February 8, 2023
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Many travelers these days are seeking accommodations that provide adequate space and furnishings for remote work. This was true even before the COVID pandemic struck, but it's especially true since. Seeing that remote work hasn't damaged their bottom line, and in some cases even improved performance, many companies have permanently changed their work models, allowing some or all of their employees to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

Now many people are realizing that as long as the nature of the work only requires high-speed internet, a good WiFi connection, a laptop, and a workspace (desk, chair, etc.), they're able to travel and see the world while still working. This is an especially appealing proposition for young adults without kids, and older adults whose kids are grown. And these working travelers are a lot less likely to throw parties in your property. These aren't high schoolers looking for a place to throw a post-prom party. Working travelers will want be out and about in their free time, experiencing the local bars, restaurants, attractions, landmarks, etc.

Unfortunately, I don't see many short-term rentals on the Airbnb platform providing appropriate furnishings and an adequate amount of space for guests to realistically get any work done. My partner and I frequently need to work remotely when we travel, so not only do I have the perspective of a trained, certified Airbnb design consultant, I offer the perspective of a frequent Airbnb guest, as well. I'm sorry, but those teeny, tiny desks that are usually being passed off as "dedicated workspace" in most Airbnbs just don't cut it. My partner and I often need to keep our workspaces set up at the dining table, and it's very frustrating to have to eat while sitting on the sofa with our plates in our laps. I'm sure you, as an Airbnb operator, cringed a little at the thought of guests eating all their meals sitting on your sofa, and I don't blame you! So a word of advice: if the dining table is the only workspace you're providing your guests, at least provide TV trays, as well.

Or consider including a coffee table with a top that lifts up to table height. This will provide even more room for eating or working.

However, if a dining table or one of these adjustable coffee tables is the only "dedicated workspace" you're going to offer your guests, please don't check that box under available amenities. The definition of dedicated is "a thing exclusively allocated to or intended for a particular service or purpose".

Guests have the ability to look at every photo of your Airbnb on the same screen the search results appear without ever opening up the listing to read your carefully-crafted description. It doesn't matter if you checked the box next to "dedicated work space" for the amenities you're providing, if they can't see practical, adequate workspace in the photos that come up in the search results, they're going to keep scrolling.

I was recently invited to appear as the featured guest speaker for an Airbnb hosting club in the Long Beach, California. "Designing Airbnbs for Business Travelers" was the topic I chose, so in preparation for this, I got on Airbnb and ran a search for Long Beach with the filter set to "dedicated workspace" and "WiFi" under available amenities. Out of over 1,000 Airbnbs that came up in my search, only half included photos of the workspace they were advertising (by checking dedicated workspace under the list of amenities offered), and only 10% of those photos revealed a workspace large enough and comfortable enough for someone to get their work done. 

If you're trying to catch the attention of working travelers, be sure to upload multiple photos of the work space(s) you're providing. (Yes, providing more than one workspace would be great, especially for traveling companions who will both be working remotely during their stay).

Several of the Airbnbs that came up in my search were wasting valuable space with decorative pieces of furniture that wasn't serving a function other than looking pretty. As a stager and designer, it pains me to say scrap the decorative pieces such as console tables and bookcases and fill that space with another desk, but when furnishing an Airbnb, functionality needs to come first. That random, uncomfortable-looking chair in the corner several feet away from the rest of the seating in the living room isn't going to get used, either. Put an L-shaped desk in that corner, instead. If there's enough room next to a bed for a desk instead of a nightstand, do it! That way, the desk can double as both.

Make sure your listing photos clearly show the size of the desktop(s) and chair(s), as well as where they're located in the property (living room? bedroom? elsewhere?). You might also want to consider including a drawing of the floor plan that indicates where the work space(s) are located.

Be sure to include a close-up photo of the desk chair(s), as well. At a minimum, desk chairs should be adjustable in height. Ideally, they should also have adjustable armrests that raise up out of the way, and chairs should support up to 300 lbs. In my Long Beach search, two listings came up that were only offering an ottoman to sit on. I kid you not! But even worse, a couple of them were offering no seating at all at the desk - and yet they had the nerve to claim they were offering "dedicated workspace".

If you're an Airbnb host, or hosting a short-term rental (STR) listed on any of the other platforms, such as VRBO, HomeAway, etc., and you'd like to target those working remotely while traveling, here's my recommended shopping list. 

At a minimum, provide the following:

  • A large enough desk that your guests can have their laptop open while still having room to keep a stack of files to the side, as well as enough room to write on a paper notepad without having to close their laptop or put it on the floor. I recommend this 63" wide desk or larger.
  • To maximize desktop space without taking up much additional floor space, consider putting an L-shaped desk in a corner.
  • A comfortable, adjustable office chair. As mentioned earlier, not only should it be adjustable in height, it should have arm rests that can be folding up out of the way. Look for one that can support up to 300 lbs.
  • If you’re worried about the chair damaging your floor, you may want to also include a chair mat. Pay attention before adding one to your cart: do you have hard floors or carpet?
  • A desk lamp, ideally with a USB port for charging devices. The one shown here adjusts to cover two work spaces, which is great for corner, L-shaped desks.
  • Or a floor lamp next to the desk that can hover over the workspace. As you can see, the one shown here could be either a tabletop or floor lamp. You might want to consider providing both.
  • A waste basket on the floor next to or under the desk. It's even better if you provide another one marked for paper recycling.
  • It's OK to substitute a desk with a dining table, just make sure the table you'll be providing as a desk is in addition to the one your guests will be expected to eat their meals on.

If you really want to dazzle your remotely-working guests, include the items below, as well. However, you'll need additional desk space, so a larger desk than either of the two shown above. Or, you could hang one or two shelves above the desk to store some of these items:

  • A charging station that can charge both Apple and Android devices. This one can charge Airpods, an Apple Watch, iPhone, Android phone, and iPad.

  • A wireless inkjet or laser printer, extra ink or toner, and printer paper. I prefer a laser printer to ink jet, because an ink jet printer gets gunked up with ink if it's not used regularly and is nearly impossible to fix. The toner used for laser printers doesn't create that problem.
  • Or a floor fan next to the desk, especially if your Airbnb has no air conditioning or limited, low-functioning air conditioning
  • A magnetic staple remover. Check this one out! I didn't know these even existed until I was researching for this blog post. This looks much easier to use than those traditional claw-shaped ones!
  • A desktop organizer.  You can store the stapler and tape roller on the top tray, other stuff in the drawer at the bottom, and pens and highlighters in the cups on the side. There are also wall-mounted organizers similar to this, if you want to free up some of the surface on the desk.
  • Pens, naturally. You may want to consider providing pencils, as well.
  • And a ring light for those guests who have to attend a lot of Zoom meetings, as well as influencers who shoot TikToks and Instagram reels. They'll probably bring their own, but you might score extra points with them in a review if you provide one.

Do NOT put anything on top of the desk or in a drawer that you don’t want your guests to use, including and especially computer equipment, whether that be a monitor, CPU, speakers, or keyboard (this is a good rule to follow for all areas of your Airbnb, actually). If you're leaving any computer components on a desk, guests are going to assume they can use those, and if they're forbidden from doing so, expect your reviews to reflect their frustration.

Where should you put the workspace?

  • Ideally, in a room all it's own. I understand the importance of maximizing "heads in beds" to increase the per-person fee, but I also hear from many hosts who are frustrated with the amount of noise, mess, and damage that larger groups create. If your preferred guests are low-key and quiet, then sacrificing a bedroom to convert it into an office could bring down the number of parties being thrown in your Airbnb, while simultaneously becoming more appealing to business travelers. Take a look at how many other Airbnbs in your area are offering a true dedicated workspace. If there aren't many, you've identified a need that--if you fill it--might give you an edge over your competition.
  • The second best place for a workspace is the living room.
  • The least desirable location is a bedroom, since your working guests may need to work early in the morning or late at night, when their significant others may want to get some sleep. But better to have a desk in a bedroom than not provide one at all.

If you'd like help pulling together an attractive yet practical Airbnb that appeals to travelers who work remotely, check out Larimar's Airbnb Design Services. I can help you figure out your budget, create a design plan, and provide a custom shopping list. You can take it from there, or my team and I can handle procuring and installing everything for you, as well. We also offer hosting and marketing packages, both custom materials and in templates that you can customize yourself.

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