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Michele Sponagle

Managing editor

Smitten by hotels ever since she was a kid, hoarding toiletries started early and picked up steam as Michele Sponagle began a career as a freelance journalist. Her globetrotting has taken her to properties in more than 50 countries, from rustic B&Bs to sprawling resorts.

Maybe we’re just weird, but we want a desk in our hotel room. We often travel for business reasons, laptop in tow. We’re frequently on deadline and spend time working long after we’ve finished all of our planned activities for the day. We want, no, need, a desk in our hotel room, but am finding them becoming scarcer in new properties and those undergoing renovations.

The big brains who drive hotel design are unapologetic. Their thinking is that guests want to hang out in a property’s common spaces, whether it’s a lounge, a coffee bar or a lobby outfitted with comfy couches and chairs. We think that’s a nice idea—in theory. Some of us tend to work early in the morning and late at night, often in pajamas or a logoed hotel bathrobe. That’s how we’re the most comfortable. And our choice of ensembles would just not fly in public spaces. Though business casual has evolved greatly, bathrobes and pajamas as daywear has not yet emerged.

Most hotel guests are a mix of leisure and business travelers, often a combination of both, which has sparked the creation of the new ‘bleisure’ category. It’s not crazy to think that many of them will do a bit of work during their hotel stay. A desk with plenty of plugins is still the most appropriate place to do that.

While we’re happy with a good quality bed, dressed in high thread count linens and a pile of soft and firm pillows, we don’t want to work there. We have had to do that at times and we hate it. It takes an engineering degree to prop up the pillows so that we can sit up and get some back support. Then the height is all wrong, so we try to rig up some sort of lap desk out of pillows, blankets or even some bath towels, just so we’re not writing with head and neck in a weird position. We’re okay with doing that to stream Netflix and binge watch Queer Eye into the wee hours of the night, sobbing all the way, but not for working.

Those big brains, if they do choose to include a desk in the design of a hotel room, have shrunk them down to minimalistic proportions. They’re not very wide or very deep. It’s like trying to work on top of a strip of bacon. Often, we will order room service so we can fit in a bit more work time into our trip schedule. We’re not going to chow down on a Caesar salad or a burger in bed. That’s just gross. We’re not animals. And we don’t appreciate the exfoliating properties of crumbs on sheets, thank you very much.

So, yes, we want space on a desk to accommodate a plate and a few glasses. Those Barbie-sized desk surfaces don’t cut it. We know what the push back will be from hotels: Desks take up too much space so we’re getting rid of them or making them much smaller as room sizes shrink, too. Or, what are you doing working in your room? You should be out exploring or hanging with your fellow travelers. No, no, and no. In the gig economy, as freelancers, we need to be plugged in and be responsive to client requests. We rarely take vacations where we don’t work at all. (Don’t feel bad for us. We get to travel around the world and do cool stuff, even though we are officially still on the clock.)

Hotels make a point of saying that they try to meet the needs of all guests, but we think they’re wandering off base by getting rid of desks. Why not have some rooms that have them and some that don’t? You could offer rooms designed specifically for business travelers who need conducive work spaces. Or perhaps have a desk on wheels that can be brought to rooms where the guest has requested them. If they can tote up cribs, rollaway beds and such, why not a decent desk?

Dear hotels, please, before you banish desks, give them another chance before they join wardrobes and TV cabinets in the dust bin of history. Deal? We can sign the papers over here on the desk. Oh, wait a minute…

To read more of our rants and raves, have a look right here.

One thought on “Rest in peace: Lamenting the disappearance of hotel room desks

  1. Desks need chairs! I was recently at a luxury hotel where the room was sized so that I had to sit on the edge of the bed to use the desk. No roomfor a chair and no desk chair in the room.

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