In-Room Work Spaces More Flexible and Accommodating Than Ever
Laura Koss-Feder, CoStar, 17 August 2022
This Moxy Times Square king bedroom is integrating new design and technology to serve bleisure guests. (Moxy)
While some business travelers have returned to the workplace and companies try to present some semblance of normalcy since COVID-19 took the world by storm, there is no denying that the workplace has dramatically changed.
Some professionals who were never allowed to work remotely can now spend a couple of days at home. Others may be working totally out of their residences.
This means that hotels are serving more and more guests who are combining business with leisure — the new generation of "bleisure" travelers. They can take a vacation with their families or as couples, and still be able to work and be productive.
Due to this trend, hotels will be tweaking and reworking some of their in-room design features to better serve bleisure guests. For instance, some hotels will be adding back work desks and refining some other features.
Brands that began eliminating desks prior to COVID-19 saw some pushback from their business travelers and where possible were already adding desks back prior to the rise of bleisure travel, said Steve Schrope, director of project management and hospitality market lead at CBRE.
Trace Jacques, senior design leader and partner at BKV Group, a national design and architecture firm, said desks were once on the cutting-room floor prior to the pandemic but are now a necessity in the guest room.
"The desk is back. Whereas vacations before the pandemic were often an opportunity to unplug, we’re now seeing a blurring of the lines between business and leisure travel," Jacques said. "Those who might have taken a shorter vacation before no longer have to rush back to the office and many are looking for accommodations that cater to leisure travelers, but also offer amenities that allow them to log on if they’ve planned a hybrid trip that balances work with play."
However, Jacques said that while in-room desks are returning in some hotels, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the typical built-in models of yesteryear. They are more streamlined, movable or mobile desks that can accommodate laptops. In some cases, they can even be big enough for an additional monitor, as well as multiple plug-ins to maximize the guest’s multimedia needs for remote work.
"Designers also are focused on creating in-room work zones that are more conducive for phone and video calls. In the case of the latter, special consideration must be given to the background, lighting and sound control to ensure these spaces are truly functional for guests — especially those who are traveling with families," Jacques said.
Furnishings like high-backed chairs or chairs that envelop users by semi-surrounding them to cancel out surrounding noise and distractions, along with mobile tables, are elements that can be added to enhance the adaptability of in-room workspaces.
Partitions such as movable screens — even curtains and drapes to subdivide spaces — can be used to enhance privacy or semi-privacy in guest rooms, he said. Reliable and secure Wi-Fi is a must-have in both rooms and common areas, many of which include booths and tables that function much like a co-working space.
There’s also the wellness factor that hoteliers are integrating more into guestrooms.
"There is a strong desire to maximize natural light and views — of a skyline, the surrounding streetscape or adjacent green space — something that ties guests to the environment they are in. If I’m stuck working in my room, I at least want to be able to connect with the place I’m visiting until I can go out and explore it when I’m off the clock," Jacques said.
Work settings are more flexible than ever, and this is what bleisure travelers now expect, said Mauricio Ramirez, marketing director at Mundo Imperial Entertainment & Hospitality. The rooms in the Palacio Mundo Imperial hotel in Acapulco, Mexico, have in-room desks, and this trend continues to grow in popularity.
In addition to an on-site business center with a printer and everything a professional might need, the hotel has propertywide Wi-Fi. This is a feature that the growing number of bleisure travelers want, and this allows them to work from common areas, the pool, or wherever they wish to, Ramirez added.
"These guests look for strong connectivity, spacious rooms, and ample space and comfort for working on the go," Ramirez said.
This redesign trend is also part of operations at Marriott International's Moxy Hotels.
"While Moxy has always put design and function at the forefront of our guest room vision, we are now responding to increased demand amongst business travelers by retrofitting many of our rooms with desks," said Mitchell Hochberg, president of Lightstone. "Our new properties on the Lower East Side (of Manhattan), Williamsburg (in Brooklyn, N.Y.), and downtown Los Angeles, all slated to open later this year, will all have desks in guest rooms to accommodate these mixed-occasion travelers."
Moxy is also integrating technology into its designs in new ways to meet the needs of the growing segment of bleisure travelers. The brand is providing free, fast Wi-Fi throughout the building, with charging ports readily available in all rooms and public spaces. The brand also recently launched a “Zoom Room” at Moxy Times Square in New York City, which is a guest room retrofitted as an office.
"The blending of business and leisure travel is a new trend, and it is not certain how it will evolve or how long it will last," said Mitch Provosty, chief financial officer at RREAF Holdings. "As the concept of remote and hybrid work become more common around the country and across multiple industries, we are seeing people 'relocating temporarily' to areas where they have family, friends, hobbies or other interests; one of the key industry beneficiaries of this trend is the extended-stay product."
RREAF owns more than 15 hotels with a mixed tourism and business focus and has desks in most of their properties. Strong, free Wi-Fi is a must in any hotel, followed by charging ports for personal electronics, Provosty said.
"Every touch point in the guest room needs to be functional and convenient. To start, these guests will require high-functioning Wi-Fi, preferably complimentary and electrical outlets that are strategically and conveniently located to easily recharge their devices when necessary," said Niveesha Hill, dual property general manager at the Hilton Garden Inn San Diego-Del Mar and the Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego-Del Mar.
Guests may also be looking to have more square footage in guest rooms for “breakout” space, Hill said. This space might work better for group meetings, but will also accommodate those business travelers who need a peaceful place to focus.
"Guests who are tied to their rooms because of remote work responsibility will need extra space to both work and provide healthy separation during times of rest," he added.