The use of co-working spaces has been on the rise in recent years, as ways of working have begun shifting to incorporate greater flexibility and a focus on work-life balance. But, the unprecedented situation caused by the pandemic shifted the ways people work on a mass scale. And, data from a number of sources indicates many workers are not willing to completely give up the flexibility these conditions provided them.

“The concept of co-working has been growing over recent years and the COVID-19 crisis and the lockdown led many companies and workers to fully shift to remote working almost overnight,” shares Jeff Doane, Chief Commercial Officer, North & Central America, Accor. “We’ve seen the evolution from work from office to work from home, now to work from anywhere — even potentially moving towards a hybrid work week mixing time in the office, work from home and work in ‘
third’ locations.”

As noted in the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s State of Tourism in Canada During COVID-19 update from February, because of mass shifts to remote work spurred by the pandemic “the world is now everyone’s office.” The report predicts this phenomenon will create opportunities for people to temporarily re-locate and a greater importance of ‘workation’ and ‘digital nomad’ markets within the tourism industry. It also points to marketing of packages targeting these travel
segments as “a tremendous opportunity for new business.”

Geraldine Guichardo, global head of Research for JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group and head of Americas Hotels Research, agrees with this sentiment. She “absolutely” expects work-from-anywhere packages to be a lasting offering in the hotel landscape, explaining that they’re an innovative way for hotels to generate revenue and offer guests flexibility and appealing added benefits. “As this demand grows in prominence, hotels will definitely have to think about providing more than a room,” she adds.
As these more flexible ways of working become more prevalent, hotels have responded by transforming communal areas and room concepts to better suit guest needs. And, Peter Gaudet, vice-president, [where located] Horwath HTL Consultants, explains, business centres had already been evolving and moving into open lobby spaces designed to function as social hubs. “Accor and certain companies were like, ‘we want to call it co-working and introduce co-working’; others were just doing it on the sidelines anyway by making that whole lobby area a socializing zone,” he says. “Of course, with today’s generation, you have to have high-speed Wi-Fi, so that [shift] was kind of happening naturally.”

And now, some brands are taking this evolution a step farther. Lobby-design concepts are increasingly providing a combination of open and semi-private areas to accommodate different need cases.

A prime example is Sheraton’s new brand vision, which Marriott International unveiled in January. As part of the new vision, the brand’s public spaces are “designed to make guests feel welcome, facilitate meetings or safely gather with friends and co-workers.” Signature elements built into the design include the ‘Community Table,’ which anchors the lobby design and serves as a purpose-built workspace. Tech-enabled Studios are built into the public space, offering “flexible gathering spaces” for guests to book as a less formal setting to meet and collaborate. Small soundproof booths are also available throughout the space to accommodate phone calls and focused work.

Guestroom design has also increasingly embraced flexible use and accommodating productivity. As part of the re-designed Sheraton experience, rooms feature new tools for productivity, including a height-adjustable work table, as well as integrated power and charging.

Beyond design, hotel companies have taken a variety of approaches to embrace the opportunities created by new work realities.
Many Accor hotels have introduced home-office concepts to accommodate needs for remote-working spaces. “Our home-office concept targets two different clients. Flexible day offers are particularly adapted for workers who do not want to or cannot work from home and are looking for a safe, comfortable and private work place,” explains Doane.

Day guests can enjoy all the in-room amenities and comforts, including room service, as well as the hotel’s public spaces, bars and restaurants. “In the near future, we see potential opportunities for ‘workation’ offers for both local clients and travellers looking for a change of scenery and to blend remote work with a vacation experience,” Doane adds. These offers would include several days stay, with work space and related services, as well as access to leisure amenities, such as the pool and fitness centre.

Other examples of work-from-anywhere offerings include Hyatt’s Work from Hyatt packages, which are targeted at guests seeking a change of scenery and a break from their typical work-from-home routines. Three different packages have been offered for different need states — day stays, extended stays and month-long stays.

While Gaudet notes some of these offerings have been hard sells in Canada during the pandemic, Guichardo says having the right amenities will be key for those hotels looking to embrace this opportunity. Offering flexibility, convenience, a taste of place and technology that allows for productive work will be attractive selling points.

By Danielle Schalk


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