The New WFH: Working From Hotels

By Steve Jarratt, Technology Writer

Working from hotels - A man working from a hotel with a laptop

It’s not unusual to find hotel lounges and lobbies filled with people staring intently at laptops or conducting conference calls on their smartphones – especially in chic city destinations. 

In fact, the definition of the workplace has grown increasingly blurred over the last decade, especially as more roles are fulfilled digitally and people work remotely. Offices have changed too - hot desking has become a popular practice; local cafes and bars are employed for meetings; while days working from home (WFH) are now commonplace. Many of the changes forced upon us by Covid-19 look set to become permanent fixtures in a post-pandemic world.


The concept of using hotels as co-working spaces is far from new. GFI Hospitality’s Ace Hotel New York, which opened in 2009, is well known for its bustling lobby, which provides a meeting place for digital creatives [1]. Similar co-working areas can now be found in many of the city’s designer hotels [2], while combining business travel with leisure (aka ‘bleisure’) is a growing trend amongst corporate travelers. 

Workspace on demand

Back in 2013, USA Today reported on the increase in ‘pop-up offices’ being offered to Millennials and Generation Xers; people in their 20s and 30s who were the first to break away from the traditional 9-to-5 in favour of flexible working [3]. At the same time Marriott began its ‘Workspace on Demand’ programme, with 35 US hotels offering meeting rooms by the hour [4]. And in 2017, select Crowne Plaza hotel lobbies were branded as ‘Plaza Workspaces’ [5].

Flush-mounted power outlets at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia.

Selected Crowne Plaza hotels have installed flush-mounted power outlets.
Credit: Crowne Plaza® Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia. 

With visitor levels slumping to an all-time low during Covid-19 lockdowns, more hotels have had to turn to alternative methods of generating revenue. One strategy is to offer rooms as makeshift offices to provide a quiet workspace when business premises are closed or as a way for homeworkers to get time away from busy households. 

With hotels increasingly providing extra plugs for powering laptops plus wireless charging stations like the Brandstand CubieSpot, remote workers are well provided for.

Day use offices

It makes a lot of sense for hotels to leverage their existing space, selling food and drink to people working in lobbies and bars, or hiring out otherwise empty rooms. Hotel chains like Hyatt market these spaces as ‘day use offices’ [6]; while the Red Roof Inn chain has a campaign called ‘Work Under Our Roof’, offering rooms as work space at rates as little as $29 a day [7]. Elsewhere, the Hoxton hotel chain has launched a ‘Working From’ co-working venture at its sites in Chicago and London [8].

The addition of extra power outlets can make hotels more work-friendly.

Extra power outlets embedded into furniture are making hotels more work-friendly.

Luxury hotels have also recognised the demand for a work space backed by hotel service. The Hamilton Hotel in Washington DC, and its sister spa hotels Estancia La Jolla and Pasea in Los Angeles, provide more upmarket services in the form of their ‘Zen Office’ rooms [9]. “You also can spring for a wellness suite that comes equipped with Mirror workouts to add some exercise “play” to your workday,” reports the LA Times [10].

Changing work patterns

The idea of marketing rooms as temporary offices and meeting rooms could become a useful new revenue stream, especially once the pandemic has passed and working practices remain the same. The Covid-19 crisis has merely accelerated a home working/flexible working trend that has been gaining momentum for some time. It takes little effort to make a room into an office, and opens up the potential for future incentives like membership packages and loyalty schemes.

Hotel public areas – which are often spacious, brightly lit and luxuriously appointed – have in turn given rise to serviced offices from the likes of WeWork, which provides hospitality-style workspaces on flexible contracts [11]. It seems only logical, then, that the hospitality industry should take back the initiative and use its existing resources to benefit from this new way of working.

Brandstand designs and builds power and charging products for the hospitality industry. Find out more here.


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References:
[1] https://www.fastcompany.com/1768472/ace-hotels-communal-workspace-shows-winning-hand
[2] https://blog.blacklane.com/travel/hotels/manhattan-hotel-lobbies-that-double-as-creative-work-spaces/
[3] https://eu.usatoday.com/story/travel/hotels/2013/11/24/hotels-rent-office-work-space/3691921/
[4] http://www.successfulmeetings.com/News/Hotel-Updates/Marriott-Expands--Workspace-on-Demand--Program/
[5], [8] https://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Hotel-News/Hotels-get-into-the-communal-office-space
[6] https://onemileatatime.com/hyatt-hotel-room-office/
[7] https://runningwithmiles.boardingarea.com/hotels-day-offices/
[9] https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/2020-04-17/when-wfh-can-mean-work-from-hotel
[10] https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/2020-04-17/when-wfh-can-mean-work-from-hotel
[11] https://www.ft.com/content/543cb104-402a-11e9-9bee-efab61506f44