Many workers have had to embrace a working from home routine since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and, as they’ve done so, they’ve discovered its pros and cons. Casual workwear, less commuting and more flexibility are some of the perks but, on the downside, there’s the feeling that the boundary between work and home life becomes increasingly blurred. For parents, working from home can pose another set of challenges as many children are now at home, instead of at day care or in school.
So what’s a worker to do if they’re getting tired of the at-home scene? In Wine Country, they can book a hotel suite.
Tapping into a national trend, a handful of Sonoma and Napa county overnight accommodations are now offering packages and promotions designed to give locals and visitors an incentive to focus on work in different surroundings. Guest rooms can be booked for daytime hours, often without the requirement of an overnight stay.
“Sometimes you need a change of scenery to get creative juices running. Sometimes you just need peace and quiet,” said Brooke Ross, director of sales and marketing at the Hotel Trio in Healdsburg, one of the local properties offering work-from-hotel deals.
The Trio is renting its meeting room for full ($200) and half ($125) days. The hotel also is offering special room rates starting at $185 per night, so guests can stay for multiple nights to get their jobs done and, during their stay, receive room service from a robot named Rosé.
Elsewhere in Healdsburg, the Harmon Guest House recently rolled out a similar offer, but it comes with a futuristic twist: a Sonoma-made workstation dubbed Altwork. The adjustable desk comes equipped with a 32-inch screen and special seating that allows guests to sit, stand — even lie down — while doing their work or making video calls.
Harmon only has one Altwork, so advance reservations are necessary. As part of this deal, guests at the Harmon Guest House can book a suite (rates start at $425 per night) and reserve the Altwork station for an additional $200. Day use of a suite with the Altwork station is also available for a flat fee of $300; with this offer, guests can use the setup for a maximum of 12 hours. They also get in-room snacks, free parking and free Wi-Fi.
Circe Sher, partner of Piazza Hospitality, which owns Harmon Guest House, said hotel staff sanitizes the Altwork station after each use. She added that she sees the concept of hotel-rooms-as-offices catching on.
“The trend we have been seeing is guests looking at longer stays where they can come enjoy the Wine Country and continue to work during their stay,” she wrote in a recent e-mail. “We want to provide an amazing space for that so they can be highly productive and then go and enjoy themselves.”
Thanh Nguyen booked the Harmon Guest House package and said it was a perfect escape. The entrepreneur, who splits time between Healdsburg and San Francisco, said he particularly appreciated the Altwork station, which enabled him to work in different positions than usual.
“We have standup desks in my office but this was quite nice,” he recalled. “I didn’t try the laying but I did try the sitting and standing. It was nice to have varied positions. I was able to churn through the stuff I had to do quickly.”
Other hotels are either offering or considering different options that would facilitate remote work. The Andaz Napa, which is owned by Hyatt, is offering the “Work from Hyatt” package with room and workspace options starting at $139 per night for stays of at least seven nights. In Calistoga, Solage has a deal through which hotel guests can rent out pool cabanas as offices. Other properties, such as The Sandman in Santa Rosa, said they were considering adding a similar promotion.
The notion of designating hotel rooms for day-use only is not new: Yannis Moati founded an entire company on the concept back in 2015. That company, HotelsByDay, has grown to include more than 1,500 hotels, and has seen a significant uptick in the number of inquiries for day-use bookings since the start of the pandemic.
Moati said the current situation will force hotels to reinvent themselves to stay alive, and he predicted that offering rooms for day-use only is one of the directions they will go—anything (within reason) to turn a profit.
“A hotel is a big box full of space,” he said. “We hope this is a way for hotels to monetize the fact that [space] is something everybody seems to want right now, and they’re looking for spaces they know are safe.”