Corporate Housing Is Going More ‘Bleisure’ (Business and Leisure)

Comfort, convenience, and cost-effectiveness. Those are the usual factors that global mobility managers look for once they start searching for suitable homes for their assignees. Add a touch of elegance and a more modern design–and you’re bound to get curious inquiries. While these factors still remain in the must-have list of these foreign nationals who want to feel at home in their new country of employment, emerging trends are adding more requirements that the global mobility manager must be astute to spot.

Bleisure or the combination of business and leisure:  Relocate Magazine highlights this as a reflection of other developments happening in the travel industry. Expatriate executives certainly have come to expect nothing less than the poshest living quarters and top-of-the-line interior design. However, the traditional arrangement usually equates leisure and prestige with an almost inflexible classic structure or look.

A more mobile workforce, however, is demanding a more flexible set-up without skimping on the classier elements. This is where some of the more innovative corporate housing companies take a page from the business travellers who fly in and out of various cities, and spend most of their waking hours outside their hotel rooms. The features and services that their temporary accommodations provide them are based on their own particular needs. For example, a makeshift mobile bar is added only upon request.

In the same way, global mobility managers are finding that their assignees want a more compact living space that evokes luxury and class, and yet can be re-designed to fit their very adrenaline-driven lifestyle.

The second trend is connected to the first:  personalization. Assignees who emigrate to work and live in a foreign land know that they need to make adjustments. Regardless of how they driven they are to succeed, or how independent they move as individuals, loneliness will eventually set in. A desire to reconnect with family and friends still based in their home country will surface. While they can temporarily ward off these feelings when they are busy at work, chances are they would experience them more acutely once they enter their new living spaces after work.

Personalization can assuage some of the loneliness and even make what was once an impersonal formal habitation a place to rest and recharge. Assignees, for example, would want decor, artwork, and accessories that will remind them of their home country. One room or two, such as their private study, could actually be an ethnic and cultural recreation of their former digs.

The more enterprising corporate housing developers can partner with the assignees in this area. The transformation can be gradual or quick. It does not necessarily be culturally-oriented, but can be as personal as possible.

The more tech-savvy would perhaps want a smarter home or a robot advisor in the premises. California Corporate Housing customized the look of one of its units, in order to help the assignee relive and re-experience the thrill he felt while watching their beloved Wimbledon game.

The third trend, technological transformation, is inevitable given the encroachment of artificial intelligence into the property development sphere, says Forbes.

Google Home, which helps an assignee set the temperature of their respective rooms or forecasts the weather of the day, might just be the precursor to more advanced smarter machines.

The Internet of Things can prompt a smart refrigerator to remind the assignee that they are running out of milk, or have a “thinking” washing machine tell them that their laundry has to be done the next weekend. As such, expect more corporate homes to invest in this kind of technology to draw in more assignees, especially working millennial managers who have come to see these devices as indispensable lifestyle tools.

Realtor names the fourth trend: short-term serviced apartments are taking the place of long-leased hotels. About a decade ago, if the assignee or expatriate executive was not housed in a traditional classic home, their employer rented a hotel room where they could stay for months, if not years.

A long-term stay could actually be more cost-effective as the hotel, wanting to keep their business, would give them good terms.

These days, though, assignees prefer to live in fully furnished service apartments which they can move into and leave within just a few months, if not a couple of years.

One factor that has led to this is the rise of home-sharing platforms. The other is the increasing desire of the market to rent and lease homes, instead of owning them.

As stated above, millennials out for adventure and the next grand experience do not want to be tied down by a mortgage that it would take them years to pay off. Assignees themselves realize that they will stay in their host country for a limited period of time.

Finally, the more mature market of Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers are discovering their second or third spring. An empty nest makes them realize they want to explore what life still has to offer, instead of spending their remaining decade in quiet retirement.

As stated by Realtor, the demand for long-term corporate serviced apartments rose by 6.3 percent in 2017. Revenues for the same period rose to $3.62 billion or an increase of 13 percent.

Global mobility managers who are or will be looking for new dwelling spaces for their future assignees should recognize these trends. Long-term rentals of serviced apartments would come highly recommended.

Another is looking for partner property developers who can offer flexibility in all aspects of  leasing the unit: decor and design, furniture arrangement, services and facilities, and perhaps even terms of payment.

They should also take time to sit down with their assignees prior to onboarding and learn their lifestyles, design choices, cultural values, and family set-up. This conversation, or a series of them, should happen long before the assignee flies to their new country of employment.

Housing is no longer a temporary haven for the perpetually busy, ambitious assignee.  Where they live can influence their moods, sentiments, and even attitudes—which will in turn impact performance.