Guest Blog: The Hotelification of Offices – Why Landlords Need to Follow Hospitality’s Lead
By Steve Coulson, co-founder and CEO of managed-workspace platform Kitt
Watching the journey of the hotel industry evolve from large, branded chains to bespoke offerings like Airbnb is fascinating and one we should be taking inspiration from within the commercial real estate industry.
When the co-working trend emerged, we were graced with WeWork – a scalable, consistent product, similar to the big box branded hotel groups providing a high quality, mass offering across multiple sites. The workplace is undergoing a wave of disruption, not dissimilar to the hotel industry, where space, design and service are being combined to create new products for a changing audience.
Businesses now have different expectations of the workplace. 85 per cent of staff currently working from home have already reported wanting a ‘hybrid’ approach to working. With the demand for office space for only a portion of the working week, landlords need to be prepared to pivot their assets and appeal to tenants whose expectations are not the same as those 16 months ago.
Space, design and service have been drawing closer together in the office industry – yet only now is it essential to embrace this and create new offerings for the tenant audience. Like the hotel evolution to on-demand, authentic service delivered directly to the customer, workspace should offer a bespoke yet flexible layer of servicing that adapts with the business over time.
There is a need for closer interaction and relationships between office owners/operators and the businesses’ who occupy the space. Airbnb and Sonder provide a service tailored to the client, managing the stay from searching to booking to experiences to check out in one seamless journey. They react to customer’s needs and deliver on-demand service throughout, acting as the responsible layer between asset owner and customer.
It is platforms like ours that can make this possible from an office perspective. At Kitt, we provide an end-to-end service that helps tenants find space, design and build out the environment they need, before fully managing the space and delivering 300+ on-demand services built around that of the individual business.
Establishing a design tailored to the businesses’ functional requirements is one thing, but we also look to help power their company culture in the long run. Tailored to the location and space, we take our time to understand the preferences of that business, and react to their changing needs over time. In a post-covid world, rebuilding company culture will be high up on the priority list of management teams all over the world.
Following the government announcement that workers can return to the office towards the end of the month, workplace activity in London (currently 50 per cent below its normal level) will undoubtedly resume and there will be more and more interest in the empty space left in the pandemic’s wake. Figures show office take-up by square footage in the UK’s six biggest cities has increased since the second quarter of 2020. However the majority of landlords do not have the infrastructure to provide an end-to-end service on their own that will help win back workers into the workplace.
Models like ours can help bridge the gap. We can help bring landlords closer to their tenants, offering both physical and digital solutions to meet their requirements. The office leasing purchase has been fragmented, complex and inflexible for so long and in a post-Covid world, tenants need an alternative.
The pandemic has been a momentous time for commercial real estate. It has made workers re-evaluate their priorities and acted as a turning point for leasing in general. In order to thrive post-pandemic, there is a chance to turn the empty office space available into an advantage. Deliver space as an easy-to-purchase product – with space, design and service wrapped in one package – and become desirable to a wider group of SME businesses looking to return. The hotel industry changed as a result of two major waves of disruption. The office industry has experienced similar and now is a great time to reshape what’s possible.