Remote work

Endless summer: families decamp to resorts for remote work and school

Courtesy Brasada Ranch, Bend OR

Sharing this slightly different version of a story we put together for NBC News about resorts seeing summer seasons extended thanks to families realizing they can do remote work and school anywhere.

Work/school/play away from home

In “normal” times, hotels in summer hot spots go into hibernation once Labor Day rolls around. But thanks to the stresses of remote work and online learning, many summer retreats are having strong fall seasons.

Dana Bates and her husband, both biotech workers, and their 7-year-old daughter were already working and learning remotely from their home in Cloverdale, California. Then, smoke conditions from the California wildfires sent them in search of another venue.

They landed in a two-bedroom cabin at the Brasada Ranch resort near Bend, Oregon. The self-contained units and attention to health and safety were reassuring during an especially stressful time.

“It was one level, with rooms on separate sides of the cabin and a desk in each room. Cleaning staff did not come every day, but you could leave bedding and towels out for pick-up and request fresh linens,” says Bates. “It was comfortable. We made friends. And I felt very safe from COVID-19.”

Remote workers everywhere, with or without children, are facing stress right now, and the uncertainty is trying, says Denise Rousseau, professor of organizational behavior and public policy at Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon University. “Even for families not facing true economic hardship, there’s the challenge of how do I keep my job, keep my kids in school, and stay safe.”

Miami-area hotels are hoping to draw families seeking safe and supportive places to work and deal with remote schooling. More than 30 properties are promoting packages with features such as hair, makeup and lighting help for virtual meetings to tutors, lunches and “after school” programs for kids.

In the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina, hotels are working out collaborations with educational attractions, meal delivery options, and more.

A new trend?

It is too soon to tell whether remote work and work/school setups at hotels and resorts become a true trend, said Jan Freitag, senior vice president of lodging insights for the analytics provider STR. “We’ll know that for sure in October,” once school is in full swing, Freitag said.

For now, fall bookings are way up at Gurney’s Resorts, which includes properties in Montauk, New York, and Newport, Rhode Island. Gurney’s Star Island Resort and Marina in Montauk said it had three times as many bookings for September compared to 2019.

White Elephant Resorts, which operates four hotels on the island of Nantucket off Massachusetts, said leisure fall bookings are 36 percent higher this year than they were last year.

“With many children starting the year with online learning and the ability for parents to work from wherever, it’s allowing guests to be more flexible with their travel plans,” said Khaled Hashem, White Elephant Resorts’ managing director.

Resorts offer perks for work/school stays

For those who want to double down, some resorts are going the extra mile, offering in-person or virtual tutoring services for children — and their parents. Auberge Resorts Collection, which has 19 properties around the world, just launched a program that includes tutoring for kids, educational seminars for adults and, in some locations, poolside “office cabanas.”

Casa Marina resort in Key West, Florida, is offering a “school-cation” package with tours of the Key West Shipwreck Museum, the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, as well as an escape room experience — and a bottle of wine so parents can wind down after a long day.

“These work-cation/school-cation concepts are not for everyone,” said Gabe Saglie of Travelzoo. However, for those with flexibility and means, “a clever promotion can be enough to inspire travel that would otherwise not have been planned.”

While some properties are developing new guest experiences, lodging operators will need to get creative if restaurants and activities are still shut down because of the coronavirus, said Robert Cole, senior analyst for the travel market research firm Phocuswright.

“Guests wishing to escape being confined to their homes are unlikely to enjoy being confined to a hotel room,” Cole said.

It wasn’t a clever promotion but “seemingly endless remote work challenges” due to the pandemic and a desire to escape “to a place where everything was thoughtful, safe and inclusive” that got Sarah Goldman and her husband to escape New York City recently for a cottage at the 500-acre Cedar Lakes Estate in the Hudson Valley. The retreat has pivoted from weddings and corporate events to offer all-inclusive stays.

Going back in the off-season is appealing, Goldman said. “I can’t imagine there will be a lot open in Brooklyn — and we’ll be going stir crazy.”

Home office stressing you out? Try working in a hotel.

Sharing a story we put together for NBC News this week about hotels courting stressed out remote workers package for day-use rooms. This version is slightly different from what was published.

Check out of your home office and into a hotel

In an effort to reverse pandemic-induced revenue losses reaching back to April, hotels in the U.S. and beyond are rolling out perk-laden packages for guests who would rather work remotely from a quiet hotel room than from the guest room or den at home.

“I have essentially been unable to escape my family for 5 straight months,” said Sommer Cronck, a real estate managing broker in Bellingham, WA. Since the pandemic started, she’s been working at home with a husband, two dogs, and four kids. “I love them dearly, but I’d love to book a hotel room to get away for a day.”

Cronck is far from alone with that craving. And it is fueling the new trend.

Work from hotel

The fast-growing list of properties offering “work from hotel” options includes the Thompson Nashville, Sacramento’s Kimpton Sawyer HotelThe James New York – NoMad and dozens of others.

Heavily discounted rates and extra perks are appealing, of course. “But having a quiet workspace for the day can be the main draw for workers used to months of sharing space with a spouse, partner, or family,” said Catherine Keywan, an interior designer with the Bergmeyer architectural firm. “The privacy of an enclosed room, as well as private restroom, is ideal for workers with pandemic anxiety regarding sharing space,” she added.

On the hotel side, day-use guests can generate much-needed revenue. But they also represent a desirable market for hoteliers because “these guests place limited demands on hotel staff and maintenance. And many hotel executives believe this is a good approach to long term account loyalty,” said hotel lodging consultant Bjorn Hanson.

The Ritz-Carlton Denver now has a “Your Space” package that includes upgraded Wi-Fi, valet parking, business services, and $20 in-room dining credit. Guests have access to a room for an eight-hour workday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The program “provides the perfect solution for the reality of today,” said Janie Dim, the Los Angeles-based Vice-President of Growth for private aviation company, Wheels Up. Dim has family to stay with in Denver but booked a “Your Space” room to meet with local clients in town.

“With many offices closed due to the virus, it was helpful to have a fully functioning, clean and safe space to work so we could have a socially distant in-person meeting while on the road,” said Dim.

In Chicago, the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel has a “Blu Workspace” package available Mondays through Thursdays and bookable through December 29, 2020. Guests have access to their room from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at rates that start at $99. The Kimpton Hotel Allegro has a “Business without Baggage” day rate for a room that includes a computer monitor with laptop connectors. Bonus perks include a lunchbox filled with snacks and water, a hotel notebook, coffee mug keepsake, face covering and hand sanitizer.

More “work from hotel” options

The Ben, a boutique waterfront property in West Palm Beach, FL that opened in February 2020, just as the pandemic was arriving, offers “Professional Distancing” day use rooms from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for $125. That is up to 40 percent off the regular rate and includes a balcony room, parking, Wi-Fi, discount on food beverage in the hotel restaurant and a complimentary evening cocktail at the bar

Mandarin Oriental has “Working from M.O.” day-use packages with Wi-Fi, dining credits and fitness center access. The “Work with Us, Stay with Us” day use-package at Nobu Hotel Palo Alto comes with a Bento Box lunch, a caddy stocked with office supplies, printing services, a sanitizing kit and a bottled cocktail to take home at the end of the day.

Since June, Hotel Figueroa in downtown Los Angeles has been checking in guests for the Fig Works Perks program. In addition to day use of a room, guest extras include boxed water, parking, unlimited B&W copy machine privileges and access to the pool deck and fitness room. (Rates start at $129/day. For an extra $20 guests can stay overnight).

“Most Work Perk guests live near the hotel and are looking for a quiet, safe place with very fast Wi-Fi and comfortable air-conditioning, ” said Connie Wang, the hotel’s managing director, “They want a calming and relaxing atmosphere, away from the distractions of working at home.”

Will “Work from Hotel” replace “Work from Home” as new normal?

Molly Fergus, general manager of the TripSavvy travel site, considers “Work from Hotel” programs “a genius move” for both struggling hotels and remote workers seeking a change of scenery, but doubts many employers will get reimbursed for these costs by their employers.

And while offering a nice getaway, “I’m skeptical that work from hotels packages will be something remote workers will or can afford to use on a regular basis,” said Sunkee Lee, Assistant Professor of Organizational Theory and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

“It would be smarter for people to invest in a better home, with a better home office space, or faster internet,” he said.