Zoom With a View: How Displaced Workers Fueled the Work-From-Hotel (WFH) Trend

The world froze due to COVID-19, and the hotel industry is still in a bit of shock. While business travel is mostly stalled and vacations are slowly picking back up, there’s another category of guests that shouldn’t be ignored: Work-From-Hotel (WFH) guests. Whether displaced by the pandemic, floods, fires or other extreme circumstances, a growing number of professionals are using hotel rooms for temporary shelter and as home offices. Another group of guests are the thousands of university students seeking temporary housing due to campus social distancing measures. The expectations of these unlikely guests are more demanding than those of the vacationer or business traveler. Hoteliers can make this a win-win: a boost to low occupancy rates for them and an upgrade in convenience, safety and productivity for their guests.

But with stretched staff and stricter regulations, how can hotels provide top-notch service and a high-quality guest experience for this new category of customer? Here are three easy steps hotels can take right now to help the WFH guests navigate these strange and difficult times.

1. Keep Them Connected

As guests are displaced from their homes and dorms for various reasons, hotels are a port in the proverbial storm and provide a lifeline to work or to virtual classrooms. For these circumstances, connectivity that offers security, bandwidth and ease-of-use is paramount. Behind every connection is a business project, class lecture or all of the personal networking that happens in between.

A colleague of mine recently had a house flood and was living in a hotel during construction. Most evenings after putting her child to sleep, she needed to work. The hotel only offered basic, public Wi-Fi, and at night, a high percentage of guests streamed Netflix shows. The internet was unusable due to the “connectivity hogs.”

Knowing the importance of bandwidth and understanding the pain points of guests, hotels can prepare for these occupancy spikes by ensuring bandwidth is dispersed appropriately at all times. Whether it’s for work or leisure, each guest deserves a high level of service and a fast, secure and reliable connection.

2. Repurpose Space for Quiet Zones

In typical business travel, guests would work from offices, coffee shops or other locations during the day and use their hotel stays just for dining and sleeping. Students would learn in classrooms or study in campus libraries. But all of this has shifted. Out of health concerns or office/school closures, the WFH guests need to work and do more from their hotels. But when guests have children or other family members in the room, the distraction levels tend to soar. It might be time to repurpose common areas for getting work done.

While breakfast areas or office centers may be closed due to COVID-19, there are ways to still use these spaces. Following strict cleaning protocols and social distancing measures, hotels can repurpose their dining rooms into a shared workspace. Many hotels are turning unused rooms into rentable office/workspace for day guests to help recoup the 50% drop in room revenue. For an added bonus, hotels can boost the connections in these rooms for free, as Wi-Fi usage will rise during these peak times.

3. Offer High-Touch Service Without the Touch

Many people enjoy the amenities and personal touch that the hotel experience provides. But in today’s environment, it’s difficult to offer meaningful face-to-face interactions from a distance. One way to help ease the strain: touchless technologies. Hoteliers can leverage contactless solutions to eliminate up to 50 common touchpoints and can increase staff efficiency by offering self-service amenities.

Many self-service technologies enable processes to be sped up or skipped altogether. Guests will often opt-in for mobile check-in or check-out, mobile room keys, and digital concierge whenever possible. Being able to use their own phones or voice commands in the room to make requests adds another level of safety and convenience to the guest experience. And being able to simply cast their preferred shows or work content to the TV without having to mess with logins is a plus.

Bonus: Kindness Goes a Long Way
These are tough times, and these new guests are in uncharted territory. A kind greeting, a hand-written note from housekeeping or a free Wi-Fi upgrade could make a huge difference in the day of someone staying in a hotel right now. It’s the little things that matter, and simple acts of kindness go a long way.

Hotels are providing a necessary haven to many displaced people. The services they are providing go beyond hoteling; they’ve become an integral part of the business and academic lifeblood of their communities. A note of gratitude to the hoteliers around the world who are doing their part.

The original post appeared in Hotel Online in October 2020.