Daniel Shaw

Flex-It: Rethinking Work and Travel in a Post-Pandemic World

In the wake of the pandemic, both life and work are undergoing a significant transformation, with individuals reevaluating their priorities and seeking to strike a healthier work-life balance.

One example (from FutureLabs 2023 report) is Chris Welsch, a semi-retired photographer and editor who made the bold decision to leave behind his life in Paris and embrace a quieter existence in the countryside of Burgundy. The COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for such shifts, prompting many to seek a more fulfilling and community-oriented lifestyle. Crucially, this shift does not necessarily entail winding down one’s career. In Chris Welsch’s case, he embarked on a full-time role with Microsoft Communications in Europe, traveling across the continent to explore and write about the profound impact of technology on both individuals and the planet.

The enduring importance of a healthy work-life balance is becoming increasingly evident. Non-linear work arrangements have become a permanent fixture, with employers and employees alike adapting to this paradigm shift. They leverage innovative tech platforms and apps to mitigate the challenges while maximising the benefits of this flexible work model.

The return of out-of-city commuters as in-office mandates resume has prompted hotels to introduce specialised offerings to cater to mid-week travellers. Supercommuters, a term popularised by The New York Times, are willing to invest in accommodation deals that enable them to maintain a comfortable suburban lifestyle while fulfilling their city-based work commitments.

In the United Kingdom, the Accor Group has rolled out the Commute and Stay promotion, offering attractive discounts on midweek stays, a flexible cancellation policy, and support for organising work-related and client meetings. Meanwhile, The Hoxton in Chicago launched the Work Stay Play package, designed for monthly subscribers, providing access to the hotel’s co-working spaces, along with a range of perks for both business and leisure. The general manager encourages guests to make the most of these “workcation” opportunities.

These flexible solutions are mutually beneficial for employees and employers alike. As work conditions continue to evolve, supercommuters are embracing the concept of long-term commutes coupled with subscribed hotel stays, allowing them to strike a balance between urban and suburban living while fulfilling their in-office commitments.

This evolving landscape presents a burgeoning opportunity for brands and businesses to incentivise remote workers to engage more deeply with local communities. Simultaneously, new travel networks are emerging to cater to the needs of affluent global nomads, offering innovative models that allow them to explore the world without exceeding their monthly rent budget. Airbnb, for instance, released a guide in September 2022 outlining how governments and communities can harness the benefits of the rising trend of remote work. For example, a remote worker incentive program implemented in Tulsa, Oklahoma, contributed £18.5 million ($20 million, €20.7 million) to the gross domestic product, as reported by Airbnb.

Premium travel network Wander curates a selection of smart rental homes tailored to the needs of a new era of remote workers. Simultaneously, luxury travel service Inspirato Select targets the emerging “bleisure” habits of affluent travellers. Their subscription model offers a straightforward and cost-effective means of accessing, utilising, and sharing luxury holidays. Trips booked under this subscription can be transferred to family or friends or even used for business purposes, recognising the need to offer flexible travel arrangements.

These evolving trends not only enhance the experiences of workers but also have the potential to significantly boost local economies and foster a new era of work and hospitality environments worldwide.

References taken from The Future Laboratory and Wunderman Thompson

Daniel Shaw