Room service: Hotels turn unused suites into pop-up office space

Hotels in Brisbane and other Australian cities are converting spare rooms into temporary office space as they seek to take advantage of the huge changes in how people work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oct 28, 2020, updated Oct 28, 2020

More than 50 hotels across the country have opted to turn their unused rooms into spaces for office workers and professionals working remotely.

Plummeting business and holiday travel caused by the pandemic has left the accommodation industry scrambling to find new sources of revenue, with a many seeing a new market in those wanting a remote work space outside of their own homes.

Some hotels overseas have even turned to providing accommodation for doctors, nurses and other emergency workers treating COVID patients. Others have given over their rooms and conference spaces to students whose schools are shuttered due to the pandemic but still need places to learn.

While some hotels in Australia have become temporary homes for travellers forced to quarantine or homeless people helped by governments wanting to stop the spread of infections, the idea of turning rooms into offices is also catching on.

Hotels are using firms such as Australian company Spacenow to rent out rooms for offices from about $79 a day or $500 a week.

Spacenow chief executive officer Daniel Gunning said the company was finding business from two sources – professionals or businesspeople who need to find an alternative to working from home and companies shying away from committing to long term office leases.

He said many Australians had been working from home since the pandemic began in March, which had taken a mental and physical toll.

“Working with children, not leaving the house, working with workstations that are not adapted, not being able to meet with colleagues on strategic projects: those are all factors that are pushing Australians to look at new remote working options closer to their homes and families,” he said.

Journalist and podcaster Nick Nunan said he had been using hotel rooms to ensure quality recordings of interviews for his sports and entertainment programs.

“It’s important we find quiet spaces around Australia – and around the world – to host our guests so we can record our podcast in the best conditions possible and in a professional setting,” he said.

Hotels are offering to shift furniture or take beds out of rooms if more work space is needed.

Among the Brisbane businesses using Spacenow’s services are the View at Hamilton and Punthill hotel at Spring Hill.

View general manager of revenue Marta Wheeldon said the hotel had five rooms reserved fo remote workers but this number “could go up and down according to availability and demand”.

“At this stage, we are looking at how we can optimise the rooms we have available in different ways but haven’t formulated a plan for after the pandemic,” she said.

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