Wednesday, December 8, 2010

None of the Comforts of Work

Unnamed Omaha Hotel, 2010

There was a story in yesterday’s New York Times about how hotels are tuning into the needs of business travelers. (Haven’t we heard all this before?) This time, the story says, they’re zeroing in on workspace.

In my experience, a few of the national chains have done a good job on desks, lighting and power supplies that make it easy for me to work in my hotel room. But they’re clustered at the upper end of the hotel market and are not always within my clients’ travel budgets.

I do a lot of writing in hotel rooms, so it’s important for me to have someplace where the desktop ergonomics work well.

I actually have a few beefs with hotel rooms. I have been known to check out of otherwise respectable places that didn’t seem to understand why anyone would want more than a 40 watt light bulb to read and work by.

Like many regular travelers, I’m also increasingly attuned to the hygiene of hotel rooms. No details needed there. I’ll leave a comment at Yelp in a flash, too, if a hotel promises in-room wi-fi and then doesn’t have it or only has it in the lobby.

The picture above demonstrates one of my biggest beefs with hotel rooms; namely, elevation. This is a respectable chain hotel near the Omaha airport. It’s clean and well kept. Its staff is friendly and attentive. But the people who fitted out this hotel seem to have believed that their business guests would all be six feet tall, or at least have elongated upper bodies.

Let’s just say I’m neither six feet tall nor do I have an elongated upper body.

I travel with a laptop. It’s thin. But even with its low profile, hotel room desktop surfaces are often too high above chair level to be accessible without creating a lot of arm and back pain.

And let’s not get me started on hotel desk chairs. The worst kind is the kind that teases you with the prospect of adjustability and then doesn’t work. I’ll endure a hard wooden chair if its seat is high enough for me to have my elbows at desktop level. But that’s only rarely the case.

The picture demonstrates my usual solution, which is to pile bed pillows onto the chair to lift me to the right level. I feel like the princess and the pea when I do this. Depending on the kind of pillows available, it can be a precarious perch. And after I’ve been resting my tush on them for a few hours in the chair they make for pretty flat bed pillows.

Oh, the travails we endure in the pursuit of a living!


  1. Oh, I know this room all too well. I can so relate to that. The levers on the sides of those chairs hardly ever work--I don't know if they're just poorly made or if people have just gotten so disgruntled with the chairs that they've destroyed them, but they're usually not working. And if you do manage to somehow raise those seats, they slowly descend anyway, as time goes by, and you'll wind up right back down where you began!

    I've been in way too many rooms that look just like this one.

  2. I'm digging those boots! Fortunately, somehow, I haven't had too much trouble with hotel-room-cum-office ergonomics. I just got back from a business trip and remembered when hotel rooms were uniformly dimly lit. I had a decent desk lamp - and generally have. But I hear you, brother. One of the worst things about travelling is surrendering control over creature comforts to other people and hotel chains.