From Airports to Hotels, New Types of Commercial Space Are Embracing Flex Work

Christophe Garnier headshot

Business travel is bouncing back. Upflex CEO Christophe Garnier looks at how CRE owners of all kinds are stepping up to help meet flex workspace demand.

The business world has been cautiously acclimating to post-pandemic safety considerations and new employee preferences, but data shows that demand from business travelers is beginning to approach pre-COVID levels once again: That is the message this spring from International Airlines Group, the owner of British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus. Meanwhile, the boss of Britain’s main airport hub, Heathrow, said business travel for the last three months of 2022 was just 5 percent down on pre-pandemic levels, with numbers forecast to steadily increase this year.

The return of business travel should come as no surprise: There is no form of meeting more powerful in building relationships than a meeting done in person. That may seem a strange thing to say for the chief executive of a tech platform dedicated to empowering enterprises to leverage the advantages of hybrid work — but in fact, at Upflex we’re confident that this global embrace of flex and remote work will only boost business travel further.

Here’s why: Hybrid working enables a distributed workforce. Enterprises are benefiting from access to talent across a much greater catchment than they were before, as recruitment and hiring are no longer subject to geographic limitations. With newly distributed workforces – and already distributed customers – if anything, enterprises will now have greater need to travel than when all their employees were working every day from the same office spaces.

Here at Upflex, this is how we work: I lead the business from San Diego; we have teams in New York, London, India, with people based in place as far flung as Lisbon, Warsaw and Mississippi. Much of the day-to-day working is done remotely, but, when we need to, we meet in person – this facilitates our team’s ability to build relationships, develop strategy, and encourage creativity. When the task requires the energy of the team in the same room, we get together.

And in this new landscape of remote and hybrid, our team is no anomaly:  many enterprises that we work with — from Schneider Electric to Willis Towers Watson — are adopting models like this in order to maximize the potential of hybrid work for their business and their people. 

As we support enterprises like these with the technology, solutions, global on-demand workspace access, and data they need to implement the strategies that work for them, we are seeing that there are as many different versions of what those solutions look like as there are companies. We are also seeing that, invariably, there is an element of in-person work or co-location involved in the most effective examples of this new way of working. For certain tasks or activities, human beings work better together.

With these trends in swing, and the tech to support them more readily available than it has ever been, I don’t just foresee a return to pre-pandemic business travel — I see people traveling for work just as much — if not more, although perhaps more selectively, and for different purposes than they did in the past.

The enduring importance of business travel was a key driver of the global partnership that we agreed earlier this year with DragonPass, an end-to-end airport and rail station hospitality experience provider. Through that partnership, Upflex’s clients and their employees are getting on-demand access to 1,100 exclusive airport and rail lounges via Upflex, equipped with workspace, teleconference facilities, improved secure WiFi, charging facilities, and more.

That network is growing to meet flex workspace demand, and we’re seeing the same thing in the hospitality industry, where hoteliers are looking at providing on-demand, bookable workspace in their lobbies or meeting rooms, in response to the rise of flex working.

This means, via Upflex, a business traveler can not only book workspace while on the go in airports, but on arrival at their destination – even holding meetings in bookable spaces through our platform – providing that all important end-to-end continuity of service.

“Work from anywhere” is the mantra of a new generation of employees and employers embracing the future of work — but working well from anywhere requires the right facilities and support. We will continue to bring forward more innovative partnerships as the rise  of hybrid work brings new opportunities for where and how work happens, now and in the future.

Read Garnier’s original op-ed in BeNews.