by Thomas Wailgum

What Happened to That Whole Hoteling Concept?

Feb 15, 20072 mins

Remember back in the mid to late 1990s when every company was talking about their “hoteling” initiatives? It was so cool and hip and “fast company”-esque.

Office hoteling was going to change the world — or, at least, reduce real estate costs and offer those workers who traveled a lot a shared place to sit when they were back in the office. One of the first documented companies with a hoteling plan was advertising firm ChiatDay, in 1995.

The traditional office space, with the cubicles and gray walls and photos of your dog on your own desk, would be gone. You could still access your phone account through the telephone network and get your messages in a mailbox. Ubiquitous network ports and (a little later) wireless LANs allowed employees to work from anywhere in the dedicated hotel space.

That was the plan, anyway.

You don’t hear much about office hoteling these days. Despite the fact that every business publication was writing stories (including CIO‘s own take here and here) about hoteling and its bright future, the buzz seems to have subsided. Or died altogether. (On this site, which has a nice collection of hoteling stories, the list of stories fizzes out around 2002.)

Was it the fact that in the depressed post-dotcom real estate market, with greatly reduced prices on office space and large amounts of inventory, the pressure was off enterprises to reduce their corporate real estate costs? Or was it that so many employees were let go by their employees after 2000-2001 that space constraints became a non-issue? Or did employees just not play well with each other or want to share their space (meaning, we still can be a bit selfish in the sand box)?

Certainly there are no technological limitations today that would stop a company from offering a hotel-like environment.

So what happened? Are you still hoteling? Is the term gone forever, and telecommuting or teleworking are the preferred names now?

If you’re thinking of going “retro” and establishing a hoteling environment, check out “10 Keys to Office Hoteling Success.”