Why hotel lobbies have become the new workplace

Tech-savvy Millennials are demanding a new type of business accommodation that allows them to blend work with pleasure. Some clever hoteliers are getting a headstart on this movement, offering a place to stay, a place to work, and a community in one.

Many young business professionals are seeking better working environments and hoteliers are taking notice. Image credit: nd3000/iStock
Many young business professionals are seeking better working environments and hoteliers are taking notice. Image credit: nd3000/iStock

Where once you might have found a dimly lit bar and a dusty business center stuffed with outdated technology, hotels today are converting their lobbies and public spaces into modern, work-friendly zones for both their guests and the wider community.

According to Pew research analysis, Millenials make up the largest percentage of the U.S workforce today, and with a younger, tech-savvy workforce comes a new global attitude to business travel.

Apps like Slack and Trello are adapting to help teams work virtually, so employees can stay connected both in and outside of the office. Because of this, employers expect their employees to be online and engaged on a regular basis while traveling, whether it’s participating in team chat, or attending meetings via Google Hangouts.

Additionally, the rise of the gig economy means there are more freelancers and self employed workers than ever before. According to Upwork’s 2018 Freelancing in America Report, the freelance workforce has grown by seven per cent in the last five years, while the non-freelance workforce has grown by only two per cent.

Hotel lobbies make a great ad-hoc office for both digital nomads (freelancers who combine work and travel), as well as city natives seeking a working environment outside of their homes.  As rents skyrocket, hot-desking, the practice of sharing desks or workspaces as required, is becoming a popular alternative.

Once upon a time, the most important amenities a hotel could provide might have been a reliable phone line and a locally knowledgeable concierge. Today, a lightning-fast internet connection and an ergonomic workspace may be top of that list.

Social spaces for work and play

The employee of today enjoys more work flexibility than ever before, with perks such as flexible work hours, unlimited holidays, and the ability to work remotely. As a result, many are choosing to extend their business trips for the sake of pleasure and tourism, instead of rushing back to their home offices.

For these travelers, accomodation with a community spirit can be invaluable.

Filling a similar niche to coworking spaces, (which are also experiencing a rise in popularity), hotels that provide communal work spaces are creating a social outlet for business travelers, freelancers, location-independent entrepreneurs, as well as local businesspeople.

Perhaps they’ll meet some like-minded people for a beer or chat, get invited to a cool community event, or meet and network with local entrepreneurs.

Co-working for guests and the community

In Vienna, Hotel Schani, has a philosophy which encourages interaction between their guests and the community.

Silke Hagar, PR Manager for the hotel, said the company had adopted local traditions to create a better experience in their coworking space, Your Space, which is integrated into their hotel lobby.

“We have adopted Vienna’s coffee house tradition and established our hotel as a meeting place for local people and hotel guests alike,” she said.

The philosophy surrounding Your Space was about offering more than just an area to get work done. Instead, Hagar said it is about fostering a network of like-minded people.

“(It’s about) creating a community that stems from this coworking atmosphere,” she said.

Desks, power-points and natural light - need you ask for more. Image credit: Hotel Schani
Desks, power-points and natural light – need you ask for more. Image credit: Hotel Schani

As well as fostering a community spirit, practical needs are also satisfied by Your Space, which is free to use for hotel guests. They have ergonomic desks and chairs, well equipped meeting rooms, lockers, and high-speed internet.

Coffee and drinks are available 24/7 for employees burning the midnight oil, or those making up for daylight hours spent sightseeing in the Austrian capital.

Hagar also explained how Hotel Schani is making itself known within Viennese business circles, thanks to a winning combination of work-friendly facilities and a central location.

“We have become a well-loved location for business meetings due to our proximity to Vienna Central Railway Station,” she said.

“We provide break-out rooms in the lobby and coworking space.”

And if you’re wondering where Vienna’s Bitcoin community hang out, then wonder no more.

“We have also become a meeting place for members of the cryptocurrency community in Vienna and the surrounding region thanks to the Bitcoin Two-Way ATM in the lobby,” Hagar said.

Providing for the modern business traveler

Stockholm-based Hobo Hotel have also jumped to meet the demands of the modern worker, marketing themselves as “a meeting point, a workplace, an office or just a nice place to visit and hang out”. And for Millennial business travelers, that’s a winning mix.

Sofia Castensson, Hobo Hotel’s PR Manager, said business and pleasure were fast fading into each other when it came to hotel lobbies.

“You need to meet the demand of both business and leisure traveler at the same time,” she said.

Castensson said providing everything their guests could possibly need is the hotel’s ultimate goal, from rooms, restaurants and bars, to events, offices, and apartments.

To satisfy their guests’ business needs, Hobo Hotel incorporates work-friendly areas organically throughout their chic interior. Long communal wooden tables can be found in their central lobby area, while more cozy, work-friendly nooks can be found in their bar and lounge.

Hobo Hotel's lobby bar. Image credit: Hobo Hotel
Hobo Hotel’s lobby bar. Image credit: Hobo Hotel

On Hobo Hotel’s ground floor is SPACEby, a dynamic pop-up space used by Stockholm based startups and designers. Millennial business travelers enjoy making local connections, and innovative lobby concepts such as SPACEby are tapping into this.

On the 5th floor of Hobo Hotel is their event space, 5EMMAN. During the day it’s the perfect spot to work and enjoy a cuppa, while on weekend nights it transforms into a lively bar, restaurant, and hangout zone for guests and the general public. An ideal place for business travelers to connect and socialize.

A hub for local businesses

With its dynamic mix of social and workspaces, Hobo Hotel is fast becoming an attractive resource for local businesses.

Malin Ahlqvist, people manager for Swedish accessories brand Daniel Wellington, said his company uses the hotel as a base point for its employees, who work all over the world.

He said that as well as “keeping talents comfy” with top-rate accommodation, Hobo Hotel also collaborates with his company on a number of social events and exhibitions.

Ahlqvist said his company chose Hobo Hotel over other more traditional hotels in the area because of their shared values.

“At Daniel Wellington, we value people, creativity, and efficiency, all of which Hobo have proven they can provide,” he said.

“We love that Hobo features local entrepreneurs in their reception as well as their hotel rooms, and that Hobo has a sustainable mindset, which is in the same direction as our very own values.”

The lobby of the future

The lobby of the future is sure to continue evolving as the hotel industry embraces technology. We’re already seeing features such as check-in via smartphone, as well as the replacement of human labor by machines.

Hotel chain Yotel is having a lot of fun with technology. At their New York City location, your luggage is stowed by a “robotic luggage concierge”, and in their Singapore hotel, extra amenities can be delivered to your door by a friendly robot.

Yotel has even replaced traditional front desks with check-in and check-out kiosks. Gimmicky? Perhaps. But certainly intriguing.

While a fully automated hotel experience isn’t for everyone, it’s interesting to see the way in which hotels are adapting to suit the hotel guest of the future.

However, one thing is for sure; digitalization has entered all areas of life, and for today’s boomers and Gen-X-ers, there’s little choice but to jump on the technology train.


Grace Catherine

Grace is a freelance writer and digital project manager from New Zealand currently based in Mexico City. She is an avid traveler who loves destinations with an eclectic history, a bike-sharing scheme, and plenty of cool animals.