Matthew Hughes at The Next Web is here with an update on the most important issue of our time: The placement of desks in hotel rooms as a way to cater to Millennials. The Marriott chain, Hughes reports, is reversing course after previously removing fixed desks from their rooms because young people weren’t using them and preferred to work on their tablets or laptops from couches or chairs or the bed in the room. Turns out that maybe wasn’t completely true and so Marriott will put rolling, movable desks in the rooms to allow for people to work from wherever they want to.
I’ve logged plenty of time in hotel rooms. More than some, less than many. I’ve always found, though, that the desk was the worst part of the overall experience. It’s usually at an odd height and accompanied by an uncomfortable chair, the adjustable levels of which aren’t always compatible with the desk. More than that, the desk is often against the same wall as the TV, and when I’m in that environment I like to work with something on in the background, even if it’s just a generic episode of “NCIS” or “Law & Order.” So I wind up working from a separate chair or the bed, even though I’m certainly not a member of the Millennial cohort.
More than the desk issue, hotels need to do more to address the power issue. That’s where the real point of contention usually is in the hotel experience. There are large hotels in major metropolitan markets I’ve stayed at that have three outlets in the entire room, one on or near the desk and one each hidden behind the heavy, hard to move side-tables on either sides of the bed. That doesn’t make for a great environment when someone is charging a laptop and hoping to take it anywhere in the room and charging their phone and still wanting to use the lights that are plugged in and taking up all or most of the available outlet space.
This is a bit of ranting, but what we’re talking about is how the user experience is often very different than what it’s assumed to be by designers. More than that, it evolves over time. That’s what Marriott was going for, it seems, with the announcement it was taking out desks. That was big and flashy, largely because it involved Millennials, which is a great hook to get everyone to write up your minor news. The bigger change, though, and one that would have appealed to a broader cohort (and therefore been less attention-grabbing) would be to renovate rooms to make outlets much more accessible wherever you go.