As the Coronavirus crisis hurtled towards its first peak in the spring of 2020, hotels, hospitality venues and countries in their entirety were forced to shut their doors, kitchens, and borders. With society grounded to a halt, travel plans were out of the question, with bookings cancelled or postponed and a combination of issues creating havoc for the travel industry.
One of few positives to emerge from the crisis, however, was the collective realisation our work lives needn’t be as rigid as we’d become accustomed to.
Working from home allowed levels of logistical and locational flexibility previously unimaginable to many. Childcare could be balanced with living-room Zoom conferences, lunches could be taken in the comfort of our homes around commitments, and a break from the commute provided hours more to devote to life admin, downtime and much-needed sleep.
Summer came around and the hospitality industry opened its collective doors to travellers once again. With it, however, came a transformative view at our work lives and a wider acceptance of remote working. Digital nomadism entered the vocabulary of the masses for the first time, the travel industry took note, and a trend emerged; Work from Hotel.
Although balancing Balinese sunsets with managerial commitments will forever (unfortunately) be off the table for many, more realistic interpretations of digital nomadism were brainstormed in public relations offices across the land. In an age where our work lives are increasingly dependent on technology, why not utilise the portability and power of modern means of working? Following uncertain times that highlighted to too many the importance of their time with loved ones and a fairer work-life balance, why not strive to make such changes less momentary?
However, during times of limited editorial possibility and commercial viability around immediate travel content and growing fatigue of the ‘plan that trip of a lifetime now’ listicles with no end to a global health crisis in sight, it’s easy to dismiss the development of such a trend as a momentary grasp at valuable client coverage.
The prospect of fulfilling work commitments alongside afternoons of sightseeing and evenings of culinary adventure is no doubt enticing. Simultaneously, the benefits of remote working may play a part in sewing the overdue seeds of change regarding professional mental health and the mundanity of the everyday that was previously thought unthinkable. But are such changes truly viable in a post-pandemic world beyond being little more than a linguistic variant of the already thriving bleisure market?
General Manager of London’s Milestone Hotel & Residences, Andrew Pike, certainly thinks so. He notes the changes we’ve come to appreciate from working from home are, if anything, accentuated by the work from hotel packages the Milestone now offers, catering to professionals in search of a, ‘higher degree of comfort and security than conventional office or public spaces’.
The popularity of such offerings is statistically undeniable, as Pike highlights several benefits including: ‘security and a sense of space, reliable and secure WiFi, all-round flexibility, and value proposition; there are some great deals to be had for a lot less than booking accommodation, meeting space and food and beverage separately’. As if the benefit of knuckling down with minimal disruption wasn’t enough, Pike also refers to ‘home plus comforts’: ‘you can order a coffee, glass of wine, or something healthy whenever you need it’. Such beck-and-call service throughout the working day may even allow time to enjoy complimentary Health Club access alongside cultural excursions.
Pike dismisses the questionable downsides to such a trend, such as confusion around annual leave allowance and workers taking advantage of such flexibility, arguing, ‘people have become trusted to work from home and this is really an extension of that idea. The need to secure greater value from meeting space and opportunities will help keep this on everyone’s radar.’
As we continue through uncertain times, the continuation of such flexibility looks promising. Hotels, and even tourist boards, have announced packages embracing digital nomadism with booking options well into the new year.
Cambridge’s University Arms recently launched a room-for-the-day system, allowing guests in need of a change of scenery to rent a Martin-Brudnizki-designed bolthole between 8am and 6pm, with access to the hotel’s gym, exclusive parking rates and a meal from Tristian Welch’s Parker’s Tavern thrown in. Meanwhile, Barbados continues to welcome sun-seeking workers with their 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp Programme, allowing those able to work with just a secure internet connection onto the island.
Such initiatives are undoubtedly the ultimate amalgamation of business and pleasure. Despite their current popularity, there will no doubt be several logistical hurdles surrounding the trend in a post-Covid environment where office-based work once again becomes the norm, albeit to a slightly lesser degree than was normalised pre-pandemic.
Despite such reservations, Work from Hotel is here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future. For those lucky enough to be able to perform their professional duties efficiently, while holed up in a luxury hotel awaiting their 5pm G&T arrival, or swiping sand out of undesirable places, it seems a trend too good to miss; momentary or not.