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The new hospitality: On selling place, not space

Hospitality in the Workplace | Edgar Allan

In a time when “busyness” and “distraction” fill most of the day-to-day, the idea of “place” matters more than ever before. What people want in where they choose to live and work — and spend the remainder of their time — has changed as the above-mentioned stressors have pushed us to prioritize things like convenience, walkability and a growing focus on “wellness.” In general, there’s a growing desire for more engaging, impactful, user-focused environments; not just another place you have to go, but a place you truly want to be. And since most of us spend the majority of our waking hours working, the implications on the workplace have been pretty significant.

Today’s workforce wants a workplace that’s alive with creativity, connectivity and productivity, with physical space simply supporting, not defining, it. And with the rise of the gig economy and telecommuting, we’ve seen this come about with everything from shifts in office layouts to rethinking the very nature of the workplace. As offices try to better deliver on employee needs, “hospitality” becomes the key word here — but more as a concept than an industry. That hotel-like, service-forward feel has begun to infiltrate every building use type from multi-family to retail, but has gotten most buzz recently in the office space. It makes sense: Hospitality’s emphasis is on high-quality service and amenities that create a great experience, and that’s a level-up that can turn any utilitarian space into an inspiring, valuable place.

Let’s look at two companies that see the office/hospitality mash-up differently:

Hospitality in the workplace…

In a lot of ways, business has taken cues from the hotel industry for a while now. Office building lobbies have become coffee shops. Furnishings are more residential-style, for a relaxed, comfortable vibe. There are more open, multipurpose areas designed to encourage collaboration and social connection. It’s been a response to the needs of today’s workers for flexible, less-formal working space. But then WeWork came along.

Image courtesy of WeWork

is a next-level example of how hospitality trends have been actualized in the workplace. While it’s known for providing flexible, shared and on-demand workspaces, it’s hospitality’s cues and connections that take center stage with a wealth of amenities (e.g. open kitchens with free fruit-infused water, micro-roasted coffee and craft beer, bike storage, on-site support from a Community Manager, etc.) and stunning interiors designed to foster productivity, community and connections (e.g. green plants, natural light, desks in quiet places in addition to a variety of open areas, plus planned professional and social events).

At a time when technology is all but obliterating face-to-face engagement, it follows that people will crave new ways to forge personal connections, swinging the pendulum back to favoring “IRL” working experiences…but with a 21st century twist. It’s why many who work remotely choose to work from a coworking space instead of their couch in the first place. After the rush of working in pjs subsides, some people come to realize they’re more productive away from home’s distractions and feel less isolated and more part of a community.

Image courtesy of Conspire

Coworking in the hotel space…

As it turns out, a lot of the amenities and common areas that offices and coworking spaces like WeWork are trying to build into their designs and programming are already present in hotels. The hospitality industry has been catering to business guests for decades already, giving road warriors a comfy, always-available spot in the lobby to hunker down with a laptop. But with the rise of the freelance and remote workforce, non-guests have also begun to find hotels’ communal areas perfect for getting a little work done, with their ample outlets, wireless internet, comfy seating and free-flowing coffee. So, today some hotels are reverse-engineering the coworking concept, swapping a few floors of guest rooms for designated co-working spaces.

A lot of hotels offer free access to anyone, guest or not — capitalizing on potential food and drink sales as well as the bump in brand awareness. But others, like The Revolution Hotel in Boston, require non-guests pony up a fee. Conspire — their concept — has a daily, weekly and monthly rate, and perks include hotel gym access and free coffee.

Image courtesy of the Hoxton

hotels have taken the idea a step further, launching their own coworking brand, Working From_ — “where home comforts meet hotel living.” Designed with what you need in a workspace (library desks and ergonomic chairs, communal spaces with armchairs, wireless charging, etc.), Working From_ also boasts a wellness space with daily classes, curated speaker events, a café and a “help yourself” pantry. Of course, it also carries all the benefits of a trendy hotel brand; depending on your membership tier, you can get a free or discounted room if you’re working late and want to crash, or just want to work from bed for the day.

In essence, all of this mixing and melding of what used to be very separate building functions points to a significant human desire (or maybe even need) for the things that hospitality has always given us — service, personalization, a home-like place to get busy or crash. As such, we think that little bit of desk space, or the hotel room, are no longer necessarily hospitality’s primary product, and the opportunity for brands to capture more consumers — and more revenue — is expanding in a really exciting way.

It’s all about thinking outside the box… er, room.

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