As the world grapples to understand the risks posed by COVID-19, the traditional models we have grown so accustomed to, are being dismantled. Companies have immediately transitioned to a remote work infrastructure – almost overnight. Absence of local transport meant that getting employees together in an office is no longer an option and everyone has moved to the Work from Home – WFH model.
What is no clear as yet is, what this shift will eventually mean for the future of businesses?
Would employees ever return to the office? Moving forward, what would corporate meetings and gatherings look like? Is the WFH movement here to stay?
An IBM survey found that of the people working remotely, 80% would like to continue to work away from the office at least occasionally (which means they would definitely want to be at office or meet in person). In comparison, 58% would like this to be their primary way of working.
However, the question remains, is working from home an effective model? Can all jobs and duties be performed from a remote location?
Traditionally, concerns regarding the WFH model have centered around themes of productivity and collaboration. Even with the help of online tools such as Zoom, Teams, meet, etc., a WFH format may have the risk of a lack of productivity and dwindling team morale over the long term. Is this an opportunity for periodic Team huddles or Business staycations? Would this then be a new opportunity for hospitality with this being the new Hybrid model for companies with WFH and then weekly or monthly group team building. This will give rise to a need for services at hotels and resorts to accommodate these team-building meetings and exercises.
We may have already experienced this. Virtual interactions present a variety of unique challenges, like Connectivity issues, Power cuts (unheard earlier but recently being experienced in Mumbai and other metros’), everyone is unable to read body language and reactions which is critical in a sales pitch, fatigue from utilizing virtual tools, and technical difficulties. While the remote workplace is a viable solution that must be explored, it may not be a perfect system and this gives rise to the opportunity. There may be plenty of jobs that can be performed effectively from home but I feel the future is not entirely virtual and remote. As we wait for a solution for the pandemic companies will evolve a balance of remote work and in-person presentations, meetings, and collaborative work sessions. A Hybrid Model
From the commercial perspective also, giving away a part of the expensive office real estate would lead to huge rental savings for the company, a percentage of which if effectively utilized could take care of periodic team meetings and brainstorming and in-person problem-solving at Hotel venue’s thereby boosting employee morale and building teams.
For the hospitality industry, all eyes are trained on the path to recovery. Back in April, Forbes reported that the impact of the coronavirus on the sector was expected to add up to a loss of 5.9 million jobs and $910 billion in travel-related economic output.
Hospitality is positioned to play an important role in this new Hybrid model by providing its services for corporate meetings and events moving forward. Corporate travel could also bounce back faster like the expected bounce back on leisure travel.
As businesses continue to adapt to the WFH model and take this opportunity to downsize their corporate real estate expenses, they are expected to have an increased need (and budget) for in-person meetings. Hotel venues are uniquely qualified to serve this purpose, as they provide corporations with a safe and pro-actively managed environment for their team to come together in a productive and meaningful manner. Unlike an office, hotels have an adequate amount of space to provide room for social distancing measures and attentive staff who are trained in all appropriate protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Hotels have already adapted and are ready as the modern meeting/events include the use of Sanitization, PPE kits in all public area’s as per rules, Socially distanced seating, Social distance markers to direct traffic flow, Plexiglass dividers, Single-use products, Virtual menu cards, etc. Also, the serviced offices provided by many hotels are also becoming increasingly popular. International Flights have restarted, Train services with proper precautions have been restored. Rules around quarantining post-travel have been reduced. Food and Beverage and restaurants have restarted with full social distancing precautions. These will go a long way in augmenting these services.
Much like the growing popularity of the leisure ‘staycation,’ the business ‘staycation’ may become a post-COVID-19 trend that will leverage hotels within driving distance.
As companies evolve and work towards a Hybrid office which could conduct some element of its business virtually, it could also facilitate team meetings and collaboration opportunities. For hoteliers, the takeaway is: business travel and meetings could once again mean big business.
Hoteliers have shown flexibility and adaptability in the past and I am sure will come out stronger in the current crisis by capturing the new demand generated by the shift to WFH by corporate travelers.