WFH has become the acronym of 2020, where those fortunate enough swapped their office for a home-working set-up (or, at the very least, their kitchen table) as the pandemic made a profound impact on the ways in which we live and work. But, with all its benefits, there is a weariness that can come with this kind of remote working – Zoom fatigue and existing within the same four walls every day can take their toll on productivity and mood.
Co-working spaces and coffee shops have traditionally stepped in to bridge the gap, but now hotels, too, are determined to take WFH to a new, and rather more luxe, level. Travel trends are changing in the wake of restrictions, with many people opting for longer trips to make quarantines feel worth the inconvenience and to make use of the freedom that comes with the lack of usual commute. And, while the hospitality industry has suffered greatly with closures and lower occupancies, a diversification of its offering to safely tempt guests back seems like a win-win. It’s WFH, with the benefits of being in a hotel (and some added extras). It’s a change of scene that doesn’t drain annual leave, reimagines work-life balance and is a tantalizing upgrade from the mundane day to day.
Writing retreats have long been recognized as a chance to escape normality, inspire creativity and enhance motivation. But now, it isn’t only writers who can enjoy a working sanctuary. In the rolling rural French countryside, for instance, Domaine des Etangs – an enchanting 11th-century château and rustic-chic farmhouse cottages, surrounded by forest and lakes – offers a seriously secluded spot for remote workers to fully focus. Expect few distractions and total privacy, aside from the local herd of Limousin cows – followed by dinner in its divine Michelin-starred restaurant Dyades to reward a hard day’s work.
There are city ‘workations’, too, with hotels catering to clientele who want to upgrade their working day to sumptuous and spoilt surroundings (with high-speed wi-fi and business concierges on hand for admin assistance and coffee runs). Mandarin Oriental has launched its ‘Working from M.O.’ program, which allows guests to transport their office space to a suite for the day – with incredible views and access to five-star facilities. J.K. Place Paris is providing a haven for its working guests, from workspaces in lavish lounges to the extended rental of suites (not to mention the indoor pool and Sisley Spa for the most decadent of wind-downs).
The Marylebone in London is accommodating those looking for a longer-term WFH arrangement with the DC Workspace membership scheme. Members can book a private space – transformed from bedrooms, which retain the hotel’s sleek signature aesthetic – on a monthly basis. Membership includes use of all facilities, including the state-of-the-art Third Space gym and pool. Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s ultra-cool Wythe Hotel, housed in a 119-year-old converted factory, has collaborated with workplace designers Industrious to transform some of its Williamsburg loft rooms into rentable offices, with private outdoor spaces and riverside vistas.
But why not take remote working to another level still? Auberge Resorts Collection is welcoming families for work-play vacations, with on-site tutors to take care of the children’s education while their parents get on with virtual meetings from the most spectacular of destinations.
For those who opted for the paradise beach background to brighten up their Zoom calls, there is now the option for a dream relocation IRL. Barbados is enticing international visitors with the Barbados Welcome Stamp scheme, a visa system for remote workers designed to encourage people to live and work there for a year. It is hoped that the scheme will stimulate spending and increase GDP on the island, which relies heavily on its tourist industry and has subsequently suffered due to the pandemic. Here, hotels are also providing incentives for those looking for a longer-term change. The glorious Cobblers Cove, for instance, is offering special rates and extra touches for long-staying guests.
Recent travel restrictions have also brought about an opportunity to reflect on what makes for a meaningful trip, so it’s good to celebrate the hotels and hospitality brands that are working hard to give back. Look to the glorious El Fenn in Marrakech, which is expanding on its promise to create a home away from home for guests with a WFH Digital Nomad extended-stay package for those who want to delay their departure from its bejeweled riads. With this, the boutique hotel is also increasing its commitment to the community, environment and economy. Local suppliers and artisans have partnered to provide elements of its offering, from the art adorning the walls and zellige-tiled colonnades, to the organic bath products, restaurant ingredients and the teas and coffees that will fuel the working day. But the work doesn’t stop there: it is also in the process of developing initiatives to offset flight carbon emissions by planting trees in the Atlas Mountains, and a sponsorship program for children from local orphanages to support them through school. It’s a timely reminder to work on the future we want to see when much of normality resumes.