Skift Take

Hybrid work is here to stay, but most companies aren’t taking control of the management of co-work or flexible office spaces in the same way they manage travel. And that’s going to become a costly mistake.

As corporations adapt to hybrid ways of working, there’s still confusion about how best to manage co-working spaces for remote employees.

Just 17 percent of travel managers say the procurement and management of these spaces for staff to meet and work in is “fully managed,” according to a Global Business Travel Association report due out next month.

And 44 percent don’t know how their company procures co-working spaces.

The results are surprising considering the vast number of hotels that cater to remote working trends, from transforming rooms into makeshift offices or simply offering more meeting spaces.

Corporate travel agencies are also trying to make life easier, including American Express Global Business Travel via its Workspaces tool and Reed & Mackay, which both partnered with meetings platform Hubli.

Zero Bandwidth

But travel managers aren’t to blame, argues the report, titled “A New Order: Business Travel, Corporate Procurement and Workspaces in a Post-Pandemic World.”

For one, they have bigger problems on their plate, namely the operational challenges surrounding the return to travel. Employees are out of practice and have lots of questions, and flying isn’t that easy with all the airline delays.

Nearly four in five travel managers said they were spending “more time” or “much more time” troubleshooting traveler issues, based on the association’s late June 2022 poll of 223 travel managers across the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

“It’s a strategic new topic,” said Tobias Ragge, CEO of corporate hotel booking platform HRS, which co-published the report and launched a platform called “New Work” to address the issue at the association’s convention in San Diego last week.

“So far, corporations are unclear how this thing will evolve. I can’t see any (travel managers) saying, ‘yes, I’ve got bandwidth, let’s step up into somebody else’s turf.’ They will wait for someone to tell them: ‘I think you guys should look into this,'” he added.

There’s also some confusion over who’s job it is, with most companies allocating the task of setting up remote work policies to their human resources teams. Logistically, it’s often seen as the duty of facilities management.

GBTA remote work poll June 2022

Source: Global Business Travel Association

Get It Together

The need for more flexible office space in’t going anywhere soon because new ways of working are here to stay, the poll found, with two in three (67 percent) travel managers anticipating a hybrid schedule. Some 39 percent of respondents also said their company was hiring more remote workers than before the pandemic.

Travel managers should now step up, the reports suggests.

They’re best-placed due to their procurement and sourcing expertise, as they can leverage their “preferred relationships” with suppliers like hotels, or flexible office space providers, including WeWork and IWG.

For now, many bookings are being made directly with the space provider, rather than through a program.

GBTA remote work poll booking June 2022

Source: Global Business Travel Association

There’s also a “natural tie-in” because office spend might actually be tied to business trips or meetings if, for example, an employee travels to meet clients and needs to rent a meeting room in the city they are visiting. And with experience around risk management, travel managers can easily set up protocols around co-working.

If travel managers get more control and extra data, then they have a better argument to negotiate larger discounts with hotel and meeting space suppliers, as they can capitalize on larger booking volumes. In the association’s poll, 71 percent of travel managers said they would gain from having the consolidated data from hotel, meeting and co-working bookings.

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Tags: american express gbt, business travel, corporate travel, future of work, gbta, hotels, hrs, iwg, meetings and events, remote work, travel management, wework

Photo credit: Just 17 percent of travel managers say the procurement and management of co-working spaces is fully managed, according to a new report from the Global Business Travel Association. Surface / Unsplash