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Work, stay play

Since the pandemic, flexible working has grown like never before. But while employees relish the shift from stressful commutes to better focus and work-life balance at home, face-to-face team time has shifted too – with an emphasis on quality over quantity.

Our CEO Ben Harper explores the new trend in corporate travel that’s big on fresh air, productive team time, shared experiences and relaxed socialising.

Work spaces to call home

Quiet corners for break-out ‘huddles’ over coffee. Relaxed conversation-filled lunches watching the waves. Laughter in the whitewater, learning to surf together. For well-considered work retreats and off-site meetings, an inspiring location, breadth of experiences, time out for team wellbeing and open horizons can spark great ideas, valuable progress and stronger team bonds.

Today’s ‘hybrid’ and remote working patterns give that monthly or quarterly in-person team meeting added significance. The ability to work remotely means meeting in person is no longer a daily habit but an event in and of itself. It can act as a much-needed social event, with colleagues striking up small talk, sharing spontaneous ideas and re-establishing those important ‘workplace’ connections. But the bad old days of gruelling PowerPoint slides all day, before being roped into uncomfortable team-building exercises are thankfully fading into the distance. Instead, employers are looking for places where team members can meet and bond in a relaxing environment, but with work still very much on their minds.

James Geall, executive vice president of Amex GBT, says these evolved working patterns mean that internal meetings are set to be the fastest-growing events category for the leisure sector – with small to medium-sized companies leading this growth.

“This leads to rethinking how team members need to connect and re-evaluating the importance of internal meetings,” he says. “Face-to-face interactions with colleagues are key to supporting employee wellbeing and retention, instilling company culture and values and improving team bonding, productivity and professional development.”

Gild paddles out to the surf with the hotel beach lofts in the background

Face-to-face interactions with colleagues are key to supporting employee wellbeing and retention, instilling company culture and values and improving team bonding, productivity and professional development.

The corporate travel market has been quick to react and re-evaluate the importance of internal team meetings. Here at Watergate Bay, we’re used to receiving requests for meeting spaces and private dining, but are also curating more bespoke stays for brands and organisations wanting a combination of work and play. Teams find this drives creativity that might have become stifled in the traditional office environment, and helps deliver the wellness that the corporate market has come to realise is key to fulfilled employees.

Connecting with colleagues is now considered a purpose, while in the past it was a perk.

Corporate travel budgets may still be constrained, but there’s been a rise in more targeted spending and thoughtful plans. The value and purpose of the workplace retreat is now getting more attention.

At Watergate, we’re seeing smaller gatherings for teams who value the lifestyle we offer – from the surf and sea swimming, beach and coast path, to the range of eating options and Swim Club facilities – as well as the physical and mental space to get through those important tasks and goals. Experiences like this play a critical role in in attracting great people in what has become a war on talent, regardless of industry sector.

But we’re also seeing more individual remote workers blending work and holiday time at the hotel, or making use of our co-working space 10 minutes’ drive away. Keen to recreate that ‘home away from home’ atmosphere with a change of scenery, they’re still able to work on their laptops, but also benefit from more human contact, good coffee, free childcare and sea air on tap.

There really is something about this view, the pared down landscape of water and sky in horizontal bands that focuses the mind. By elevenses, I’ve met my first deadline.

— Hattie Garlick

Hattie Garlick, Telegraph journalist, blogs about striking the right balance

Working from a beach loft

To get the blood pumping and synapses firing before the day’s schedule kicks off, early risers can run along the beach or coast path, join a yoga class on the sand, swim some lengths of the pool, workout in the fitness studio, or watch the day break over the beach from the Finnish sauna or clifftop hot tub.

We’re realising that, in the face of these seismic shifts in work culture, the environment, community feeling and strong sustainability ethos we’ve created for our leisure guests at Watergate, also aligns closely with this new era of corporate travel.

And we’re looking forward to hosting more teams to work and play for a few days by the beach.

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