Work from Anywhere: From hotel rooms to cafes, professionals turn innovative

A young professional checks into a five-star hotel in suburban Mumbai. She is neither here for a business meeting nor for a mid-week break. As she registers at the front desk, she crosschecks the in-room facilities to help her get down to work: Wifi, adapters, comfortable office seating, the whole shebang that goes with a personal desk at the office.

The hotel as office

Work-from-home is so passe that well-placed and well-paid employees are now checking out the scenery not too far from home.

“These guests have a different set of requirements than the usual guests. Their focus includes an in-room workstation with a good network; power backup; availability of adaptors; first-aid facilities; healthy food; and most importantly, a tranquil view to indulge in,” says Farhan Hamidani, director of sales and marketing, Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach. They also require flexibility in housekeeping to ensure their working in-room schedules are not hindered.

The result is that luxury hotels, like this one, are seeing a boost in business. Novotel Mumbai says it has seen an increase in people looking for relaxing ways to make the most of the newly adopted flexibility offered by their companies while also keeping up with the grind.

The location-agnostic office

For those not interested in a luxury workcation, local coffee shops or co-working spaces make a nice change of pace.

Decentralized Spaces Favored

Starbucks, for example, has seen a definite increase in people choosing to work out of or have a team meeting at their local Starbucks.

“Early into the pandemic, we saw that customers felt safer coming to a Starbucks as they knew we were following all safety protocols,” says Sushant Dash, CEO, Tata Starbucks. “We see the work-from-Starbucks phenomenon to be quite strong in pockets of metros (Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Hyderabad, Pune and Bengaluru) as well as Tier-2 markets like Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Guwahati and Nagpur.”

Co-working spaces have also seen a surge in people after offices re-opened. “With the reverse migration of workforce, decentralized workspaces are becoming a preferred option for employers and employees alike. At the back of this trend, many enterprises are witnessing opportunities beyond metros and are expanding their footprint in tier-2 cities,” says Sumit Lakhani , Deputy CEO, Awfis. While 65% of their members fall into the greater-than-50-seat cohort, Lakhani says that over the last few months they have seen a higher number of new sales from the less-than-50-seat cohort, pointing to increasing adoption of distributed teams.

Bloomberg

“After the pandemic, we at Awfis observed that 60% of the seat occupiers (employees of corporates) in tier-1 have moved to the emerging metros of the country such as Nagpur, Bhubaneswar, Indore, Jaipur, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad, Kochi and Chandigarh,” he adds.

Awfis says it has also seen a surge in demand for their remote working solution ‘Awfis Now’ which allows professionals to book a work-desk or a meeting room anywhere at any time across Awfis’s network of workspaces in 14 Indian cities through a one-time purchase of credits. “We saw a spike in the purchase of bulk credits from repeat customers pointing towards the efficacy of this product especially for the work-from-anywhere clientele,” says Lakhani.

Office without boundaries

In some cases, work from anywhere has been so popular among employees that companies are even using it to redefine how they structure their ‘hybrid office’.

E-commerce platform Meesho, for example, announced in February that it would permanently allow all its employees to work from any location of their choice and the response has been so good that CHRO Ashish Kumar Singh says plans are underway for annual workcations in locations like Goa, Shimla and Manali. “Based on employee demand, the company will also set up satellite offices at locations with higher talent density,” Singh says.

AI and analytics firm Fractal is also looking at satellite offices, primarily in Chennai and Pune. “Post-Covid, we observed many people moving back to their home-towns or tier-2 cities to be close to their families,” shares chief people officer Rohini Singh. “These clusters emerged more organically in locations such as Pune and Chennai, thereby creating the need for us to bring collaborative workspaces in these locations to enable hybrid-working. We recently opened up an office in Chennai and are looking to open another in Pune shortly .”

Office on the go

The trend of decentralized workplaces, that took off as the pandemic ushered in a hybrid work model, untethered many an employee.

While initially forcing professionals to reorient themselves to hitherto untapped work spaces, it opened the doors to experimenting with new forms of workplace interactions.

In 2021, roughly one in five guests reported using Airbnb to work remotely while traveling. OYO’s fourth year-end annual index, released in December 2021, found that nearly 48% of Indians worked from home during the year, out of which 85% preferred taking workcations or working away from home in a scenic location. Integer: The extended workcation.

Between March and June 2022, hospitality start-up SaffronStays averaged a 35% weekday occupancy rate with properties in Lonavala, Pawna, Kamshet, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Karjat, Nashik, Palghar and Alibaug seeing the most workcations.

“As long as there is WiFi, a pool and a lawn at a fully serviced home, people don’t mind spending days or weeks together working out of these private homes,” says its founder Devendra Parulekar.

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