Hotelisation of offices:
How hospitality design and approach is increasingly becoming entrenched into the corporate offices within Africa
Africa is a young continent, and so too is its workforce. This will become even more pronounced in years to come, with more younger employees who often live independently. The workplace becomes the primary place of social interaction and colleagues are a valued source of relationships. The office is needing to evolve in a way to foster this, and any concerns around this being counter-productive have proved to be misguided. Rather, companies that focus on creating a culture of social connections among employees have higher levels of productivity.
The phrase ‘hotelisation of offices’ refers to the trend of modern office spaces being designed and operated more like hotels. This concept involves creating office environments that are more comfortable, visually appealing, and user-friendly – akin to the experience of staying in a hotel. The ultimate aim is to create an inviting and enjoyable workplace that promotes productivity, creativity, and employee satisfaction.
The hotelisation trend is driven by the growing demand for quality office spaces that cater to the needs and preferences of modern workers. With the increasing number of businesses and startups operating in African cities, there is a need for office spaces that provide more than just a desk and chair, but also greater flexibility, fewer contractual obligations, and access to amenities or services that would otherwise require a (potentially prohibitive capital outlay).
Employees want the convenience and flexibility they can get from working at home, yet our DNA requires the collaboration and sense of community that comes from the traditional office space. The hospitality sector is increasingly being drawn on for inspiration when creating offices that cater to the future of work. The focus of hotel design has always been to create a destination that provides wellness, productivity, and convenience. These factors are no longer considered optional for employees and corporates have realised the notable benefits of incorporating them into the contemporary office.
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This trend is not only limited to the physical design and amenities but also the “guest experience” personnel. Employees want to have the same experience when being served in their office cafeteria as they would in a hotel lobby restaurant. This has been a success factor for many flex operators who have realized the need for staff to be focused on improving the guest experience.
Hotels in Africa have always been an important workspace when travelling, and the inverse theme is shaping hotel design as much as it is shaping the office. Hotel lobbies are often the meeting venue of choice, even for people not staying at a particular hotel. We have also seen the rise of co-working within hotels globally, as this symbiotic use of space is a perfect annexe to the corporate guest experience, with the same trend very much evident in Africa with partnerships between Kasada and WOJO, “The Works” by Latitude Hotels or Workshop 17 in the VOCO Johannesburg in Rosebank. Often these partners can provide meeting space more efficiently to hotel guests than the traditional conferencing facilities for a hotel.
In hospitality, every interaction is considered to impact the guest experience. This involves determining the areas of the property to emphasize, typically areas with high foot traffic or special features like a tenant lounge, café, or conference and event centres. Landlords don’t need to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of providing these services, many can be catered for through partnerships with specialists in this space.
By infusing these areas with hospitality experts such as guest service representatives or community managers instead of security and parking, you can ensure a positive experience in these places of impact. Africa is likely to see these trends become particularly pronounced given the young, technologically advanced working population. For many, the cost of returning to the office is a lot higher than other parts of the world. Higher transport costs and commute time makes it more of an imperative for the office to entice rather than force employees into the office.
Space as a Service
Akin to the hotelisation of offices, is the growing tendency toward offering ‘space as a service’. This refers to a business model where companies or individuals can rent physical space on a short-term basis, rather than committing to a long-term lease. The space as a service model is often associated with co-working spaces, which provide shared office facilities and services such as Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, and printing facilities. However, the concept can also apply to other types of spaces, such as retail stores, event spaces, and even residential properties (i.e. co-living).
The key feature of space as a service is the flexibility it offers to its customers, and this is especially applicable in the African context, where the tertiary sector is still in its relative nascency. Rather than investing in a fixed physical location, businesses or individuals can access space on a temporary or needs basis, allowing them to scale their operations up or down as required.
The trend towards "space as a service" is driven by several factors, including changes in technology, the way people work, and the evolving needs of businesses. The concept has been popularized by the success of co-working spaces, which have shown that there is a significant market for flexible workspaces. As a result, many landlords and real estate developers are now incorporating “flex” into their portfolios to meet the needs of this growing market. Co-working has gained traction in the African market, appealing to established international corporates who opt not to have a conventional lease and to younger professionals and entrepreneurs who benefit from the climate of collaboration.
Co-working and shared workspaces are becoming increasingly popular in Africa, especially in larger commercial centres. In Africa’s 36 largest cities (excluding South Africa) there are over 500 estimated co-working premises available, operated by well-known operators such as Regus, as well as many regional platforms that have emerged.
Number of Co-working Facilities
Source: Coworking Africa, 2023
These trends have also been found to influence the design and location of offices. For example, as cities become more congested there may be a greater emphasis on locating offices in areas that are easily accessible or closer to residential areas. Similarly, urbanisation is leading to a greater emphasis on sustainable and green buildings or building practices, effectively influencing the design and construction of commercial real estate.
Contact Wayne GodwinHead of East Africa & Indian Ocean, JLL SVP, JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group,
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