Hybrid Work, Virtual Offices, and Other Staffing Issues Facing Digital Executives

By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

Should we stay virtual, go back to work full-time in an office, or create some sort of hybrid arrangement? This is a question that many companies, including those in the hospitality industry, are grappling with as more people get vaccinated and it becomes safe to meet in person again. HSMAI hosted a virtual Brand Chief Digital Officer Executive Roundtable on June 22 where much of the discussion revolved around working conditions and staffing.

Participating companies included Accor, AMResorts (part of Apple Leisure Group), Aqua-Aston Hospitality, Club Quarters, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Red Roof, RLH, and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Key takeaways included:


  • “We’ve made the commitment full-force that we’re going to be a hybrid work environment. And the concept for doing this is hoteling in the office. You’re not going to have a desk, but you’ll have a neighborhood, so you’ll move around and end up working wherever is free when you come in. We consolidated our workspace, so there’s less space overall, so this is what makes sense.”
  • “I think it’s very helpful to have at least a few days in the office. I think being in the office at least a couple of days a week for me helps preserve the culture. There’s something about having your team around a table and seeing each other face-to-face that connects you.”
  • “We anticipate a three-day-in-and-two-day-out model after Labor Day, but the details haven’t been defined yet. Some people on my team have moved in the past year, even though they’re not necessarily in remote positions, but they’re now 800 miles away from the office. So, we’re working with those associates to come up with flexible work arrangements, because they’ve proven we can do it.”


  • “What I’m struggling with is going back to the office just for the sake of going back to the office, as opposed to really looking at what employees want to do. For my team actually, I would say that 95 percent do not want to go back to the office at all.”
  • “We’ve hired all over the world and we’ve opened up all our roles to be global. And so, what I’m doing is bringing the team together once a quarter for a two-day offsite meeting in order to get that time to gather and do the strategy sessions and have that interaction. But most of my team does not want to go into the office on a regular basis, and many have actually moved.”
  • “One benefit to being virtual is that we know everyone’s name, because you can hover over your screen and see it. Another thing that we’ve done to highlight everyone virtually is to create a PowerPoint where everyone gets a slide to share information about themselves, such as hobbies and interests. We’ve essentially created a library of every individual team member’s slides, and encourage them to keep it updated and active as they change.”


  • “One thing is the staff shortage on property. I think we’re probably all experiencing it through our various companies, but I think what’s also interesting is the impact that they have on marketing. We have had to reduce room availability and room inventory because of the shortage of staff to turn over rooms, and that impacts our ability to drive additional demand. There’s a lot of pent-up demand in some markets, but some properties are limiting what we can do from a digital marketing perspective because they just don’t have the staff to handle it.”
  • “The reality is, we’re still losing team members and being short-staffed. So, we need to think creatively about how we can get work done. There was discussion around cross- or upskilling team members from different disciplines to help us in the areas of marketing where we may be short-staffed.”
  • “There is this culture clash between those that were furloughed and those that survived furlough. And when folks came back, it was clear that the folks who stayed on were able to move more quickly, get more things done, be more agile compared with those who just came back.”
  • “We’ve all had cuts. In most cases, the people that have remained are very agile and they’re go-getters, which has helped a lot because we’re all working on refocusing people and aligning priorities to market conditions. We’re really trying hard to empower people to say no and pick our priorities. People aren’t used to saying no, because you take on projects as they’re given to you, but we have to be really laser-focused at this point in time.”
  • “We’re working on identifying opportunities for agency support, contractor support, or FTEs, and then adding in freelancers. What we’ve learned is that there are certain skills through the pandemic that are more apt for freelancers than full-time employees.”

Categories: Marketing, Digital
Insight Type: Articles