Politicians writing the new rules for the remote work economy need big industry names onboard. Hopefully they'll be able to cut through Brussels' characteristic bureaucracy and define something meaningful.
Future of Work
As organizations start to embrace distributed work and virtual meetings, the corporate travel and meetings sectors are preparing for change. Read Skift’s ongoing coverage of this shift in business travel behavior through the lens of both brands and consumers.
The European Parliament has enlisted senior execs from Selina, WeWork, and Zoom to help it draw up policies to address remote work challenges.
On February 23, Rafael Museri, CEO and co-founder of hospitality brand Selina, will be rubbing shoulders with European Commission policymakers, politicians and academics at the first in a series of private “European Union Policy Roundtables.” The parliament wants to make remote work “healthier” by overcoming barriers such as isolation and tax complications.
The Council of the European Union, which represents government ministers from each European Union country, who meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies, is also participating.
The first event, titled “The need for community in a remote work economy,” will tackle loneliness and alongside Museri, speakers include Constance Hadley, a lecturer and organizational psychologist at Boston University and European Parliament members Lidia Pereira and Estrella Dura Ferrandis.
Three roundtables in total are planned, and they’re being spearheaded by former CNN journalist Ben Marks, who launched the #WorkAnywhere campaign in January last year.
This global advocacy movement was set up to represent remote and hybrid workers, and has amassed 1.3 million followers on social media so far. Marks told Skift he wanted it to become the “Greenpeace” of the new remote work phenomenon, which is needed considering the major societal change “has thrust hundreds of millions of people into a new lifestyle.”
The European Union events represent the next phase of the campaign, he added, while a research project will later give policymakers the tools to have a data-driven conversation about challenges, and opportunities, of the remote work economy.
Friends in High Places
According to #WorkAnywhere, 32 percent of all employees worldwide will work remotely in 2022. It claims 65 percent of these people feel isolated or lonely “at least sometimes” and 17 percent “all of the time.”
“Loneliness can lead to sedentary behavior, relationship damage, depression, substance abuse and more, and has been estimated to shorten a person‘s life by up to 15 years,” the campaign warns. “Mental health professionals believe that distress caused by loneliness and isolation can build up over time without our conscious awareness.”
Museri is well placed to contribute, having previously discussed the idea of calculating the number of friendships formed at Selina’s locations as a business metric. “We believe in one simple thing: the best commercial strategy in the world … is to be the best place to socialize,” he said during a Skift Live event in March last year. “As a result of that, revenue will come, occupancy will come and higher average daily rate will come. We’re targeting the programming and the quality of the content to create this experience.”
Overall the roundtable hopes to “unearth new insights from the organizations and experts at the front-lines of tackling loneliness and building remote worker communities, highlighting best practices and exploring opportunities for a healthier future of work.”
Entrepreneur Olumide Gbenro, who recently launched a crowdfunding project to build a digital nomad island, will also be speaking at the event.
“We don’t want the lonely, lockdown-imposed home-working of the pandemic to become synonymous with remote work,” Marks added. “It’s imperative for us to tackle these problems head on and safeguard the mental health of workers. That’s what this discussion is about — but it’s also about the upside. The pandemic has triggered a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally reimagine the future of work.”
The talks place as Scale-Up Europe, a group of 150 founders, investors, researchers, business leaders and civil servants, proposes public authorities implement a new digital nomad visa to allow employees to work legally anywhere across the European Union on a remote basis.
After February 23, the next European Union Policy roundtable takes place on April 1, where executives from WeWork and Zoom will share their thoughts on how remote workers can best manage the work-life balance. Marks told Skift further events and celebrity-endorsed open letters will soon follow.
Corporate travel agencies, naturally, have been banging the drum about the importance of face-to-face meetings since the pandemic began. It makes business sense. But one founder has upped the ante, taking the story slightly further by likening our need to interact to prehistoric times.
“We’ve evolved over millions of years as a species, and it’s ingrained in our biology, in the animal brain that we can’t control, that we’re not aware of, and I find it a bit naive for people to think that the metaverse is going to replace that and everything will be great,” said TravelPerk’s Avi Meir during a LocalGlobe investor showcase earlier this month.
Meir was sharing his business’s ethos, which included a “contrarian” decision to hire record numbers of sales execs during the pandemic, rather than hibernate, at a time when most agencies were cutting staff. The decision paid off, as he said TravelPerk was now seeing revenue grow four times faster than before the pandemic
Part of the decision to double down on recruiting, as well as invest in the platform, is pegged to his belief that humans need social interaction to build trust. “It goes back to the days of the tribes,” he continued. “A tribe would have inherent trust because they happen to be in the same place, there’s no other reason. The tribe next door they trust a bit less, and the tribe on another continent, they don’t understand them and just want to kill them. It was all based on physical proximity and this hasn’t changed. We sometimes like to pretend that we’re a bit more sophisticated than the caveman, but we’re not.”
Expect to see this anecdote feature in pitch decks for some time.
10-Second Corporate Travel Catch-Up
WeWork and Upflex Combine Their Portfolios
Co-working space aggregator Upflex has combined its global network of on-demand workspaces with WeWork, joining the portfolios to create a large marketplace of options for remote and hybrid workers. Through the partnership, WeWork and its hundreds of thousands of members will gain access to Upflex’s portfolio of 4,800 third-party spaces, provided by 700 flex space operators, including Industrious, across 80 countries. At the same time, all of the co-working brands in Upflex’s network gain access to WeWork’s community of 28,000 member companies. It’s the first time WeWork is allowing bookings from a third-party platform, and represents the next phase in its asset-light growth strategy. WeWork will also participate in Upflex’s Series A funding, alongside other investors, as part of the strategic partnership.
CWT Commits Technology Budget to Greener Travel
Corporate Travel Agency CWT will spend some of the $100 million committed to technology development as part of its recapitalization plan on responsible travel initiatives, helping travel managers achieve more “purposeful travel programs.” The agency said 67 percent of its global customers stated their company’s sustainability goals were more important since the pandemic. The first tranche of the investment will also go towards adding more supplier content and enhancing the MyCWT platform’s connectivity, to ensure a “seamless and productive digital experience for travel managers and their travelers.” The new features launch in the next six months.
Furnished Finder Grows Network In Extended Stay America Deal
Corporate housing marketplace Furnished Finder has added Extended Stay America to its network, boosting it by 650 hotels, or 71,000 rooms, across 44 states in the U.S. Furnished Finder’s portfolio of properties target traveling healthcare workers and professionals, including traveling nurses. Furnished Finder now has more than 70,000 properties, which represents a potential of 20 million bookable nights per month. “Developing partnerships with reputable hotels is key to successfully serving our travelers” said Brian Payne, co-founder and CEO of Furnished Finder.
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Tags: business travel, cwt, europe, european commission, european union, extended stay america, Future of Work Briefing, remote workers, selina, Skift Pro Columns, travel management, travelperk, wework, Zoom