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Operations


Wojo has ambitious plans to become Europe’s leading co-working brand by 2022.


Accor and Bouygues Immobilier created in July 2017 to capitalise on the co-working trend. That didn’t mean simply offering hotel guests a coffee and a reliable Wi-Fi connection. Instead, Wojo began utilising Accor hotels to establish a network of ‘office spaces’ across France, where guests could drop in and work at these facilities on an ad hoc basis. The company has become a fast-growing force


in the co-working space since it opened its first property inside the Mercure Paris Montmatre Sacre-Coeur. Now, 300 Wojo Spots operate across 70 French cities and Bensimon and co have expansive ambitions. In the summer of 2019, Accor announced plans to make Wojo the leading co-working brand in Europe by 2022.


For Bensimon, the brand’s mantra was simple.


Combine the functionality of a working office with the service and joie de vivre of a well-run hotel. “Coming from Accor I saw that,” Bensimon says, speaking about the way the hotel industry was trying to tap into nomadic working tendencies. “I thought: why can a hotel not be a real working place for companies? We knew that the lobbies were already used by some workers but it’s not so natural to sit in a hotel and work for one or two hours. It’s much easier to do that in a Starbucks or a Pret a Manger.”


Work from anywhere It’s a trend that has been revolutionised by the pandemic as traditional nine-to-five office workers have been forced to adapt to months of perpetual lockdown at home. Kitchens have become offices; spare rooms are now meeting centres; and Zoom and Microsoft Teams, previously underexplored, are staple parts of lockdown life. Office work has become working from home – but it could soon become working from anywhere.


Hotel Management International / www.hmi-online.com


As Bensimon reminds me, it’s a nomadic trend that was gathering momentum long before a mysterious virus emerged in Wuhan. Since 2012, the number of co-working spaces has grown from 2,150 to 26,000. “Co-working has grown very quickly since the 2008 financial crisis. We know that the penetration rate of the flexible workspace is around 2% in Europe, more or less,” he says. In prominent global cities like London, Amsterdam, Shanghai, Beijing or New York, that figure hit 10% before the pandemic. Then Covid-19 came along. With lockdown loosening the ties office-goers previously had to their place of work, and workers benefitting from time spent not commuting, the perception of working life has changed – perhaps irrevocably. For some, that means a more flexible attitude to work once offices reopen. For others, it means rethinking – and perhaps replacing – the fixed office space model with something more flexible. After all, in a time of economic downturn, many companies need to save money on retail costs. “Even before the pandemic, offices were being


used between 50% and 70% of the time. So now the heads of companies are wondering how they can reorganise their way of working and integrate home working into their companies,” Bensimon says. “It’s a combination of different trends and different stakes: flexibility, cost savings and companies are [now] looking for much more efficiency.”


Change of scenery For Accor, the short-term plan is to capitalise on cohorts of cooped-up workers looking for more fulfilling places to spend their days. It’s a strategy built on solid research. A company study conducted last summer on home-workers showed that 41% feel their work-life balance “has worsened since working from


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Wojo


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