The concept was inspired in large by lockdown. In common with all hospitality, the pandemic was also hard for Zoku, which relies on business travel. But its inherent flexibility meant it could adapt within the confines of lockdown restrictions. Empty rooms were used for meetings, while larger communal spaces were used by local companies keen to retain a sense of community while their offices were shut, be it through team dinners or socially distanced entertainment.
“These kinds of experiments were so much fun, but we also learned that we actually had a very flexible product,” recalls Meyer. “Honestly, this idea would never have sprung up if there hadn’t been Covid-19.”
As is Meyer’s way, considerable research has been carried out. “For innovation you need people who want to listen,” argues Meyer. “I reached out to the person at Google who’s globally responsible for workplace strategy and asked him if he was prepared to listen.” The Mountain View Executive was happy to help and put together a team for Meyer to grill. “The only question I asked was, why are you not giving me a call tomorrow saying that you want this?”
Meyer believes his approach will solve many of the issues thrown into stark relief by the pandemic: a tight labour market and unproductive workforce, the need for human connection and poor office utilisation.
“Pre-pandemic, it wasn’t high up on the agenda to think about wasted space because we’re used to it. But technology is advancing and we’re able to measure space utilisation, so why can’t we use space in a better way? After all, do we need more space – or do we need smarter space?”
Meyer points to data showing that pre-pandemic office utilisation was around 60%. “But that was measured during a 40-hour week,” he explains, “and a week has 168 hours. So, 60% becomes 15%, and after Covid-19 it’s between 5 per cent and 10%. So, the majority of all this office real estate is empty for more than 90% on average, which with regard to the climate crisis, sustainability and cost is a complete waste.”