06/27/2023 • 4 min read

Hospitality in the Modern, Hybrid Workplace

Taking lessons from the hospitality industry into the office

by Haworth, Inc.

Over the last few years, people have sought to balance their work in the office, at home, and in third places—coffee shops, libraries, and anywhere else. Employers have had to adjust, and many have adopted a hybrid work model with some employees working in-office and some working remotely.

Especially with the rise of hybrid work, many employers realize that it’s important to cultivate hospitable office spaces. Since work is likely to be done in multiple places, companies must position the office as a vital hub at the center of the work ecosystem.

Hospitality has traditionally been associated with the service industry, such as hotels and restaurants, where companies make customers feel welcome and comfortable. But, especially with new styles of work, hospitality has extended beyond the service industry into the workplace.

Building Flexibility into the Workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic radically altered how people work—employees value flexibility, especially in a post-pandemic environment. Hybrid work policies offer the option to work in the office or at home, but companies will need to create versatile, comfortable spaces to support people in doing their best work.

Technology is an essential part of the new hybrid work environment. Virtual meetings are ubiquitous, with many people working together even when some are in the office and others are working remotely. Well-designed meeting areas can help facilitate collaboration.

For many workers in the office, certain kinds of spaces can make them feel more comfortable. Working from third places has risen in popularity, and many companies have designed offices to emulate those spaces. Comfortable couches and chairs, options for focus and restoration, and more residential décor can make the office feel more like a third place.

In 2022, Marriott International opened a new global headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. In a new era of work, where employee expectations have changed, the company wanted to create a hospitable hybrid work environment—an extension of the same hospitality it has offered guests for generations.

Marriott built a space with plenty of ancillary locations, flexible meeting areas of varying sizes, and spaces for more private individual or one-on-one work. On most floors, there is a central area with individual workstations surrounded by shared, versatile spaces with soft seating, which feels much more like a hotel lobby than a cubicle.

“We heard over and over—not only from our associates, but also from our leaders—‘Yes, we need traditional workspace with workstations and offices.’ But we also wanted to give [them] choice and flexibility.”

Stacey Cohen
Vice President of Workplace Management
Marriott International

Office Amenities, Hospitality, and Employee Comfort

Amenities are a key part of the guest experience at a hotel or resort, and Marriott made sure to offer plenty of perks at its new headquarters. There’s a health and fitness center, a wellness suite with meditation rooms and massage chairs, and a childcare center with an outdoor playground. There’s a coffee bar, cafeteria, and free snacks.

But hospitality is a more comprehensive idea than simply offering first-class amenities like a gym or coffee shop. Crafting an environment that enables people to work in ways they prefer, connect with each other, and find comfortable places contributes to better human performance and well-being. Hospitality is ultimately a mindset: people need to feel welcome and comfortable when they come into the office.

Company culture is a crucial aspect of hospitality in the workplace. In a hospitable workplace culture, employees feel valued, respected, and supported. Fostering open communication, promoting a healthy work-life balance, encouraging employee development, and ensuring that all employees feel a sense of inclusion and belonging are important standards for company culture.

Creating a warm, accessible space is another part of workplace hospitality. Stacey Cohen, Marriott International Vice President of Workplace Management, noted in the Haworth Work from Anywhere podcast that Marriott “interspersed the warm wood tones with the cooler polished concrete, the grays, the carpet, and the neutrals to warm the space up and make it feel more residential.”

She also mentioned that all employees have height-adjustable desks in an effort to make them more comfortable. Proper seating, appropriate lighting, a temperature-controlled environment, and balanced acoustics each contribute to comfort.

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How Spaces Adapt to New Ways of Work

People value flexibility, work-life balance, and a hospitable workplace. Creating a place where people feel comfortable and can avoid stress and burnout isn’t quite as simple as designing a modern office layout. Employers must focus on establishing a strong company culture to foster hospitality, as well.

But implementing more low-key, comfortable spaces with soft seating and opportunities for collaboration or focus work is an important way for employers to show their people workplace hospitality. It’s become even more important in an era of hybrid work. Creating comfortable and functional physical environments helps improve morale, productivity, and even retention.

Traditional workstations still have a place in the Work from Anywhere ecosystem. But comfortable, versatile spaces that foster connection and collaboration help employers create hospitality in the workplace. For Marriott, "there has to be a blend of residential and traditional office design. I think we'd be missing out on who we are and what our culture is if we didn't embrace that," said Cohen.

Read Marriott’s Customer Story

Marriott’s new headquarters creates a space that facilitates hybrid work and helps employees feel comfortable when they come into the office.


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