May 08, 2024

Work-from-Anywhere Mode Makes Hotels Bona Fide Centers of Business


When future generations look back at the era of traditional workplace culture, they may look at it in the same way we now view factories at the onset of the Industrial Revolution: changed or obsolete.

Long, inflexible hours spent hunched over stationary desks, possibly in windowless cubicles. Commuting twice a day in code-mandated business attire. A single communal coffeepot. The accursed fluorescent lighting.

At the dawn of the remote work era, “co-working spaces,” such as those operated by WeWork, promised a different kind of office experience. But the fatal flaw of these shared-office models—one only exacerbated by the pandemic—was that, if given the opportunity to work anywhere, at any time, most would not choose another office space.

This was already true of WeWork even before the pandemic, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year after overspending on leasing.

What now? Where are hybrid or remote workers choosing to do business? Increasingly, it’s a place with dynamic architecture and lighting, fine dining and drinking available on-demand. Comfortable furniture. It might even have a golf course or a pool. They’re going to hotels, and as a result, hotels are reconfiguring their public spaces to accommodate this new entry of business.

For Lisa Haude, SVP and director of interiors at Wichita, Kan.-based LK Architecture, it’s an opportunity to reimagine hotels like never before. The firm boasts in-house capabilities that include architecture, interior design, landscaping and utility engineering services, priming it to capitalize on quick pivots like this. “Even though more people are returning to the office, remote work is still very popular, and hotels are the perfect place to provide this for both the business traveler and the leisure guest who still needs to remain connected to work,” said Haude. “These spaces are welcoming and inviting—and if one works remotely, they allow you to be surrounded by other people without being distracted. Additionally, they provide a new atmosphere with new visual surroundings, especially if you want to break up your routine.”

UNLOCKING THE LOBBY

The static, staid concept of a lobby has been under constant evolution in recent years, becoming an open, adaptable environment with space for guests to use different zones or layouts at their discretion.

At their best, a hotel’s public spaces allow guests various options to work in, all of which provide ample power, comfortable seating, natural daylighting and the convenience of ordering food and beverages while you work.

“Previously, business centers were tucked away in corners and typically not part of the overall lobby or hotel experience,” Haude said. “While guests could work in the lobby space, seating was typically set up for more socialization, or a temporary area to sit and rest while you waited. However, as the need for business travel expanded, hotels began to make changes and implemented a wider mix of seating and tables to accommodate their needs.”

At the Sheraton Denver West Hotel, Colorado, Haude guided a recent project to renovate the lobby and incorporate spaces that encourage more “informal meetings.” Now added throughout are light-filled glass studios, ample community tables with built-in charging outlets, and soundproof booths for “focused thinking” and increased privacy. The hotel will also feature &More, an all-day dining option that includes a coffee bar, cocktail bar and a grab-and-go market.

BLURRING THE DESIGN LINES

Working remotely inside a hotel is one thing, but the appearance of staying inside an office building is something that designers like Haude try to avoid. Rather than convert the lobby into a new office, LK Architecture leans into a more casual, dynamic design program that can seamlessly serve as a backdrop for work, as well as socializing.

“Hotels are designed to be inviting, with a heavy residential influence,” she said. “Local flavor is embraced and often integrated as well into the design, which creates a deeper connection and sense of place.”

The makeover of the Sheraton Denver West Hotel isn’t about just making its public spaces more work-friendly. Designed to reflect and incorporate views of the beauty of the surrounding foothills, the lobby and great room are expanding to accommodate opportunities for relaxation and gathering, while bespoke art and sculptures dot its interiors. Haude calls it “a complete transformation of the property.”

Another project, the renovation of Archer Hotel Napa, included a facelift of the lobby and other public spaces that exudes the warmth and natural splendor of the California wine region. “As we continue to evolve and adapt, we are creating spaces that are lively, flexible, community-based, accessible, and practical,” she said.

BEYOND DESIGN

Hotels aren’t stopping at renovations to entice prospective remote workers. Membership programs, such as WorkinLobby, allow subscribers services like 24/7 access to valet parking, internet connectivity and coffee. WorkinLobby currently has partnerships with Hilton, Elite World Hotels & Resorts, Radisson Blu and several other hotel chains around the world.

Marriott launched its own membership program, Day Pass, that gives access to a guestroom from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a functional desk, a private bathroom and natural light, as well as enhanced Wi-Fi connectivity and full use of on-property business facilities, such as printing, fax and scanning equipment. Day Pass is available nationally and at select global Marriott hotels in places like Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, London and Mexico City.

WORKING LATE

Can the time-honored tradition of after-work-hours cocktails with coworkers survive when there’s no office, work hours or even coworkers? A good way to start is to have a destination bar in the same building. Haude oversaw the renovation of AKB, the in-house bar at Archer Hotel Austin, to give guests and local Texans one more reason to hang around. Her team infused new life into the location without dispensing the brand’s recognizable ethos. A central bar with cozy corners, niche tables and large communal seating options makes for an inviting setting to close out the day with colleagues or complete strangers. “Drawing inspiration from the lively city’s distinctive blend of creativity and natural beauty, our team worked closely with both ownership and vendors to infuse the vibrant essence of Austin into a modern and edgy bar to set a new standard for elevated gathering spaces in the heart of Austin,” Haude said.

Coming soon, LK Architecture will finish work on a beachfront boutique with an emphasis on unique food and beverage experiences, as well as a large urban property that will highlight art and its surroundings. Both properties provide Haude and her team ample opportunity to tell a story through design, one that could make going to work every day neither a chore nor a bore.


Copyright 2024 Hotels, LLC. All rights reserved. From https://hotelsmag.com. Story contributed by Derek Herscovici.

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