THE WORK CULTURE CASE FOR HOTELING
It’s important to note that the purpose of office life is collaboration. But with fewer individuals in the office at any given time, collaboration is diluted — unless it is intentional. Hoteling is a better conceptual support for intentional collaboration in a hybrid office.
Law firms need to create new, robust processes for first-year associates up through the senior ranks that focus on intentionally creating collaborative spaces and environments. They need to offer times and spaces for social interaction, and this does not happen without meeting room management.
This also entails proactively changing the connotation of hoteling for lawyers. Law firms should pivot to an enhanced range of services like individuals can expect from a concierge — i.e., shifting “hoteling” to a “hotel-like experience.” That includes reimagined reception spaces and service offerings, including dry cleaning, shoe polishing and help with local arrangements.
It also means more support in getting individuals settled in meeting spaces, including attention to their needs for food and drinks, IT support, and ensuring space for those who want to work after their meetings are complete.
As the office’s purpose shifts to collaboration and socially focused activities, companies should aim to create these balanced offices that blend comfort, collaboration and productivity to heighten — not lessen — what the office experience offers.
In a hybrid environment, do lawyers who work from home need to replicate their isolation in office? Office space needs have changed, and firms need to strike a balance between collaboration and focus spaces, incorporating elements for social interaction.
HOW IT’S WORKED IN PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
Professional services have already moved in this direction. Since many of their personnel were working entirely remotely before the pandemic, that shift in vision for the office is an established fact.
The professional services model de-emphasizes ownership and individuation and emphasizes team over the individual. As a result, this makes the hoteling approach to office space more accepted in these firms as the real estate is fit for purpose. Most of their employees are mobile, so this model provides better office space management, maximizing office space and delivering major savings for the company. Not only is unnecessary real estate eliminated, the organization also saves money on overhead costs.
If an employee works the majority of time at home or on the road, there’s no point in assigning them a seat and renting space. If you know that specific rooms are frequently left empty, you can turn those spaces into lounges or collaboration spaces for employees that drive improved productivity and teamwork. Employees become more productive, deliver higher-quality work and higher value to their clients.
And it’s not enough for firms just to turn to technology like booking systems to manage their meeting spaces. Firms need more people managing meeting rooms. Professional services firms have an army of people around the country helping them manage meetings and meeting rooms. Firms should be looking at these added expenses in the context of attorney retention and reduced real estate spending.
The future of law firm operations is already here. Lawyers (and their staff) like working from home. Firms are engaged in talent wars at every level with remote work capabilities as one of the pivotal benefits. The great news is, firms that can leverage the benefits of hoteling stand to gain significantly from real estate reduction strategies — and elevate the experience of being in the office for a new kind of client and workforce.