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Do hotel rooms really need a desk these days?

By David Flynn     Filed under: luxury hotels, Hotels, business hotels

Is a writing desk a must-have for a business traveller's hotel room?

If you'd asked me that question a year ago, even six months ago, I'd have replied with as near-definitive 'Yes'. Of course business travellers need a desk in their hotel room.

And not just any desk but one with easily-reached AC sockets mounted in the desk or on the wall and effective task lighting, plus a proper office chair with adjustable height and decent lumbar support. Surely that's a must-have for the modern business traveller?

But perhaps not. On recent travels through Europe, both for business and holiday, I've stayed at an increasing number of hotels which forego the obligatory desk and chair.

Instead, there’s a bit more space and perhaps a more sizeable and comfortable chair, or even a chaise longue by the window.

And the more I stay in these rooms, the more I begin to question my own assumption that a hotel room really has to have a desk at all.

My previous pro-desk stance is no doubt influenced by the fact that as a journalist I need a desk to work at – somewhere to dump my laptop, spread out my notes and hammer away for a few hours of an afternoon and/or night and perhaps then again in the morning.

(When you see mention on our @AusBT Twitter account about the trips we’re on and the hotels and cities we're visiting, and you think it’s all one big lark, remember that we still have to fit some writing in around that!)

And certainly there are times when a business traveller would want a desk for similar reasons – preparing reports, working on contracts or shaping up a presentation.

But even so, does every business traveller need a desk – and in which case, does every hotel room need a desk?

In a world of thin and light notebooks and ‘ultrabooks’, and more noticeably a world of  tablets, maybe all you need is a comfortable lounge (or a soft bed) with handy AC sockets by the bed and fast wi-fi flowing through the room. 

What's your take on this: as a business traveller, do you always use the desk in your room or could you happily get by without it?


About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


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1 on 8/11/11 by John

Yes please, keep the desks -- or replace them with something smarter.

I may not actually use the desk for typing (more likely to be found with the laptop on my lap), but I absolutely need a desk-like surface with five well-spaced power points for charging the approximately 123623496 devices I carry with me, backing up my data to the external drive, syncing camera and phone, and hooking up my Airport Express to the hotel's wired Internet.

2 on 8/11/11 by chrisjrn

Obviously, whether you need a desk depends entirely upon the nature of your work, and how much work you need to get done during your trip.  I personally write a lot of code, and a comfortable chair, and a desk of decent height is essential.

I personally wouldn't stay at a hotel if I couldn't guarantee that an acceptable work desk were available (and would be my first cause for complaint if one weren't available).

1 on 8/11/11 by John

See, when I'm working hard at a laptop (especially if it's my travel 11" MacBook Air), I actually prefer not working at a desk because of the laptop height problem.

I find that I stoop too much to see the screen, but if I'm relaxing on a sofa with enough cushions to support my back it's a lot better.

3 on 8/11/11 by AusFlyer

Yes... Desks are still necessary. Sure a lap table for a laptop might be okay for a short use but it certainly doesn't replace the need for a desk with the appropriate powerpoints. Working in foreign countries means working on different time zones so it is always necessary to log into work after hours so it's always better to have a desk.

BTW - If you want to send me around the world and stay in nice hotels I will be more than happy to write articles for you! :-)

1 on 8/11/11 by John

Yes, the power points are the real crux of an effective work setup, I find. Of course, there are many (many. MANY.) hotels that have actual desks but a single power point hidden behind the TV, or in a floor panel under the bed, or...

I agree it's more important to have a desk when you're in a different time zone, since you're more likely to be working into the night, but I also want one  when travelling closer to home, since I'm more likely to be carrying more stuff.

4 on 8/11/11 by mittavalleycomp

The room at the Radisson on Flagtaff where I stayed recently had a desk with a good lamp,plenty of room,and good access to power and broadband points,it was excellent-but I didn't use it because there were power points by the bed and free wifi internet so I just propped the laptop on the bed,plugged the power adaptor in to the wall beside the bed and away I went,there was also a round coffee table by the bed which I used in the mornings to catch up on the news whilst drinking my morning coffee,so I had no use for the desk,but if I had needed to sign contracts or documents etc then I guess the desk would have been useful but perhaps the hotel could make use of the space for a few tub chairs or even a space for a rollaway bed at times when the hotel is busy..



1 on 8/11/11 by John

That "making use of the space" question you raise is an interesting one -- what would we swap for the desk? A comfy sofa (not a sofabed that feels like a plank)? A bigger bed? More general space in the room? A proper luggage rack for suitcases? An honest-to-goodness ironing board?

1 on 8/11/11 by mittavalleycomp

I neglected to say that I totally accept that for many business travellers a desk is probably still an absolute necessity and the fact that I didn't use the one provided doesn't mean that the next occupant of the room didn't-as for what I would put in it's place well I would probably go for a comfy sofa-oh and  by the way the ironing board supplied at the Radisson was excellent and the iron actually worked really well.

5 on 8/11/11 by jetsetcd

That lap desk amenity is the BEST. I havent yet encountered that in a hotel, but bonus points for the place when I do. Anyways: desks. YES I need a desk. Some form of a desk, at least, with a chair level enough with the table for a comfortable typing position. No squishy sofas and tables, is what I'm saying. Also--Vegas is guilty of this--no bar-height tables with barstools. Some people have to work in Vegas.

1 on 8/11/11 by John

YES. I may well have let out a small yip of excitement when I came across the lap desk.

I'm sure they'd be stolen faster than you can say "where is our bathrobe, Ms Salahi?", but I feel that awesome hotels should at least have them as a "call down for this" option, like hypo-allergenic pillows, for guests who need to work and like them.

And agreed, the "breakfast bar as desk" idea needs to stay in Vegas.

6 on 9/11/11 by jokiin

I like to have a desk, but a functional desk, too many places I've stayed seem to have desks and chairs bought as fashion statements rather than for their functionality

7 on 21/11/11 by Al

I can usually do without a 'proper' desk, just for checking email and some surfing sitting on the couch or in bed is okay. I'd like to see newly-built hotels give a choice between a slightly smaller and more compact room without a desk for less money, and a larger room with a proper desk, chair and lighting and AC sockets within easy reach. Let the business traveller choose what they need and pay accordingly.

8 on 1/12/11 by Rita Cavanagh

I'm not a business traveller, but I do like a desk.  I use it to read the paper in Australia and to put photos on my netbook and check emails.  And yes, I need somewhere level for charging everything--netbook, 2 cameras and sometimes a phone (used mainly for the alarm!)


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