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Is it Okay to Work on a Laptop for Hours in Hotel Lobbies?

Modern and stunning hotel lobby.

In 1943, back before there were laptops and wireless printers, the hotel lobby was depicted by realist painter Edward Hopper as a casual place to relax and wait. Hopper shared an oil-based snapshot of a common scene that took place in many lobbies across the country, maybe even the world, at that moment in time.

A place that was once just meant for checking in or out with reception and perhaps waiting for a ride has evolved. These days, hotels across the world have grown to create more of a casual ambiance with plenty of seating and free Wi-Fi. If you’re lucky, some even come with restaurants or endless snacks.

With these kinds of extras, the hotel staff is clearly inviting you to stay, right? Let’s examine that idea.

What about the business center?

Hotel business and meeting hall.

When looking at a hotel to stay in, many will take a browse through the amenities. Almost every hotel will tout a business center that guests are free to use and most are open all hours of the day and night. However, it is required to have a keycard or password to get in and perhaps even use things like the printer.

Unless you are a guest, you will be unable to have access to this room. It would also be impractical to hold a business meeting in a business center that typically has rows of computers and is meant for quick work.

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In many big chains and boutique hotels alike, the lobby and business centers are starting to merge. Often, business centers are small and formal. Lobbies often consist of plush couches and tables.

The need for a room with computers is becoming less important, considering many people come ready with their own equipment.

If you can stretch out and get some work done, the lobby is superior to the business center.

Where is the best signal?

A couple using their phones in hotel lobby.

Depending on where your room is in a hotel, it’s possible that you won’t have a great signal. That can sometimes extend to Wi-Fi. Even though most hotel rooms come with free Wi-Fi, that doesn’t mean the signal is great.

If the hotel is heavily booked, the room access might be spotty or slow. In these cases, the hotel lobby is likely the best place to get a strong signal. Also, it might be a good reason to get out of a room if you’ve been there all day working.

A change of scenery never hurts anyone.

Do I need to be a hotel guest to use the lobby for work?

Man on his laptop at a hotel lobby.

Technically, no. In most cases, if you walk into a hotel and go directly to sit in the lobby, the chances are you will not be noticed. To that, I can attest, as I have many times gone directly to the lobby and printed off documents before checking in. No staff member batted an eye.

Need to print or even use a fax machine? You can do that, too. No keycard, no problem.

The hotel could benefit from this arrangement!

Businessman working in hotel lobby.

According to the New York Times, “Hotels have started to create lobbies and common spaces that are a destination in themselves for both guests and locals.” The idea here is that attracting people to come work could potentially increase the bookings. Having people feel comfortable coming in and taking pictures of their set-up, then posting it to social media has great advantages.

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When hotels are tagged, more eyes are on their location. More eyes can very easily equal an uptick in hotel stays, which will bring more money to the hotel. The best part is that it’s free.

Each hotel already has Wi-Fi and space. Why not make the most of it?

Did I mention networking?

Business meeting at a hotel lobby.

In addition to the quiet atmosphere and space to set up, there is the added bonus of potentially coming in contact with people you can network with. No matter what part of the world or which city a hotel is located in, there are likely professionals coming in and going out that are from some very interesting places. Work trips take people all over the world and you never know when you will run into someone who works in your field.

While taking up a seat in the hotel lobby, open up and utilize your chat skills to see who you run into. You never know when a connection could help your career. As Timothee Grassin put it, “They might be in town for business or for an event and, depending on what your business is, you may benefit from talking to them and giving them your business card.”

So, is it okay to stay in the lobby all day using Wi-Fi?

Business woman working at a hotel lobby.

After all that analysis, it seems like the only correct answer here is, yes! This is the hospitality industry, it’s all in the name. While being in the hotel lobby for half a day might prompt staff to check in and make sure you don’t need anything, you’re more than welcome to stay.

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Almost all hotel lobbies are open 24/7 and are usually quiet. If this is the most comfortable place for you to get your time online, bring your laptop bag and put together a practical setup. Take pictures, get social, and get your work done.