Amsterdam – Attention-seeking kids, piano-practicing neighbours and overflowing laundry baskets: distraction and disruption are abundant in the home offices that so many of us now work from on a daily basis. And with industry events cancelled and social gatherings discouraged, a change of scenery is rare. It’s a situation that hospitality entrepreneurs, hit hard by the current pandemic, are smartly responding to. By rebranding their hotel rooms as day-stay hideaways, they are tapping into an inimitably grown target group. It’s a sympathetic survival mode that responds to the problems of our new – and hopefully temporary – reality.
One of the hospitality brands to expand its strategy is the Amsterdam-founded Zoku. It's a necessity, explains cofounder Hans Meyer. ‘One of our main challenges is to keep the business afloat. Hotel occupancy rates have fallen to levels our industry has never seen before. In Amsterdam alone, this has caused over 200 hotels to already close their doors.’ Not Zoku, however. Because they offer long-term stays, the hotel has its own residents. In addition, it's welcoming guests from neighbouring hotels that were forced to close.
Despite the fact that their Lofts are already outfitted as home-office hybrids – a four-person table is the central feature, instead of a bed – there are challenges to overcome, too. With the implementation of safety regulations that involve social distancing, the communal spaces of the hotel are no longer open to the public. ‘But physical distancing can make people feel lonely,’ says Meyer, ‘so we came up with a buddy system to help prevent social isolation. Each resident is assigned a team member who does daily check-ins asking about their wellbeing. We have to understand that our residents, being far away from home and their loved ones, might be under more mental stress than ever before. That’s why we are upping our “tender loving care” by building a virtual community to keep everybody connected as much as possible. In this community, we share important COVID-19 updates, but also fun things like curated online events where we can still spend time with each other in a virtual way.’
It’s our natural mandate to promote the work-from-home lifestyle
To continue serving the local community in Amsterdam now that their role as city living room and co-working hub has been curtailed, Zoku introduced its Private WorkLofts. For a daily fee of €50 guests get ‘a bit of peace and quiet, and a convenient place to work for the day’. What’s more? A room-service lunch is included and the self-sufficient rooms are equipped with a kitchen, high-speed Wi-Fi and an office toolbox full of stationary and supplies. ‘Unlike other hotels, it’s our natural mandate to promote the work-from-home lifestyle. So our lofts are especially interesting for people who can’t work at home or go into the office at this time,’ says Meyer. ‘It’s a great example of using unused capacity, re-thinking your business model and adapting yourself to new circumstances. And, if successful, it's something we can pursue postcrisis.’
Looking at creative ways to deal with unused capacity is at the brand’s core. Zoku was one of the key initiators of a cooperation with Rabobank Amsterdam, the Red Cross and Koninklijke Horeca Nederland to explore how we could mitigate under-capacity in healthcare with overcapacity in hospitality. And there lies potential in office realm too. ‘In the Amsterdam agglomeration, there are millions of square metres of office space. None are used during evenings, nights, weekends, holidays, et cetera. Zoku believes in using space smarter and far more efficiently by promoting hybrid living. Ultimately that’s far more sustainable and conveniently saves the commute.
In line with – and for the same price as – the Zoku Private Work Lofts, Hotel V, also based in Amsterdam, announced V-Works. Between nine and five it’s possible to rent a private hotel room to ‘get your work done safely’. It comes with a free parking spot and contactless room service. And when you are finally in that much-needed state of concentration, you can decide to stay the night for a small extra charge. Unless your now worn-out kids are waiting to be tucked in.