The North-of-London Hotel Leading the “Green Desking” Trend
Known as one of the best hotels near London, Birch is an oasis where remote workers and teams can balance urban living with rural living. Read more about the space they provide to create this balance.
Birch is a dream come true for its founders and its guests. Acquired in 2018 and refurbished in 2020, the countryside hotel and club is an easy destination for Londoners. Just 30 minutes north, Birch attracts weekenders looking to get away from the city as well as midweek workers who want to green desk (or not) for a few nights.
Green desking is sort of like hot desking. Your use of the space is temporary. Except, we’re not just talking about a desk, but rather an expansive space that allows you to work comfortably and take your breaks out in nature.
Transforming an 18th century mansion into a wonderland for creatives
After exiting a sports recruitment business and rehabilitating a few old structures in Brixton, Birch co-founder Chris King had the idea for a sports-focused hotel, and wanted to situate it in an 18th century private residence that was up for sale in Hertfordshire. That exact idea never came to fruition. But when the mansion and its massive grounds came back on the market, he and his partner re-pitched the idea to their investors, developers, and bankers with a new angle.
“People’s lives, habits, and tastes were changing but hotels weren’t adapting fast enough.”
“Birch was not my or any single person’s eureka moment but really a combination of different people’s frustrations and observations of how hotels were run,” says Chris. “People’s lives, habits, and tastes were changing but hotels weren’t adapting fast enough. We set out to create a space where curious and creative people could hang out and do things we thought they might like to do in an affordable and accessible way.”
Today, the hotel features event spaces, green spaces, gardens, art studios, and plenty of other surprises.
The need for green desking among urbanites and remote teams
Successful before the pandemic, Birch has experienced an influx in interest. Chris explains, “Companies have now started to re-engage after quite a long absence. The need to get teams and people back together in person for a period of time to balance with a more remote working environment is not a fashion in my opinion but a habit that will continue, particularly amongst the small to medium enterprise sector. We already have repeat regular bookings from many teams that will use us on a semi-regular basis in the future.”
Not only are small companies booking spaces, but so are individual remote workers. Working from home has skyrocketed. And both full time remote employees and hybrid remote workers are looking for easy getaways.
Bringing a little bit of buzz from the city into the countryside
Typical countryside inns offer little to do. They provide space, but put the burden of gathering supplies and organizing activities completely on the guest.
Chris loves to balance urban living with rural living, and guests come to Birch for that balance as well as the ease of achieving it. “I do miss the city and the buzz and energy that comes from a busy environment and bouncing ideas around over a pint or just a spontaneous conversation in passing. We recreate some of that at Birch albeit with the birds singing in the background.”
One of the many things that sets Birch apart from average hotels is its event schedule. Everything is affordable and simple to attend. From wellness activities to guided walks to art classes, there’s a lot to do. “I’ve just booked myself and my daughter into a bee-keeping course,” says Chris. “But my personal favourite so far has to be our glassblowing workshop.”
Why kindness and equal treatment are the best success secrets
By providing ample space for impromptu connections, Birch allows Chris to live out one of his key values: treating everyone with kindness, regardless of their status. It’s the right thing to do, and he says that you’ll be surprised how your kindness will come back around to you in unexpected ways.
“The amount of seemingly random conversations I’ve had with people that have actually led to a collaboration or something of mutual interest in the future are too many to count,” says Chris.
“If you don’t engage with people then you’ll never learn what they know that you don’t. Keep exploring.”