In the era of the collaborative economy, flexibility and nomadism, coworking is emerging as one of the responses to these changing needs.
Coworking entails renting shared office space, either on a one-off or on a subscription basis. The idea is to share an office, and in particular, to use this office only when necessary. What also appeals to coworkers, is working in a collaborative environment – a concept entirely in keeping with the times. The trend largely concerns freelancers and startuppers – in addition to gaining flexibility in workplace costs, these workers seek to immerse themselves in an innovative and emulative atmosphere. They are also looking to network, boost creativity and even grow their business. These “officeless” workers are progressively being known as “FreeWorkers”.
In response to this trend, coworking spaces are springing up almost everywhere in large cities, and the phenomenon hasn’t spared the hospitality sector either.
Coworking in hotels – which services are being offered?
Let’s first look at what hotels are providing in terms of coworking services. Generally-speaking, hotels offer a more or less formal, connected space dedicated to working, where printers, efficient Wi-Fi connection, hot drinks, water, pastries, snacks, etc. are available in exchange for an hourly, half-day or full-day rate. Other hotels elect to charge only for drinks and snacks. However, the fundamentals remain the same – in addition to high-speed Wi-Fi, a sufficient number of plug sockets and even smartphone chargers should be available.
Coworking in hotels responds to a new need and a new way of satisfying guests, but it actually goes further than that – hotels may also regard coworking as a means of making money from underexploited or unused spaces. The cost of investment is not particularly substantial, since hotels are generally already
equipped with the necessary elements – Wi-Fi, chairs, tables, etc. In addition, staff are already on-site to supervise the service. Hotels can thus optimise their square meterage, and in some properties it is the lobby that plays this role. For others, the breakfast area is transformed into a work space once the breakfast shift and cleaning are over. The term, “day-use” takes on its full meaning here, as by offering coworking spaces, hotels can take advantage of areas that are underused at certain times of the day.
Yet it is more than this. Coworking is also a way for hotels to get their property talked about, to diversify their customer-base and to make the most of the wordof-mouth induced by the new service. Coworking also attracts new customers for the bar and restaurant, and is completely in phase with the current wave of new hotels open to their environment and local residents. Coworking is a way of creating a bit of life in a hotel, of livening up areas that often remain sad and empty. Who wants to sit down for a drink in an empty bar? There is truth in the statement that the busier the bar or restaurant, the more it attracts customers.
Coworking areas in hotels are found in locations conducive to such – close to stations, airports or business zones, for example. While waiting for a train, between two meetings, travellers can now maximise their time by working in a functional space, thus getting the most out of their business trips.
A revolutionary concept?
Yet the concept is not especially ground-breaking. Which business guest hasn’t sat down in a hotel lobby or bar to work? Which business guest hasn’t preferred to work in the livelier lobby or bar, rather than shutting themselves up in their room, no matter how nice the décor? Coworking areas are simply better adapted, more functional, and in particular, better advertised. The market is even tending to structure itself around dedicated platforms, such as AirOffice or the business section of Dayuse.com.
It therefore makes a lot of sense for hotels to offer this type of service – the majority of facilities and services required are already to hand, as are the staff. And the business segment is one that most hoteliers know well. Industry professionals are getting involved in a more or less structured way, and concepts oriented exclusively towards “business” are emerging – concepts such as the Hôtel BOB (Business on Board) in Paris, developed by Elegancia Hotels, for example. With its very concept, this hotel goes even further, by offering a range of office spaces, including the lobby, patio or more traditional meeting rooms. Indeed, they’ve thought of everything – if clients require more privacy, they can use the small alcoves, specially created for this purpose.
The C.O.Q Hotel in Paris’ 13th district is also positioned on this niche – once breakfast is over, the plates are swapped for laptops. Hotel groups are also getting in on the act. Over at AccorHotels, the Easywork concept is being deployed in Mercure and Novotel hotels. MOB Hotel in Saint-Ouen offers a dedicated coworking space, baptised the “Kolkhozita”, reserved for certain professionals. Oceania, too, is active, with its Nomad brand that offers a large functional space adapted to the various needs of its guests, particularly to working. Moxy offers guests a vast multi-use space, and Society M (Citizen M) provides work areas that foster collaboration and creativity. And these are just a few examples.
So what does coworking offer users?
As well as notions of “freedom” and “flexibility”, users can enjoy working in a pleasant environment and can even take advantage of the hotel’s facilities (spa, fitness). Some even see coworking as a means of conveying a more attractive image, by organising client meetings in a less formal environment than the traditional seminar room, for example, and in an environment that may be more in line with their business sector. Users can also select their workplace in accordance with the image they want to project.
The only drawback of coworking for the hotel is when users start to make themselves a little too much at home – they can tend to take up too much room, to the detriment of traditional hotel guests. The flipside of this success thus entails having to anticipate how potential conflicts of use between various client segments should be managed.
The hotel industry – which blends real estate and services – is legitimately growing in the coworking sector, with some players going even further. AccorHotels and Bouygues Immobilier, for example, have formed a partnership around Nextdoor, originally created by Bouygues. The concept is simple: renting coworking office space by the day or for longer. The idea behind the partnership between these two major players is to speed up the concept’s development, by taking advantage of the savoir-faire of each. Independently of its hotels, Mama Shelter is also developing Mama Works (office rental) in the same spirit as Mama Shelter.
These new services highlight the current dynamism observed in some parts of the hotel industry, an industry that’s reinventing itself by listening to its customers, and that’s breaking away from the traditional model to offer its guests even more. When will the next idea to improve the hotel service offer come along, we wonder?
|Amélie Lapi – Senior Consultant – Hospitality, In Extenso TCH
Amélie Lapi joined In Extenso TCH in 2006. After graduating from hotel school, she rapidly focused on hospitality consulting, advising on hotel development issues. In addition, Amélie also conducts market and feasibility studies covering business and leisure infrastructure and works for the public and private sector in France and abroad (Morocco, Russia). Amélie holds a Master in Management from the Ecole de Savignac.