The New York Times (subscription required) in a report filed yesterday notes that “One challenge of the work-anywhere lifestyle is that not everywhere is designed for people who need to do work”. Focusing on an odd coupling of hotels and airports, the article reports on “women in skirts sitting awkwardly on the carpet at an airport gate, balancing laptops plugged in to precious few outlets. Or hear about grown men building the adult equivalent of a pillow fort to fashion a makeshift desk on a hotel bed”.
The 24/7 American worker is not a recent phenomenon and not unsurprisingly, hotels, as the Times notes, are responding more swiftly than airports by “scrambling to add electrical outlets in easy-to-reach places, install better task lighting and design chairs with flat armrests that can double as desks”. Hotels are also “putting desks on casters so the desks can be wheeled in view of the television or even extend over the bed” – a somewhat awkward solution given the advent of flat screen TVs that not only can pivot 90 degree in either direction but are also pretty versatile when it comes to viewing from an angle.
The report also notes a gripe that extends across segments is about technology, particularly internet access, that either does not work or works improperly. In the case of higher end hotels, it is one where customers have a rather short fuse given that it is the upper segment that charges for internet access (it is free in almost all select-service hotels). The article quotes Henry H. Harteveldt, an analyst with Forrester Research in San Francisco, as saying that “reliable Internet access is the No. 1 amenity business travelers demand”. Mr. Hartveldt notes that the “tech support issue is something hotels need to do a better job with”. “If you check into a five-star hotel and have to wait 20 minutes to talk to someone about a tech support problem and that person isn’t able to help you, that reflects poorly on the hotel.” Apparently, Hilton has taken that to heart by “bringing its technology support in-house, hiring about 40 employees to handle calls from guests at the 215 hotels that have already converted to its “Stay Connected @ Hilton” program, which also involves hardware and network upgrades”.