Dear Marriott: Millennials Also Care About Desks

Several readers have forwarded me links to a blog post about Marriott removing desks from their hotels. The post is by Dan Wetzel, a Yahoo Sports columnist, who is also a lifetime Marriott Platinum member.

He was shocked to stay in a newly renovated room at the Charlotte Marriott City Center, only to find out the rooms don’t have desks.

The website actually advertises these new room types, which feature a couch and then a side table of sorts, though it’s not the right height if you want to work from the couch. Here’s a sample picture of a room:

Marriott-Charlotte

And they even have a close-up of the table, as if they’re trying to highlight what a great feature it is:

Marriott-Charlotte-1

Generally the major hotel chains follow pretty “cookie cutter” renovations, which suggests that this will be far from the only hotel to get this room without a desk.

When Dan complained to the hotel about the desk situation, he was told this was part of a chainwide redesign, and that apparently it’s because millennials don’t like working from desks:

Then I heard something that terrified me to my myopic, Marriott point loving soul … this was part of a chain wide redesign of rooms. No more desks. In any, or at least many, Marriotts. Seriously. Even full service Marriotts in business districts, work areas were out.

I was told this had to do with the habits of Millennials, who don’t use desks. [Insert “Millennials don’t do any work” jokes here.] They prefer rooms that are designed to “hang out” in and whatever work they do can be accomplished on their phone. Hence we have two beds and a couch but no chair or desk.

As for working in the room, I was encouraged to sit on the bed and put my computer on my lap. Maybe some people like this. I don’t. Doesn’t matter. Essentially, Marriott was telling me that my preferred manner of working was wrong. And here I thought that Platinum for Life card meant they loved me.

I went online and, indeed, the story was true. Marriott consultants said this was the way to get the Millennial business. I’m dubious of this Millennial research [more on that below] but for now my cocoon of sanity and productivity was under attack by dreaded “consultants.”

The only millennials I know who don’t like working from a comfortable desk are millennials who don’t like working. Unless your job is taking selfies on Instagram for a living, what other millennials can do all their work from their phones?!

Desk

It really does annoy me how hotels are making drastic changes based on their perception of what millennials want. They seem to be boxing millennials into one group, when in reality I think they’re among the most diverse groups to date.

Sure, many millennials work somewhat differently than past generations. Tech has opened up a lot of new doors for people. I think in many ways that’s useful for redesigning hotels in vacation destinations. But I still believe that business hotels — like the Marriott Charlotte — would be much better off following a more “traditional” model.

While many millennials are working differently, the young consultants traveling 4-5 days a week are probably working as much as they ever have, and have hours of work to do when they get to their rooms at night.

Personally I think hotels have it all wrong. If we’re going to lump millennials into one group, I’d say they’re looking for more places from which to comfortably work, and not fewer. That’s because there are more opportunities to work remotely than ever before.

I think there’s value in having a lobby which feels communal and from which you can work comfortably, sort of comparable to a Starbucks.

Hyatt-Herald-Square-New-York-08
Communal spaces in hotels are valuable, but don’t replace desks

But that doesn’t replace the need for a desk in a room, because you don’t always want to be sitting in public when you work.

Bottom line

In many ways I think hotels are using “millennial” and “hipster” interchangeably when designing rooms. I also think it’s silly to assume that millennials won’t evolve over time. Do 20-somethings prefer hanging out in their rooms with friends rather than working on their laptop? Perhaps some do. Will that be the case in 20 years? I’m guessing not, unless hotels are just permanently going to start marketing towards 20-somethings.

Whether millennial or not, where do you stand? Are you in favor of desks being replaced with couches in hotel rooms?

Comments

  1. Totally agree. And, yet, your job consists of taking a lot of selfies and other photographs for a living …

  2. Lucky – As a Millenial myself, I am in complete agreement that this is idiotic. When I travel for work, a desk is a necessity. Whatever Marketing firm provided that information to Marriott needs to be fired. Desks are super important!

  3. I think the part of article that reads “but I still believe that business hotels…would be much better off following a more “traditional” model” is an attempt to say that it’s ok to change hotel design, but just not for MY hotels — which is a pretty arrogant, NIMBY attitude to have.

    Personally, I work in the FinTech industry, and although not a millenial, I never use the hotel desks when traveling. I far prefer Starbucks-style lobbies (as noted in this article) to get work done. It’s a much warmer and more engaging feeling than sitting alone in my hotel room.

  4. Amen. More spaces in which to work, in different ways, means more ways to reset focus. I’ll go from the desk, to the dresser (subs in for a standing desk) to the bed. But don’t take away surface areas. Otherwise how am I supposed to work AND eat? Oh yeah, room service is going away because they “listened to their customers” and are “enhancing the hotel experience with more social engagement at the grab ‘n go.”

    I want to find the local hole in the wall. I want to explore the city. But at the end of a long day on business, sometimes i want to work in my room. Or work while I’m getting ready in the morning without having to go down to the restaurant. The club lounge can help with this (it’s another space to work, too!) with some grab ‘n go. Just wish more were set up to take away food and not just coffee.

    Of course I’m not a millennial. At least I’m still in “the demo” for traditional tv advertising.

  5. I’m a 20-something year old millennial who travels for business around 15 times per year. I can’t imagine not having a desk in my hotel room! That is an expectation for most any business traveler. Hearing Marriott say that “that’s how millennials like to work” and saying we can do most of our work from our phone is so, so ignorant. I really get annoyed when I hear someone age 50+ make a statement like that. Talk about generalizing a group.

    Most importantly, they’re failing to understand that the majority of their travel market is NOT millennials! I don’t know many people my age who travel more than once or twice a year and to cater their entire hotel chain around millennials is really short-sighted.

  6. Our corporate policy actually prohibits us from working on our laptops in common areas for security/confidentiality reasons. So I guess we might have to drop Marriott as a preferred travel provider then. Smart move Marriott!

  7. I am a 29 y/o millennial attorney in a nationwide practice, so I travel quite a bit (writing this from an American flight). I prefer to work at a desk. This is ridiculous. Hhonors will keep me, if this is Marriott’s plan.

  8. I’m a millennial and I’ve been using desks at hotels to do my work since forever. Also, it’s a really good spot to eat food from when I don’t have a suite

  9. Do you think SPG hotels will lose their desks too, with the merger?I’m a big fan of SPG but if I can’t work in the rooms then I’ll have to book elsewhere

  10. This idea that millennial don’t ‘do’ anything is a stereotype older generations tell themselves over and over again. The fact that Marriott doesn’t get it shouldn’t be surprising- just look at their stupid ‘moxy’ chain. As a millennial, I’m working all the damn time, even on leisure trips, and workspace is super important.

    Starwood’s Aloft and Element totally nail this (I love that their desks tend to face the window, too.) You can work in the lobby in the morning with coffee as well as in the lounge with a drink in the evenings, as well as retreat to your room when you’ve got to tune out and focus. It’s just so smart.

  11. Just like KMIA, my company forbids performing company work in public areas, including while I’m in the air. I need a desk, and I need to use a mouse.

    Despite the Microsoft and Apple marketing t the contrary, there isn’t a single person in my company of over 10,000 employees is dancing around a conference table completing any “work” on a phone or tablet for that matter. If you are trying to finalize a proposal or presentation in a taxi on the way to a customer site? You’re already in a world of shit.

  12. I’m a millennial who travels about half the time and I spend about 9-12 hours a day on my PC. I never use a desk, even at home I prefer the dining room table, coffee table or kitchen bar to my office.

  13. I’m a millennial and never in my entire life through hundreds of hotel stays have I used the desk for anything other than putting my wallet and dirty tshirt on.

    If you’re a young person working remotely, more than likely its on a good laptop.

    Its a L A P top. Lap. Not a desktop.

    Prop yourself up with some nice pillows, turn on the tv (or not), and work from the bed like all millennials.

  14. After a day of client meetings, when I still have work to do, or even just want to eat or look up info to plan my next trip, I certainly don’t want to do it in some common space around others. I book a room because I want space where I can be alone. I have just spent all day with people and when I am done I want to sit in my pj’s and get things done or relax, alone. Even eating alone in my room.

    I get that others might want communal spaces to be social with others and that is great. Offer that for those who want it, but don’t punish those who want to sit at a desk to eat or do work.

    I agree with others, to plan a redesign around one segment of the population is crazy.

    I will end the year with around 45 nights at Marriott, not sure that I will give them more biz next year if this is what I see. I will simply stick with Hilton or find other options.

  15. I used to do a lot of work in hotel rooms when traveling for business. Having a desk was nice, but it wasn’t a requirement. The laptop could sit on a table or on the bed if needed.

    You can do a lot of work on a phone / tablet, especially if you work in Salesforce.com. Sometimes, though, you need an application that is Windows only or doesn’t work in a mobile browser (ie. uses Adobe Flash).

  16. Oh, “consultants” leading another big corporation down the wrong path. You gotta laugh at these idiots.

    #1 This is not a new problem. There have complaints on FT about the no-desk rooms for a while now.

    #2 The room has that table, so the problem isn’t just the lack of a desk. More so, it is the lack of a desk chair. The desk chair is absolutely the #1 most important thing in the hotel room for me. A weak, or nonexistent, desk chair, and I don’t return.

    #3 If I was ever assigned a room with no desk/deskchair, I would simply check out, buh bye. However, that will never happen now, because whenever I book Marriotts from now on, I will check on this ahead of time.

    Since Marriott will not match my HH or HGP platinum status, I only have about 15 Marriott nights year-to-date, so I suspect Bill Marriott doesn’t care about my feelings, in spite of the Xmas card he sent me (and probably millions of others). 😉

  17. Hmm. I’m a millennial and I work from hotels relatively frequently. I’m a writer, and I really can’t get my work done on my phone. I can search things or jot down some notes, but I can’t get writing done. I’d rather hand write at that point!

    That said, I can perch my computer on a desk, a counter, the bed, a lounge, basically anything. If my room doesn’t have a desk but has a table, yay! Then I can really set up shop at the table. But I need something.

    And, with that said, too, I tend to use a lap desk a lot. Maybe I should find a collapsible one and start traveling with it.

  18. Not everyone works the same way, and Marriott should be accommodating of that. There’s no reason why the desks need to be huge like they are in some hotels, but every hotel should have at least a small one, plus a movable desk chair. A good room design should be able to include all of that while still allowing for people who prefer to relax more when working.

  19. I first saw this at The Grand Hyatt Melbourne in Australia a few years ago
    Thought it was weird/awkward but oh well
    I use the business center now or the lounge
    Not a fan of the direction overall
    a good ergonomic chair and desk are essential for good back health and productivity

  20. As one of the fellow Millenials who passed this along, I had a feeling you’d chime in pro desk & I feel the same way. When I traveled for work, I would be in meetings or trainings all day & then need to work from my hotel desk most nights to catch up my actual work that had been piling up all day. I can’t imagine not having a real desk to do this on. Marriot needs to rethink this either by having 1/2 rooms designated “business” rooms or finding a desk/table that is adjustable. The thought of putting this in a Marriott or Courtyard blows my mind, because to me business traveler is the essence of who they are marketing to.

  21. Completely agree! Currently writing this from a desk while taking a break from work in my room at the Westin Michigan Ave in Chicago. I’m a millennial and I appreciate having a separate working area. I don’t like working from the bed and definitely don’t want to see a trend where hotels are moving away from traditional working areas in rooms. Of course, every hotel is different and at times I will book a more unique, quirky hotel. But if the hotel is marketed as business friendly, then there is no reason why they should be forgoing desks. Yes, communal spaces and a coffee shop are great to work from at times but having the peace of your own room and breathing space is just as valuable. Hopefully hotels will realize that keeping the “traditional” work space type room is still what a lot of business travelers are looking for.

  22. 40yo attorney here who travels a lot, worldwide. I would never, ever, ever stay in a room without a desk (for work), period. Vacation, fine, but a city hotel needs to have a desk. This plan rings of “new coke” to me. Adios, Starwood/Marriott.

  23. I only ever use a desk to put my suitcase on. I use the bed with my laptop when working most often. That being said, the Houston Marriott at the airport has recently renovated. No desks. Just a crazy small table that reminds me of the table you get in a hospital room to pull over your bed. Only it isn’t as functional. What are they thinking?

    http://ww3.hdnux.com/photos/42/26/53/9005762/7/1024×1024.jpg

  24. I’m a 200 year a night guy and I don’t think I’ve ever used the desk. That said, in the pic above, the table would make a fine desk while also being flexible enough to be a dining table.

    I think, based on the pic, what they mean is the table moves while the chair is fixed vs. the table being fixed while the chair moves.

    People need to relax.

  25. Totally boneheaded idea. As an academic who travels extensively, I do a lot of my academic work on the road, which is why suite upgrades rank very high on my list of top-tier elite benefits: I simply must have plenty of desk space and room overall to be able to spread my work when on the road…

    I suspect that this will be a short-lived idea because there is no way it survives the outcry that is sure to follow its implementation…

  26. The Hyatt Fisherman’s in San Francisco has done the same thing. When I complained to the manager, he said it’s a tourist hotel. The guests appreciate more room rather than having a desk.

  27. Millennials…bunch of cry baby kids.

    However, desks are needed and completely stupid that Marriott would even pander to young hipsters vs those that actually matter.

  28. Um… I’m a young business traveler who prefers a desk. I must be old fashion but I need a desk to work!!!!

    This is actually pretty disturbing. Glad Hyatt remains my primary chain.

  29. While I am retired and no longer need to work at a desk, I/we do spend 60-70 nights per year at hotels and utilize the desk space for a variety of purposes. Usually the desk is near the window and the natural lighting makes it easier for reading, make up, computer use, etc. And, the desk chair is more comfortable than sitting slouched over in the bed. Those Marriott bathrooms are usually small and dark. Not easy for two people to get ready at the same time. My husband takes the bathroom and I prefer using the desk. Not having a desk doesn’t make sense and I can say that I would never knowingly book a property that didn’t have a desk, or similar, in the room.

  30. Not a millenial. Fat old guy computer programmer and Marriott Platinum. I prefer a proper desk because I use a mouse with my laptop. The track pad gives me hand cramps after a while. Thankfully I haven’t had a desk free Marriott room but at the San Francisco Hilton Union Square I had a suite as HH Diamond with no desk and it sucked. I downgraded myself to a regular room with a desk.

    Bad move by Marriott

  31. I’m Gen X…but I hilariously must be a Millennial clone: I tend to work from my bed using my laptop/phone/iPad as appropriate. I am SPG 100+ nights, so sooner or later I’ll be a Marriott elite (already have Marriott Gold status but rarely stay with Marriott). While I rarely use my desks, I do agree that it seems pretty dumb to not provide a desk/workspace in a business hotel–as most mainline Marriotts are supposed to be.

    I suspect that a consulting firm is about to get a severe spanking…or Marriott is about to learn a hard lesson about branding. For lesser brands, I can see having 1 or 2 without desks that are more of the budget sector for Millenials–if nothing else, to test out the theory. But for a regular Marriott, the bread and butter of the hotel group, this seems a ludicrous and poorly thought out move.

  32. The Renaissance in Downtown Chicago did this after their renovation, making it an easy decision to stop staying there when I am in Chicago. When I called guest services to get a temporary desk, they tried to bring a plastic picnic table that was stained, which I refused. Really poor choice for any hotel moving towards this design.

  33. For as long as offices consist of desks and chairs, hotel rooms will require them. Sure people in some professions don’t require them, but professions which require concentration and long hours of working on your laptop do require a desk and chair.

    That being said, this is most probably an economics-driven decision as well by Marriott. A little table comes at a much lower cost than a desk and office chair. People will either be forced to upgrade to a suite which will feature at least some form of desk or table to work on, or pay to use the business center. Either way they win. And I said “as well” above because it surely isn’t just economics. If everyone needed a desk and chair they wouldn’t have removed them. They probably figured however that is a 50-50 split (as you also see from the comments here), so they just went with it. At the end of the day, the office and chair is not a requirement for most anyway.

  34. @Gary

    The Renaissance Boca Raton just eliminated desks, dressers and anything with drawers.
    When millennials and other folks who use the laptop on their lap start getting back problems they will change their tune.

  35. Dumb idea on Marriott’s part. Hopefully they also want to rent rooms to non-millennials, too. Why exclude people who like having a desk?

  36. I’m a millennial frequent business traveller, and while a desk can be useful, I only ever use it if the room I am in doesn’t have a proper couch or sitting table..

    If I get a suite upgrade or room with a small living area, I almost always work on the couch and little table opposed to setting myself up on the desk… Just personal preference however I would much prefer the look of this Marriott room opposed to most traditional 5 star business hotels I stay at.

  37. Crazy idea! I for one wouldn’t rent a room without a chair (I don’t think it should matter what age I am hence I won’t mention this here).

    To the people who put the laptop on their lap:
    if you are male, I assume you don’t want to have (anymore) children. Putting a warm object such as a laptop on your lap is bad for sperm quality. If you are in your 20s, you might not consider this but this decision might come back to haunt you in your 30s (or 40s). If a couple can’t conceive, it’s not always the woman’s fault. Nowadays very often the sperm quality is the culprit. Maybe worth considering.

  38. “The only millennials I know who don’t like working from a comfortable desk are millennials who don’t like working. Unless your job is taking selfies on Instagram for a living, what other millennials can do all their work from their phones?!”

    I’m late 20s, run a successful software company, and am typing this to you from my bed right now, where I’ve been working for the last 6 hours. Far more comfortable than sitting at a desk. I even put on my Sunday best.

  39. I work at any area, bed, kitchen counter, couch and desk and I am old :-). But I still like to have at least a small office table with a decent chair in my hotel room. Currently working in a hotel room and will be on a video call soon so sitting at the desk.
    Also where do people charge all their electronics at night? I am currently charging 4 devices and the desk gives a good spot to put them over night. Planned right it also has outlets right there (another different issue).

  40. Okay… I am barely not a millenial, but I am sitting at a desk in a hotel room right now. First and foremost, without a desk, working for any period of time kills my shoulders and neck (I actually almost always use my Roost Stand, but that’s another story). Either myself or partner almost always use the desk in the hotel room. Now, the dresser, that’s another story, they can completely get rid of that. I have never unpacked my bag into the dresser. iPads and iPhones are great for browsing, but even typing out this comment, I went from my iPad to the desk to type out.

  41. I’m *just barely* classified as a millennial, and I spend about 70 nights a year in hotel rooms. While some people here are saying “buck up, work from your bed, work from the lobby, it’s a LAPtop, it’s not a big deal”: how about YOU try setting up a mobile video edit suite on a bed or in the Starbucks lobby to cut until 2am? Laptop, mouse, external hard drive(s), camera, various SD cards & cases, card reader, mandatory AC adaptor, headphones….not to mention the inevitable swearing that happens when Adobe Premiere freezes!
    I have literally left a hotel and moved to a different one because the desk set up in my room is so poor. And here I was planning to shift my stays to Marriott this year. *Sigh*

  42. I’m a part of the millennial crowd and I would hate the fact a hotel would remove desks. Sorry, I need it to spread out my work. I can’t work in communal areas/lobbies – too distracting, sometimes too loud even with headphones, and cannot work in public with confidential information.

    Why is Marriott generalizing millennials?

  43. Regardless of which side you fall on (desks all day cough cough) for Marriott to make this change across the board is insanity.

  44. I’m a millennial, and I must admit that I don’t often work at a desk – at work, I’m often sitting on a couch or in a conference room, and when I’m traveling, I either use my laptop while sitting on the chair/couch in my room, or I’m on the move and answering emails from my phone or iPad.

    That said, it seems silly for a business hotel to not provide a desk. I doubt all millennials work without a desk. Not to mention that most business travelers right now are probably not millennials.

  45. I’m a millenial, and I’m fine with having a desk in the room.
    Also, aren’t millenials generally defined as people born between the early 80s and 2000? That would make you one of us too, Lucky!

  46. Stayed (reluctantly) at a Marriott Marquis recently in SF and was shocked not to see a full service restaurant for breakfast. The manager’s response: “As part of our rebranding, we will be removing full service restaurants from most properties since millennials don’t eat at hotel restaurants anyway.” Apparently the “millennial” argument is a pan-Marriott mentality, and they are making a lot of changes based on the assumptions of what millennials do/don’t do.

  47. Millennials seldom shower, so Marriott should eliminate in room showers. A communal shower area near the lobby would result in more guest interaction.

  48. At least the millennials never had to suffer the problem of the late 90s, where the desk (if there was one), the power outlet (if there was one exposed and not hidden behind the TV cabinet), and the RJ11 for dialup (if there was one) were inevitably *never* adjacent enough. Being in a different hotel room nearly every week of the year, I had a 100-foot RJ11 cord I had to carry with me, and an extension cord for my laptop power.

    Kids these days. 🙂

  49. I have experienced this annoying clack of a desk twice in the last year. Once at a Hilton in Lisbon and again a the Salzburg Sheraton. When asked about a desk I was told, no one asks for them. I know many people on the road for a living, ranging from age to early 30s to their 70s. They ALL want desks if to get a lot accomplished efficiently and comfortably.

  50. 200-300 night/year road dog here. I’m in my 30s and you better believe a proper desk with chair is essential. No desk? I’ll check out immediately. If I’m not working at a client’s office or borrowing an office of a firm we have good relations with, the hotel room becomes my office. A straight 6-10 hours. At the desk. Laptop, tablet, yellow pad, pens, phones (at least 1), paper files. TV off, music usually off. It’s how real business gets done.

    With my field, working in public is a big no-no. Even having conversations on the phone in a semi-public area can be grounds for termination. Even tonight when visiting my father-in-law in the hospital, I had to be guarded with my words and ended up borrowing the ward’s staff conference room to handle a business phone call.

    Maybe those in more creative-type jobs can get away with working from the bed. For those of us in the business world, the bed doesn’t cut it. Even when I was working with touring shows and using road cases as my desk & chair, I still looked forward to getting to the hotel room to use a proper desk and chair. If you’re seriously focused on your work, a relaxing work environment isn’t high on your priority list, but a functional one is!

    I thought the 20-something crowd was still couchsurfing & AirBNB’ing their way around the globe.

  51. I guess I’ll be cancelling my Marriott Rewards credit card now since I need a desk in my hotel room. At home, I sometimes get lazy and skip using my lapdesk or my desk until I end up with bad back, neck, and shoulder pain. Given all the restrictions planes have against the size of the carry-on, I’m not going to drag along one more thing (comfortable lap desk) with me on my business trips; much easier to find a different hotel.

  52. Business travel needs = comfortable chair that can be adjusted to fit height of a work surface – be it a desk or a table.

    Looks like I will be moving on from the Marriott too.

  53. In more breaking news Marriott Executives determined Millennials don’t use beds anymore and prefer to sleep on couches and work from them too
    Beds and desks will be removed from all 5000 plus hotels starting June 1

  54. “and work from the bed like all millennials.”

    Speak for yourself there dickhead. Some of us have real jobs.

  55. I just stayed at a remodeled in Marriott in Walnut Creek. Poor desk space, horrible desk chair, and an odd ‘relaxing’ chair that was basically an upscale patio chair with no arms. It was useless for working, viewing TV or reading.

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