The work-from-anywhere force is on the rise, but face-to-face time with co-workers remains vital. For their internal gatherings, some remote teams have found co-living spaces can offer a better environment for bonding than traditional meeting venues.
As the number of remote workers continues to rise, so do the number and variety of spaces to accommodate them. According to Euromonitor International’s 2016 World Travel Market Global Trends Report, “there has been a rise in start-ups offering co-living with all amenities and attracting a younger generation lured by the cheaper rents in desirable locations. With changes in how we work, live, and travel, hotels and short-term rental providers are changing their products and services to cater to new demands.”
Co-living and co-working spaces have become a major area of interest among hoteliers, chief among them Ian Schrager, who recently told Skift he was fascinated by co-living and co-working spaces as the next big trend in hospitality.
Schrager said, “… The technology, you’d think it adds contact and community, and it does in a certain way, but it isolates you from the actual face-to-face human contact. So I think people are seeking that in their work, and seeking that with the way they live, and that’s why I think that happens. It just doesn’t happen for no reason. And that’s what I think, for me. I mean I’m not data-driven, I’m intuitively driven, and that’s what I think.”
Although co-living and co-working spaces mostly cater to the individual, some are equipped to offer a new kind of hybrid venue for groups, and to facilitate invaluable “face-to-face human contact” like Schrager described. Some have transformed into meeting spaces that are conducive not just for gathering but actively working, shared accommodations that feel relaxed and lived-in, plus a level of service on par with what they’d find at many hotels.
“An experience in between Airbnb and a hotel,” is how Emmanuel Guisset describes Outsite, which he founded in May 2016. Outsite offers six locations for retreats, including four in California, one in Puerto Rico, and another in Costa Rica, opening this month.
Guisset shapes the experience based on feedback he has heard from customers tired of the big-box hotel experience — that their teams didn’t really mingle because they stayed in their hotel rooms, and that the activities were old fashioned, for example. At Outsite, groups share houses or villas, cook meals together, and take surf lessons on breaks. “It’s still a bit niche … but in five or 10 years this will be mainstream,” adds Guisset.
The difference here is that the workspaces have been specially designed for a real 9-to-5 workday, not just brainstorming or lectures. “[For remote employees], it’s like a real work retreat for them,” said Guisset. “They work most of the time and they need good work facilities — super-fast Wi-Fi, white boards, Apple TV — all of the things they would have in a proper co-working space.”
For companies choosing Outsite over a typical hotel or resort, the appeal of two kinds of infrastructure — one that facilitates bonding and another that can accommodate intense working — all in one location is strong.
“We’re just looking for a space where we can work and hang out,” said Eva Tang, product manager at Precision Nutrition, a nutrition coaching company made up of all remote employees. Tang has twice taken her team of 12 to Outsite locations for working retreats, often when they are on the last leg of a project and need a place to hunker down and concentrate. She says the benefit of the team working and living in the same space is huge during this crunch time.
“Having the entire team in person makes things move a lot faster,” said Tang. But beyond efficiency, the co-living setup, which basically gives them run of the property, helps to facilitate something deeper. “Remote work can begin to feel transactional, if you’re not careful. You ping people when you need them. You can’t jump on a Google Hangout to have coffee like you would in an office. Doing the retreats together is a way to mitigate that; to just be able to hang out without building an agenda or needing something from someone.”
Roam, a network of co-living spaces, targets the individual digital nomad, but all four of its locations (Miami, Ubud, Tokyo, and London) host groups “about every other month,” said Dane Andrews, Roam’s co-founder and vice president of sales. Equipped with accommodations they describe as “more affordable than a hotel and more inspiring than a furnished apartment,” each Roam location comes with co-working spaces, high-speed Wi-Fi, plus everyday essentials like laundry facilities. On-site community managers can assist with setting up activities and other on-the-ground needs.
Since Roam is set up for long-term stays, it can be a more affordable option than a hotel if a group is staying for more than just a couple of days. Andrews says the average length of a group stay is about two weeks, but that it ranges between a few days and a month. “It’s a pretty large piece of our business,” said Andrews. He anticipates Roam will have 10 total properties by the end of 2017.
Besides potential cost savings, the difference in choosing a co-living space like Outsite or Roam over a traditional hotel is in the details. For example, the underestimated advantage of having a kitchen. “That is, hands down, the No. 1 difference,” said Andrews. “[It’s] where you can come together, cook a meal, and hang out as a family. You get to see a different side of them, not just as a co-worker or colleague, but an actual friend, family member, someone you have a bond and trust with that you didn’t have before.”
Photo credit: A group dines at the Roam co-living/co-working space in Bali. Co-living spaces like Roam and Outsite which encourage communal living are becoming attractive meeting venue options for companies with workforces made up of remote employees. Sara Herrlander / Roam