companies are able to book single apartments or blocks in Cheval properties. “We believe remote working is here to stay as a long-term trend,” says CEO George Westwell.
For those requiring a touch of luxury with their remote working, The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane are two Dorchester Collection properties providing Working Away, which includes private suites from 7am to 7pm, £100 spa and dining credit, on-call IT concièrge, working area with stationery and unlimited tea and coffee, which will set you back £1,275 and £925 respectively.
“Companies recognise some workers are struggling to maintain productivity or even morale at home”
Alternatively, Bvlgari Hotel London has introduced B.Business, an “elevated workation” that provides use of a spacious suite, the hotel’s pool and gym, and includes refreshments throughout the day, a lunch and even an after work drink at the end of the day. Packages are available until March 31 for groups of up to six or solo guests.
House of Fisher has responded to demand by adding desks and improving WiFi performance where required. The company has also turned the guest lounge at aparthotel 100 Kings Road in Reading into a co-working space, which is free for in-house guests and will eventually be offered to external visitors.
The public spaces in Lamington Group’s Southampton room2 always comprised bookable meeting space and working areas, and inspired by its success and the current climate, the group has decided to move development of The Mission in London’s Hammersmith, previously destined to be tenanted offices, to flexible co-working space for both guests and non-guests; plus have a secondary site within the room2 hometel in Belfast.
Taking bedroom-office working to another level is Synergy, whose Work/Stay packages range from full executive office suites to a Swiss ball and a desk. The company sees these services as potentially a standard requirement in future corporate accommodation programmes.
“These initiatives will give our employees some new options and variety but it would have to be expensed, which would not be that easy in the current environment at our company,” says the UK travel manager of a large aerospace company. He says it would only advantage the few who travel to see customers and cannot get on to their site, but added: “We do not see this being a long-term solution.”
American Express GBT, however, sees this as an enduring trend. “We’ve seen a need from our customers and even within our own teams for work and meeting spaces that meet a “work solo, collaborate local” balance,” says vice president, hotel strategy, Wesley Bergstrom. “Citizen M, for example, is running a subscription-based working room and we expect more hotels to develop similar offers.”
With social distancing now a pre-requisite, these packages are a safe alternative to co-working spaces. “Companies recognise some workers are struggling to maintain productivity or even morale at home. For solo workers, individual rooms with private bathroom facilities and room service may provide a more enjoyable, productive work environment,” he says.
“Perhaps propelled by the ‘new normal’, I believe this trend we are witnessing in the industry is here to stay”
Some groups do not have an official package but respond positively to requests. “If a guest wanted to book a room to work for the day and get some much needed peace and quiet, they would be likely to get a great deal, as there is a lot of good value available in Premier Inns across the UK at the moment,” says a spokesperson.
This type of offer is also available from 25hotels, Locke aparthotels, Q apartments, Radisson’s Hybrid Rooms and some RBH properties, including Holiday Inn London – Camden Lock and DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre.
Across the Atlantic, resort hotels are getting in on the act. Hyatt is pitching its ‘Work From Hyatt’ package to people who are working remotely and schooling virtually as “a welcome change of scenery, encouraging work- and school-life balance with more space, better weather and a respite from daily routines”.
Its extended-stay offer is available at more than 60 participating hotels in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean with resorts offering perhaps a complimentary round of golf and spa treatment or activities and educational experiences for children.
‘We are seeing a pent-up demand for travel and, as such, strong interest in Work From Hyatt, with U.S. travellers more likely to travel to warm-weather destinations such as Florida, Southern California and Mexico. We’ve seen that families and pairs make up most of the Work from Hyatt bookings, as guests take advantage of the offer and resort amenities,” said a spokesman.
Hotels are also teaming up with established workspace providers. U.S. boutique brand Proper has partnered with Industrious, while Soho House is offering secluded retreats in partnership with Getaway, and in the latest stateside pairing NeueHouse has joined with Design Hotels.
“We have seen the confluence of work and leisure, as well as social, intellectual and creative moments fundamentally evolve over the past seven months,” says NeueHouse CEO Josh Wyatt. “Making moves together with Design Hotels highlights our commitment to providing for the myriad of needs that creative professionals and explorers now have.”
Markus Schreyer, Design Hotels Senior Vice President, added: “We are looking into adding more member hotels around the world to the programme, which we believe are highly relevant for the NeueHouse community. Perhaps propelled by the ‘new normal’, I believe this trend we are witnessing in the industry is here to stay.”