The rise of the workation: How the pandemic spawned a new holiday trend

·5-min read
A room at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel (Marriott)
A room at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel (Marriott)

It’s 7am and I’m checking into my hotel, the St Pancras Renaissance, next to the London station of the same name.

I am given a coffee while I wait, and thank goodness – the 10-minute cycle ride from my own home three streets away has really taken its toll.

If it seems like an early check-in time, that’s because it is; but it’s all part of the reason I’m here, rather than spending another eight hours staring at the same four walls of my flat while trying to find inspiration in the overly familiar. After a year of home working, I have officially hit my limit.

That’s where Marriott’s “work anywhere” package comes in. Launched last year, the scheme allows guests to glide in early, ready to spend the day working from a high-ceilinged, beautifully furnished suite rather than their kitchen table. The concept is being sold as a way to “combat people’s fatigue with their existing work space”, with guests having a choice of three packages – Day Pass, Stay Pass and Play Pass – to improve productivity.

The Day Pass allows you to use a hotel room as your own personal office for the day, with a 6am check-in and 6pm check-out. Guests can also use the hotel’s public spaces – for example, the grand lobby restaurant at the Renaissance – and get free to access the on-property business facilities such as printing, fax and scanning equipment.

The Day Pass allows you to use a hotel room as your own personal office for the day, with a 6am check-in and 6pm check-out

“Stay” means – you guessed it – you get a room for the night to enjoy the hotel room in its more traditional sense, alongside benefits like access to the spa and gym, complimentary evening cocktails and a free breakfast. And the “Play” idea is more aimed at families, offering guests “a business concierge, supervised kids’ activities, preferred office/study spaces along with curated experiences for the whole family to enjoy”.

With no children and not the foggiest what a “business concierge” actually is, I plumped for the “Stay” option – it would just be too sad to work from a beautiful hotel room all day and not get to sleep in it.

The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel (iStock)
The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel (iStock)

After my civilised check-in, I sweep up to my new office. Tucked around the corner from the bed (which I studiously ignore), there’s a long desk and comfortable chair that beckon invitingly. I set up and get to work, feeling a little zing of pleasure every time I raise my head and take in the fact that I’m somewhere – gasp – completely new.

I don’t know whether it’s just the change in surroundings, but I breeze through my work; my colleague even comments on my speedy turnaround of news stories, and the way I seem to have swapped the usual Monday blues for a most unexpected “go-get-'em” energy. In fact, her surprise at my newfound zest for life almost borders on insulting, but I let it go. I’m in The Zone now.

It could just be the novelty, but equally compelling is the fact that I am not surrounded by laundry hanging out to dry; I can’t hear the next-door neighbours arguing; I can’t smell the overly strong wafts of curry emanating from the kitchen of my shared house. None of these things exist in the world of the St Pancras Renaissance hotel. I am deep in its cocoon of quiet luxury, and I never want to leave.

My colleague comments on the way I seem to have swapped the usual Monday blues for a most unexpected ‘go-get-’em’ energy

That’s the thing about the homeworking revolution so many of us have been forced to undergo – some of its greatest benefits are also the issues that can quickly become wearing when the boundaries between leisure and business space get blurry.

Take, for instance, the washing. When you work from home, you can get a load on, sure in the knowledge you’ll be around to hang it out later. What convenience! At the same time, being surrounded by un-done chores that are just begging to be taken care of – bins reminding you they need to be taken out, clothes desperate to be sorted and slung in the machine, half-filled mugs of coffee fairly bellowing that they should be washed up right this instant – can make it challenging to detach from domestic life and focus on the matter in hand.

The spa at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel (Marriott)
The spa at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel (Marriott)

Not so when you’re working from a five-star hotel room. Out of sight, out of mind, quite literally – you are no longer the kind of person concerned with taking the bins out, because there are no bins in this soothing new universe.

Even better, when I clock off promptly at 5pm, there are no household tasks clamouring to be addressed – instead, the hotel’s other facilities await. I make a beeline for the spa, sitting in my own sweat for far too long in the sauna and plunging into the pool with abandon; I make the most of the free cocktail and follow it up with dinner (odeiga-spiced cauliflower with cashew nut butter and kale, thanks for asking) at The Hansom, the restaurant set in the hotel’s sprawling lobby.

And finally, I’ve earned the main event – spreading out on the bed I’d so fastidiously ignored earlier, on crisp sheets that I neither had to wash, nor hang out to dry. Heaven.

Travel essentials

A day pass at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel costs from £139 and can be booked here.

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