Building Bleisure With Outdoor Office Pods
By Larry Mogelonsky, Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited
Remote work is here to stay. Even if companies start to require teams to return to a central office following full population vaccination, the benefits of allowing for flexible work conditions are too good to ignore. For the employer it can mean vastly reduced rental costs, while for the employee it means less time spent commuting and the ability to handle life’s other responsibilities more adeptly like young kids. But the drawback is the monotony of working, eating, relaxing and sleeping in the same place.
Together, we know that remote work will be a trend for many years to come and we also know that these individuals will be looking to escape the confines of their domiciles to clear any sensory malaise and increase their productivity. It’s then a matter of confidence; the hotels that will realize solid returns from the proliferating WFH guest type will be those that have the proper amenities set up to serve this group’s specific needs.
Some important bleisure considerations include:
- Access to dedicated office spaces, either within suites, via connected rooms or downstairs in the business center
- Flawless and pervasive WiFi so that cloud-based applications or videoconferences are never interrupted
- Daycare services to shuffle the children out of earshot during said meetings
- If your property is pet friendly, dogsitting services to function in a similar manner
- Special F&B programs, with particular focus on contactless, on-demand room service
- Wellness amenities aimed specifically at the stressed-out corporate executive
One concept that has lucrative applications for rural resorts is that of the outdoor office pods. These are small cabin-style buildings – under the municipal square footage limit so as to not require a construction permit – which include an ergonomic office desk setup and perhaps one or two reading chairs. Key, though, is that they are secluded amongst the beauty of a natural setting and designed with open glass and sliding doors to offer a seamless transition between the indoors and the great outdoors.
To gain some more insight into the details of how these office pods can be deployed and what features to look for, we recruited Danny SC Tseng, the Development Director at Syllable, an architecture and interior design firm based out of our hometown of Toronto. Syllable recently launched the YRDPodz, a 108-square-foot, model backyard pod with passive ventilation, integrated heating and insulation. It can also be outfitted with a gas fireplace, skylights, HVAC or an accordion-style folding glass façade.
“Multiple studies have shown that fostering a greater exposure to nature can help improve one’s mood and increase focus,” explained Tseng. “YRDPOdz are designed to be a retreat, both physically and mentally, from the home life, offering a space for work, exercise, meditation or for social gatherings in the backyard.”
While YRDPodz has initially been designed for urban backyards and cottages, there’s no reason why hotels cannot also capitalize upon this trend. Rural resorts are the most obvious beneficiaries, but don’t count out urban or suburban properties that have a bit of land to play around with. Many aspects of COVID-19 travel behavior are here to stay, and Syllable’s product represents one way that hotels can appeal to remote workers by not only offering an escape from the home office but also a setup that’s wholly immersed in nature.
Moreover, there’s the opportunity for an upsell. Such outdoor offices – be it anything from a flexible, prefab pod to even a yurt with a boardroom table – can become a central component for a bleisure package. Or for a la carte sales, you could build a day rate for each space with booking through your website or, if supported in your territory, a third-party meeting venue app like Breather. Mobile key technologies can also be deployed to control access and timed reservations.
Aside from the capex and land availability issues, the other main concern is speedy internet access while off in the woods. This may require some underground ethernet wiring to a nearby router, a series of repeaters or, for the most isolated arrangements, a satellite internet hookup such as Starlink. In any case, these drawbacks are far from insurmountable, and hotels looking to grow occupancy and increase LOS within the bleisure segment should investigate how outdoor office pods can serve that goal.