After months of working from home, professionals seeking to restore some normality to their working lives don’t want to pay a fortune just to be crammed into a glass cube with potentially virus-spreading air conditioning and a bunch of other people in the name of “co-working”. Even if there is sub-par beer on tap.
Instead, we’re entering the age of blended living and working concepts, and it’s the hospitality industry that’s leading the way.
Blended living isn’t a new concept. If you’ve been to university and stayed in uni accommodation, you’ll likely be familiar with the ‘campus concept’; living, eating, shopping, socialising and studying all under the same roof.
In the US, blended living concepts have seen a certain amount of popularity, especially for older generations in the form of retirement villages, but it’s taken longer for the idea to take hold in Europe.
But European hotels are leading a seismic shift within the hospitality industry.
Instead of looking at existing models like apartment complexes or gated communities and attempting to shoe-horn in elements from the hospitality industry like single-night stays, these fresh concepts have their roots in hotel-style quality and service, but offer a level of freedom more closely associated with student digs and international hostels.
Often a hotel first and a workspace second, blended living concepts see elements like beds, meeting rooms, restaurants, nightclubs, hotdesks, bars, bakeries and cafes all come together in the same space.
Blurring the lines between work and play, these hotel concepts reflect the lives of the always-on 2020 professional. Work is no longer a 9–5 job. The workday is interspersed with trips to the on-site gym, breaks to play table tennis and interactive brainstorming sessions. Colleagues and managers become friends too. Beers are regularly cracked open from 4 PM.
For a while already, our offices have started to look a lot more like our homes. But with the future of offices looking increasingly uncertain as industry leaders like Google and Facebook are extending working-from-home until 2021, many professionals are searching for safe, innovative ways to continue to work efficiently and without the distractions of the home environment. For this reason, blended living concepts are likely to be fast-tracked by the impact of Covid-19.
So who are they for?
Despite the messaging put forward by hotels such as The Student Hotel, these concepts aren’t for absolutely everyone.
“ All our hotels are buzzing hubs where people from all walks of life rub shoulders and exchange ideas. Adventure seekers, entrepreneurs, students and locals: everyone likes everyone! — The Student Hotel ”
They aren’t for the older, more traditional type of tourist, seeking discretion, fancy room service and expensive lobster meals (is this what rich people eat? I’m not sure).
They aren’t for your “lads on tour” visitors looking for a cheap bed to crash in and a cheap bar to do shots at.
Their target audience is clear — professionals with a little bit of money in their pocket and an open mind.
They might be travelling for business. Or, they might be looking for a regular local haunt to meet with clients over a glass of wine. They might be searching for their own hotdesk, or desperately looking for a few days of peace and quiet away from their children so that they can focus on their important presentation.
What do they look like?
There are a few variations of this model:
1. The “apart-hotel” model
This model, like Zoku, sees the rooms themselves become the star of the show. Equipped with sleeping area (in this case, a loft-style bed), kitchenette and designated work and relaxation zones, these spaces are perfect for established professionals looking to focus, but there’s also a bar/restaurant and social space above.
2. The “everyone welcome” model.
Like The Student Hotel, concepts like these offer a variety of different solutions depending on the traveller, from more traditional hotel rooms to long-term student accommodation, co-working spaces, flex-desks and even individual office rooms.
3. The “co-living” model
More frequently found in southern Europe, these spaces are more akin to hostels and communal living spaces, but with a professional, co-learning focus instead of a party vibe. You’ll often find shared dorm rooms and communal kitchens, but also training sessions, classes and workshops built into the daily routine, perfect for those that lead a nomadic digital lifestyle.
What’s going to happen in the future?
As the future of offices looks tenuous and the world starts to adapt to “the new normal” (don’t roll your eyes, it’s not a perfect phrase but it’s all we’ve got), people are going to start to look for places where they can make those human connections that they’ve been missing.
They want to be near other people, socialising, networking and generally feeling part of something.
The novelty of working from home is wearing off. And the hospitality industry is primed and ready to fill that demand.