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The Impact of Remote Work on Hotel Lobby Design

Hotel Designers Seek Mix of Communal, Individual Zones in Public Spaces

Hotel News Now

January 24, 2024

Remote and hybrid work continue to influence the evolution of design within hotel public spaces and guestrooms, according to hospitality design experts.

At the onset of the pandemic, millions of employees began working remotely, forming new trends in how people choose to conduct business.

Hotel public spaces at the time were also designed in a way that allowed for more space and prioritized people's personal bubbles.

Now, as conditions ease and employees continue to benefit from remote work policies, hospitality designers are reimagining spaces to best meet new demands.

During an interview on the Hotel News Now podcast, Lisa Haude, senior vice president and director of interior design at LK Interiors, said much of her work consists of adapting spaces to include more "zones."

"The idea of having a lobby that's just a lobby is kind of going away. It's becoming a much more open environment; it's becoming more adaptable, truly creating zones that are communal, that are individual, that are quiet," she said. "There's [a] more authentic thought process in how we're designing these spaces to truly reflect that environment. The lobby or the public space now becomes more of a 24/7 zone versus it was just the transition space you went through before you went to the pre-function or a meeting room."

Haude said hospitality designers should continue to evaluate how consumers use these spaces as the trend grows and evolves.

It takes more creativity when renovating an older property to fit the new standards of today's travelers, she added.

For example, LK Interiors is working on an older property in Colorado where her team is creating a variety of public and private zones in the lobby.

"We've created even individual pods ... almost like a little phone booth, you can go sit in there and it's nice and quiet," she said. "Or there's smaller ... meeting spaces that are tucked within the lobby proper where you can go in and have a small meeting with three or four people in the space, and it's still in the open environment. It might be somewhat private with some screening or glass doors."

For more insight from LK Interiors' Lisa Haude on designing for today's travelers, listen to the full podcast conversation below.

David Shove-Brown, partner at boutique design firm //3877, said travelers are seeking out a variety of spaces that cater to different work styles.

"Essentially it's a modified version of what you would find in a typical workplace," he said via an email interview. "For example, the transformation of common areas in hospitality settings has been greatly influenced by the trend towards better accommodating hybrid work. In addition to traditional business centers that house more typical meeting rooms and desks, lobbies and lounges are becoming popular co-working spaces in common areas."

It's important to consider a diverse range of seating options with various layouts to cater to solo work, collaborative groups and social interactions, he added.

Shove-Brown said designers prior to the pandemic were removing desks in guest rooms. However, studies have shown that in-room desks are essential to how travelers work and can also be multipurpose additions to a room.

"Even with many people returning to the office, remote work has grown in popularity, and hotels have a responsibility to provide work spaces for both business travelers and leisure guests who need to stay connected," he added. "This accommodation is no longer a request from travelers — it's a requirement."

An essential aspect of designing to accommodate hybrid work is ensuring the existing infrastructure can adequately support it, he said. This includes reliable Wi-Fi and an abundance of power outlets.

Many older hotels lack enough accessible power outlets and the placement of the outlets is often inconvenient.

"Clever layout and design solutions can address similar problems. A good way to maximize limited power access is by incorporating multi-function furniture pieces such as seating and desks with outlets incorporated within," Shove-Brown said.

He said hotel bars and restaurants can also transform into lively social hubs, and work spaces can be strategically placed near these venues.

Dan Mazzarini, principal and creative director at BHDM Design, expects that even high-end hotels will start to incorporate more grab-and-go food options from upscale bakeries and coffee shops to cater to remote workers.

To create an inviting and residential feel in these spaces, Shove-Brown suggests incorporating biophilic design elements and bright colors. Steer clear of the uninspiring beige appearance that has been linked to monotonous hotel aesthetics, he added.

"Many hotels are also embracing their location by integrating design elements that establish a sense of place for guests, fostering a deeper connection to the local area during their stay or during their workday," he said.

Designing Wellness Spaces

Wellness tourism in 2024 means more than just visiting the hotel spa and gym, Mazzarini said in an email interview.

The name of the wellness game this year is "bespoke," tailoring wellness offerings to guests' varying needs, he added.

"We encourage our clients to introduce more wellness-oriented services and products beyond the expects. This could include printed-out 'five-minute meditation' practices that are easily accessible to guests or partnering with brands who are rooted in wellness and bring more activities to the hospitality setting," he said. "People also want to feel as comfortable as they do in their own home, so it's important to consider providing items like sound machines, which many people sleep with every night but won't necessarily travel with."

Biophilic design is also a major focus in the wellness space and has made its way into hotels.

Wellness was previously associated with light and airy colors such as shades of white. Now, it's more common to see wellness-focused spaces leaning into color palettes and designs inspired by nature, Mazzarini said.

"We're seeing more tans, grays and dusty jewel tones that pair well with natural materials and textures," he said.

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