Train stations, airports and shopping centers: in the future, according to Wojo, there will be all kinds of new spaces for remote working.
The brand, a joint venture between Accor and the French real estate group Bouygues Immobilier, aims to go beyond Accor hotels and dedicated co-working buildings. The success of converting a football stadium into a remote working hotspot last summer has something to do with that, according to the CEO.
“It showed that we can work anywhere”, Stephane Bensimon. “We’ve shown that companies can make staff work anywhere, as long as there is a minimal structure, such as Wi-Fi and space.”
In total, 1,000 workers went to the Parc des Princes, in Paris, in September 2021, with an “incredible” waiting list. “We’ll see if we can do more of that stuff,” Bensimon said.
Although Wojo has an exclusive partnership with Accor, which owns 50 percent, it continues to pursue more creative ideas. After installing a co-working space in a Relay supermarket at a train station in Annemasse, eastern France, Wojo is in talks with other partners, including Lagardere, which owns Relay and airport duty-free shops. It has also engaged with other investors and operators exploring the rollout of co-work spaces in their commercial centers.
“They need to reinvent themselves in this digital world,” said Lenaic Bezin, Wojo’s Head of Third Places Development. “What is the experience in the shopping center of tomorrow? Many companies ask questions. They want to multiply the number of touchpoints they have with customers, and when it comes to work, we go every day — it’s a way to attract people.”
Another big outcome for the parties is that adding workspaces to train stations will help them reconnect with the city or town, and not just as a transit point for commuters. “They want to reinvent it,” Bezin said. The Annemasse pilot with Lagardere already showed that both locals and travelers used the Wojo space and often took people with them, he added.
It’s a smart move, because as the European Commission moves forward with its 55-fit climate change proposals, travel may soon begin to shift to rail rather than plane, as the way forward for Member States.
Wojo is also about to open its first space in Paris under a management contract, with developer Jean Turon. The building near the Saint-Lazare train station will include both offices and open workspaces. Like Airbnb, it aims to transform itself into a verb and offer Wojo As A Service or WAAS.
There are now more than 15 standalone Wojo spaces, but Bensimon said it continued to work with Accor hotels to convert guest rooms and meeting rooms into dedicated Wojo offices. “For the past few months, we’ve been working with hotels that want to go further and convert some of their rooms or meeting rooms into Wojo spaces,” he said. It involves 50 hotels looking to convert 5 or 10 percent of the floor space, and the CEO thinks co-working revenues could double that of traditional hotel revenues in the future.
To date, 5,000 Accor properties are part of the Wojo network and the brand is doubling in size in Latin America. In Brazil, it is active in 100 hotels, with Chile, Peru, Colombia and Argentina also as focus for growth.
“There is still a profound transformation in the world of work and many companies are still asking questions about their future workplaces, with the integration of home working and how to encourage collaboration in offices,” added Bensimon.
A Japanese media company’s generous ‘commuter budget’ may be an anomaly rather than a model for the future of business.
As of April 1, Yahoo Japan will offer each of its 8,000 employees a monthly budget of $1,300 to commute to work as part of a new remote work plan. Previously, they could work remotely for limited periods and live within train distance of their workplace, but now they can live anywhere in the country. ANA’s Peach airline was clearly at the forefront when it launched its all-you-can-fly subscription model last October.
Commuter budgets could be something for travel managers to think about, but maybe not yet, as it could be a Japanese phenomenon. “There are other companies that are doing the same thing in Japan, but we strongly believe that our move is furthering it,” a Yahoo Japan spokesperson told Skift.
BCD’s consulting arm Advito said commuter budgets weren’t something it heard a lot about from its clients, but kept an eye on it as an evolving trend.
American Express Global Business Travel said some of its customers were also experimenting, but with initiatives such as “district meetings” to hold a separate meeting for each region within driving distance of attendees’ home locations.
“It’s probably at the extreme end of things and certainly not the norm,” said Pat McDonagh, CEO of corporate travel agency Clarity. “What will be interesting to see and understand is how Yahoo operates it. They say it’s a per capita budget and I suspect they want to manage it somehow and control that spending… the bigger risk is allowing for misfits and unchecked spending, without the required processes in place. ”
There is also a grant for “internal social gatherings” of up to $45 per month per employee. Rather than a financial risk, the spokesperson said the company was compensating for it because it saved office rent.
Meanwhile, the media company is experimenting with what is left of real estate and will try splitting floors, such as ‘a floor where one person can concentrate’ and ‘a floor where everyone can meet and communicate’.
The company also provides meals for meetings, which it calls an “online social gathering set.”
“In today’s world, where there are no right answers or precedents, there are no established methods or ways for new ways of working,” said Kentaro Kawabe, president and CEO of Yahoo Japan.
10-second business catch-up
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