UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Dola Oluteye

Hotel lobbies as workplaces for the modern worker

Funded CASE (formerly known as Collaborative Awards in Science and Technology) with a studentship grant from KSBC & EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Reasearch Council).

The changing nature of work, afforded by the ubiquity of mobile technologies, is influencing modern workplace choices and transforming spaces. So, what type of workplace is suited to the modern-day workforce? Such choices are seen in the growing popularity of alternative workplaces, such as co-working. Hotel lobbies in London are also transforming into work environments, joining a growing number of web listings that account for workspaces in the United Kingdom (UK). Extending the use of lobbies to the public as workspaces suggest a re-conceptualisation of privately-owned built spaces, challenging existing space use norms. Though referenced as on the internet as ‘places to work’, these lobbies differ from alternative options often marketed as workspaces, as seen with the co-working model. They are functionally designed for work and used as such.

In contrast, currently trending use of hotel lobbies confounds conventional wisdom of their original function as waiting areas for lodging hotel guests; thus, raising an enquiry into the publicness of these privately-owned spaces. Why is the public drawn to these spaces and why adopt them for work? What is behind this phenomenon? There is a knowledge gap in existing empirical studies in this area of workspace enquiry. Given the use of lobbies for work is a growing phenomenon in London, the underlying motivations are empirically unclear. What attributes of these spaces qualifies them as workspaces and are they attracting specific work and worker-typologies. The characterisations of these users (workers), their activities (work), and elements (tangible and intangible) within these spaces are unknown?

Well-documented studies attest to a correlated relationship between technology and changing work, even though these concepts distinctively belong to technical and social domains. However, research methods in the built environment recognise the analytical enrichment social empiricism contributes to technical studies. Therefore, in an investigative study into the modern workplace suited to the modern-day workforce, this research project adopts a mixed methods approach, using observational and case studies to examine how hotel lobbies meet the needs of modern workers for workspaces. It examines attributes of lobby spaces that are attracting members of the public to occupy and use them for work, by engaging in social and technical discourses to better understand this phenomenon.

The study speculates that the increasing digitisation of modern work and changing worker demography contribute to shifts in workplace preferences; demanding space attributes that both inspires creativity and enables capabilities to work anywhere. Knowledge gained through this study has a three-fold implication for the built environment: incremental innovations in hotel lobby space models; re-conceptualisation of existing normative workplace designs and repurposing redundant, underutilised and obsolete built spaces into functional spaces that support economic activities associated with modern work.