Stéphane Bensimon, President of Wojo.
In addition to the workspaces in the hotels, the “Le Bureau des Princes” operation that you are organizing this week in the PSG stadium is another proof of the synergies between Wojo and Accor, your shareholder and also sponsor of the Parisian club.
Stéphane Bensimon – This is indeed one of the advantages of this strong link with Accor. This event marks the reopening of the working season. For four days, we are recreating the atmosphere of our coworking spaces at the Parc des Princes
with Wojo furniture installed in private offices, an 80-seat coworking space and several meeting rooms that many companies have reserved. What better place than the Parc des Princes to show that workplaces can reinvent themselves! Wojo set up ephemeral workspaces at the Parc des Princes in early September. (c) Teampics
In this evolution, what place do you foresee for hotels? Can the transformation of some of their spaces into offices be a compensation for the expected drop in business clientele?
S. B. – I think we are at a turning point in the notion of the workplace. I hope that Accor will see a return to business travel, but I don’t think it will come back as strongly as before. On the other hand, working in a hotel will become more and more natural and accepted by companies in the future. In fact, it’s not just the employees who appreciate the formula, it’s the companies that we need to bring on board in this evolution. The kindness and professionalism of the reception in the hotels, the various services they offer, especially catering, but also the guarantee of cleanliness and the amplitude of their opening hours: when you think about it, there is no better place than a hotel to host offices and receive clients.
Besides Wojo Spots and Wojo Corners, which you have already started to develop, are there any new opportunities today to go further?
S. B. – Indeed, we have already installed Wojo Spots in more than 350 establishments, with dedicated spaces where you can come and work for a few hours. All hotels are ready to welcome mobile professionals, which was not necessarily the case before. There weren’t always the necessary outlets, the sense of sharing between the teams and these professionals.
nals. But beyond that, we are transforming meeting rooms into office spaces. This is a natural evolution, because what is more like an open space than a meeting room? We recently did this in several Mercure hotels in France and at the Pullman Tour Eiffel, where the work spaces have a magical view. We are going even further by transforming rooms into private offices. At the same time, we support hoteliers in this new business, because organising and marketing office space is not something that can be decreed.
What types of clients are attracted to working in a hotel?
S. B. – We find everything from SMEs and start-ups looking for flexibility to large companies. Rather than having a long-term lease for their regional branches, whose offices are not always in the air of time, some of them are now turning to our solutions. For example, among our clients, we saw one that took three or four positions in a dozen hotels in different cities. It’s economical for the company and attractive for their employees. All this complements our core business, which is the Wojo sites, of which there are currently 15.
How are your sites evolving?
S. B. – A little over a year ago, we opened a site in the Madeleine district of Paris, then the first Wojo outside of France in Barcelona, before launching two other Wojo sites in Lille and in Paris, rue de Tolbiac. In the future, we are expecting the opening of Wojo Montparnasse in the summer of 2022, which will work closely with the nearby Pullman hotel. Before that, next February, we will also open a Wojo near Place Clichy, rue de Calais in the 9th arrondissement
. This will be our first site under a management contract, a new feature in our development. The world has changed and real estate companies or office building owners must themselves enter into this mechanism of flexibility vis-à-vis their clients. Hence
the idea of inviting them to join us as managers and operators of the site
With the rise of telecommuting, thousands of square meters remain empty in the headquarters of large groups. Is this also a new opportunity for Wojo?
S. B. – Yes, it is. Developing Wojo spaces in the square meters left free by the new configuration of work is the best way to make the most of this opportunity.
The second major development lever for us. Take a company that has 10,000 m2 of office space and that, because of telecommuting, only needs 7,000 m2. We propose to manage the remaining 3,000 m2 by sharing the added value with the users or lessors of the building. As one of Wojo’s strong points is service, due to our hotel DNA, we can also take the keys to the site’s animation, from reception to catering, including yoga classes and business conferences.
However, companies could also benefit from the real estate flexibility you offer?
S. B. – That’s also the point. As flexibility is the key word in the years to come, companies can limit the size of their offices to 7,000 m2. However, if they acquire another company or if they need to recruit, the Wojo spaces are there to extend their offices. Furthermore, companies can also host other players in their ecosystem within the building. This can be interesting for them.
We need to rethink this and not pit telecommuting against our approach, as we have always been strong supporters of remote working.
So much for the positive side of telecommuting on your development. But to what extent can its development also have a negative aspect on your activity? What is the place of third places in a “three days in the office-two days of telework” configuration?
S. B. – We have to rethink the subject and not oppose telework to our approach, because we have always been strong supporters of telework. First of all, teleworking is not necessarily working from home. It can be done in other places. Today, companies are asking themselves what the ideal work week is. In this context, we offer them an alternative to working from home. Wojo, whether in our sites or in the hotels, also offers this flexibility which allows them to reduce the size of their traditional leases, or even to abandon them. We need to rethink the classic real estate schemes.
There is a lot of talk about the difficulties companies have in getting their employees to return to the office. Can attractive locations help to motivate them?
S. B. – We are convinced of this, and we see it every day in our sites. We’ve experienced this with Accor’s teams. In Paris, our shareholder’s employees can come and work at the Wojo sites and we have 200 reservations per week out of 1000 employees, which is enormous. The emotional and experiential aspect of our sites, with terraces and gardens, entertainment, all of this plays a role. Of course, some companies have invested a lot in the general atmosphere or design of their offices, but they don’t offer all these opportunities to meet and share with other companies in the same place as we do. That’s the real excitement, the real fulfilling element. In the end, we saw that once the restrictions were lifted, people returned to the office quite quickly at our sites.
How has the traffic on your sites changed over the last few months?
<p>S. B. – For 18 months, the business was obviously a bit complicated. But since July, we have never had so many requests, whether for our sites or in the hotels. If not all of them have materialized at the restart, we feel that it is accelerating. At the moment, our sites are 77% occupied, compared to 90%-95% before the crisis. But we will quickly return to these levels. As for actual office attendance, it was around 70% before the pandemic, before dropping to almost zero and then rising to 30% in the intervening periods. Today, attendance is around 50%, and it’s still rising. People are delighted to be back in the office. To support these returns, we have relaunched a number of operations, including business conferences and sports events, breakfasts and after-work sessions.
I’m Michelle, and I love to travel. As a former hotel expert for one of the world’s largest hotel chains, I’ve stayed in nearly every type of room imaginable (including many that were not so desirable!). Nowadays, I am fortunate enough to be able to explore the world on my own terms. From international flights to learning different languages, there is nothing too far out of reach!