A Hotel-Style Hybrid Work Environment May Be the Answer to the Post-Pandemic Office Question
The concept has been around since the 1990s when companies like AT&T and IBM started exploring options with open office floor plans.
Before Covid, we at BluShark Digital had a more traditional office setup — assigned desks for everyone organized by department. We lacked the capacity to implement work-from-home (WFH) on a large scale, but we had to accommodate a completely remote team by force when the pandemic hit. The office lease was up in December of 2020, but with Covid still raging, we decided not to renew. For almost a year, we worked without an office and learned that it was certainly possible — and, to some extent, allowed us to operate even more effectively.
As we settle into a post-pandemic normal, our company has embraced office hoteling, a hybrid model that extends the free-form layout of hot-desking to the whole office, eliminating assigned desks and seating. The concept has been around since the 1990s when companies like AT&T and IBM started exploring options with open office floor plans, but as trends increasingly head hybrid, others like CitiGroup and American Express Co. have also gotten on board. Workplace models are changing, and for business owners looking for cost-effective ways to provide the flexibility employees want while keeping up productivity, hoteling may be the answer.
Hoteling reduces the need for office space, which can be an organization’s most significant expense. Experts estimate a single desk in a high-quality office space — in real estate, furniture, technology and more — can cost up to $18,000 a year. GlaxoSmithKline saves an estimated $10 million annually thanks to its adoption of an unassigned office-seating arrangement.
If most employees are working from home, it makes little sense to assign them their own seat and desk in an office just to stay empty the majority of the time. Fewer desks to keep in the office lets you pare down unnecessary real estate, saving money on overhead. With fewer employees coming to the office, and less often, office resources are freed up — paper, equipment and other office tools.
Now that Covid-19 has forced us to accommodate WFH, more people want to keep that flexibility, and office hoteling provides that. Morning, afternoon, all day, every day or no days at all — anyone can come to the office hotel whenever they want. The teammates in our links department all have similarly extroverted natures and enjoy the group interaction, so they plan to come in on Wednesdays because they want to, not because they have to. Our content team is huge, but much more introverted, so many continue to work from home despite their option to come in on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Today, nine out of 10 workers want hybrid or remote work options to stay moving forward. Hot-desking operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, but office hoteling offers fair access to available spaces that employees can reserve in advance, just like they would for a hotel. This means no one will make a trip down to the office and find no desks available, cutting into productivity. It can be a challenge to stay in your groove with the office environment changing from day to day, but the option to work at home is always on the table.
Office hotel workspaces tend to be more compact, facilitating greater collaboration and interdepartmental team building. Employees can schedule to come in with their departments, but they can also come in on their own and end up sitting with other department teams, enabling new networking opportunities. Even though the links department has their running office day set as Wednesdays, for example, they never fill the entire space and always have extra room for someone from a different department to come in and work too.
Working in a different environment every day brings diversity to the week, and with everyone having fair access to office resources, hoteling facilitates more productive work. Just like working at a coffee shop or the local library, a hotel workspace feels less rigid than an office, but more structured than a home-office desk. The change of scenery breaks up the day-to-day monotony and motivates a better work ethic.
Keep everyone happy
The fluidity of office hoteling allows employees a better work-life balance, making them more satisfied with their job and improving their overall well-being. Some days, events come up right after work, and having the option to work from home without any pressure to be in the office makes that easier. Giving employees the choice and flexibility to work from home or in the office helps develop a company culture of trust.
Some employees enjoy coming into the office a couple days a week — some less. Having options makes for a more relaxed atmosphere and takes away the dread of commuting to the daily grind. Driving in traffic is stressful, and with all the transferring and walking on public transportation, commutes can take some employees over an hour. According to a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, 1300 respondents reported an overall 41-minute decrease in commute time and 37-minute increase in time spent on personal activities, particularly in the morning.
As we accommodate the new normal of post-Covid life, the majority of companies are evolving their traditional offices to be more user-friendly for their employees. The shift toward remote work is here to stay, changing hierarchies, office layouts and the way employees use them, but fully remote work has too many distractions for some people. Laundry, walking the dogs, cleaning the windows — undone chores can take attention away from the priority of doing work, but an office hotel gives employees a dedicated workspace away from those distractions when they need it. With more collaboration spaces, fewer desks and the flexibility employees want, hoteling is likely to become the office of the future.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor