Time to try the new ‘WFH’: Working from hospo
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The increase in hybrid working arrangements post COVID has given rise to a new meaning for ‘WFH’ – now it’s all about “working from hospo”. Whether it’s cafes, restaurants or hotels, people are increasingly taking their laptops and settling in for a coffee and a meal rather than raiding the snack machine at the office.
Phoebe Howlett, from Melbourne, has embraced “work from hospo”. She works for a fintech company and used to fly interstate for the day to have four meetings. Now with hybrid work arrangements, she instead stays interstate for a week to have those four meetings, often working remotely from the cafe in the hotel.
“I love the autonomy that I can do my work from anywhere. I’m more focused with no distractions,” Howlett says. “The coworking space I regularly go to here in Melbourne has 400 people there. If I work in a hotel, it’s just me, with no distractions.”
Colin Higgins at his local cafe.Credit: Eddie Jim
JLL’s latest workplace preferences barometer last year found 36 per cent of employees work in these “third places” at least once a week, up 8 per cent from the previous year. The findings also show the interest is set to continue, with third places remaining attractive in the future to 33 per cent of respondents.
Swinburne University also investigated the appeal of working from cafes and other locations in 2022, and the research showed cafes were the favourite type of third space, but others included libraries, pubs, parks and coworking spaces.
In the research, the top three benefits to working in a third place were seen to be mental reset, community and social connection, and great food and coffee.
Those are reasons Colin Higgins goes to work at what he terms the “coffice”. He discovered it while he was on a recent work trip in New Zealand, getting work done there at cafes.
Now he regularly does the same in Melbourne where he lives and works as Associate Dean at the Deakin University Business School.
“I worked from home to focus prior to COVID, however, after long periods of working from home, I missed the banter in the corridor, you know, chatting about what you’re having for dinner, what you did on the weekend, the social interaction that normally makes up the workplace. I now get that in a new space, forming social connections with cafe staff,” he says.
It turns out not only will your work and mind benefit from working in such third spaces, you could also be making a difference to the hospitality industry.
“Employees working from hospitality venues is providing a new income stream to our venues at times when they would not otherwise be able to generate revenue, such as between meal periods at off-peak times,” says Mike Barouche, general manager at the Australian Hotels Association.
Swinburne researchers found that people who work in third places will stay anywhere between 15 minutes and 4 hours and spend up to $30 each visit.
Adam Doherty working from the Governor Hotel in Macquarie Park.Credit: Rhett Wyman
“With this new way of working, people are coming in at those normally super quiet times, which is fantastic,” says Leon Colosimo, who owns 10 pub venues across Sydney, including Bella Vista Hotel and The Governor Hotel.
“They might come in to order a coffee, do some of their laptop work. They might also get a non-alcoholic beverage, and then they’ll usually eat a bit of lunch, too, which is exactly what we want.
“We have power stations for people to charge their devices, strong Wi-Fi, new furniture, so we’re ticking all the boxes for making it comfortable.”
Swinburne’s research revealed deep individual work was the most common work task completed in these places, including creative thinking, reading, admin tasks and emails. This is how Higgins says he likes to work at his newfound “coffice”, saving in-person meetings for the office or online meetings for the home.
“Working at cafes has given me a source of energy. There are fewer distractions. I go there to focus, to socialise or take a break,” Higgins says.
Sharon Williams, CEO of Taurus Marketing says she takes her team out to work in third spaces.
“Sometimes we do our team meetings in cafes, and we’ve often gone to the beach for the day and work remotely. I start to see their real personalities and it breaks the routine up. When they’re happy and having fun, you get a burst of loyalty and culture,” she says.
Suresh Manickam, from Restaurant and Catering Australia, says this trend could help revitalise city cafes.
“This can help bring the vibrancy and foot traffic back to the city centre, the cafe and restaurant culture, and we are still seeking ways to do that post-COVID,” he says.
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