Commentary

WFHotel – an office outside the office?

It’s been a while since many of us had an informal chat at the office water cooler.

As the return to the workplace ensues, what options are there for those keen to get back to face-to-face conversations with colleagues - but perhaps not so keen on returning to the traditional desk-based 9-5 of old?

For hoteliers, who can easily create a flexible environment, it’s about bringing the office into hotels. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that businesses and employees can be more flexible in their working behaviours. Now, hotel operators currently rethinking their strategy need to embrace new opportunities to optimise space and maximise revenue.

Now, more than ever, it’s a great time for WFHotel to become a bigger part of hotels’ offer. Many city hotel operators are naturally paying close attention right now to the return of the corporate demand; a new framework to draw alternative business into their hotels could be a lifeline for future growth. 

Hotels such as The Ned and The Ace Hotel in London’s Shoreditch district have been offering flexible spaces combining live, work, play elements for some time. But now there’s space for this concept to evolve, with some people who moved out of city centres during the pandemic now too far away for a manageable daily commute. They’ll need overnight accommodation at an urban destination – and one that ticks all their boxes. 

Point A Hotels in London is ahead of the curve, recently launching a long-stay monthly membership at £750 for unlimited stays. CitizenM is offering a similar scheme, with a corporate “work-sleep-meet-entertain hybrid” subscription at £500 per month which includes three nights per month, daily workspace, three hours of meeting room use each month, a welcome drink and breakfast included with each overnight stay. 

It means employees can attend client meetings nearby, collaborate with colleagues and share ideas over a coffee - and then use the hotel’s leisure facilities to wind down after a long day. Hotels also guarantee guests a private desk space for those all-important Zoom calls, so there is that ability to always be connected.

WFHotel is just one way in which the line between offices and hospitality is increasingly blurring. As our workplace habits and expectations continue to change, hospitality will continue to influence office design and function, creating more of a central hub for generating ideas rather than the place to go, day-in, day-out to sit at our desks. There’ll be more opportunities for hospitality offerings in office buildings to help with creativity and to provide a better experience, such as relaxation areas, food and beverage outlets and leisure facilities. 

Back at the hotel, it’s not about recreating the office but offering a more attractive environment for business guests - one that appeals to local professionals as much as people jetting in from overseas. Hotels that move with the times and do this well will capitalise on the new hybrid working world that is now emerging.