The coronavirus pandemic has shaped the world of work in 2020, with the majority of us swapping the office for our homes. Lockdowns may have lifted but companies will continue to favour this type of working until the threat of Covid-19 subsides. While some of us might have embraced the WFH lifestyle at the start of the pandemic, cabin fever has certainly set in ten months down the line.
To combat this, Hilton has launched a Workspaces programme, renting out vacant rooms at its properties by the day. Rooms are transformed into quiet and private workspaces, with guests also able to access hotel facilities subject to participating properties. Workspaces by Hilton are available at most Hilton hotels across the UK, plus locations in the US and Canada.
It’s a great idea, and not unique to Hilton, with other hotel groups jumping on the bandwagon to drive revenue during a difficult time for the hospitality industry. See our feature “Smart Traveller: Our guide to working from hotels“.
Once London had entered Tier 2 and hotels were allowed to reopen, I headed to The Trafalgar St. James, a Curio Collection property, to test drive the Workspaces programme.
How do you book a workspace?
Visit the Workspaces website to see which hotels are included. When clicking through to the page listing participating properties in the UK it advises “Please call the hotel directly to book your day-use room”, but the service can also be booked online.
Follow the link to your hotel of choice, and when checking rooms and rates, make sure you put the same day for arrival and departure.
You should then see an option for Workspaces – Day Use, with prices varying per room and suite category. The website states that day rooms are available from 0900-1800 but, on my visit, I was told that checkout was at 1700. The programme is also extremely flexible, with free cancellation before 2359 local hotel time the day before the booking.
I checked-in at reception, but members of Hilton Honors can go straight to the room with a digital check-in and digital key. Guests signed up to the loyalty programme will also earn 10,000 bonus points the first time they try Workspaces if they book by March 31, 2021.
What's it like?
The rooms showcase contemporary British design, with wall art paying homage to London’s music scene – mine had a black and white photograph of Mick Jagger – while books champion British design icons including Alexander McQueen and Tom Dixon.
I had a very spacious Nelson Double Queen Room, with two double beds (should you want a lunchtime nap) and a sumptuous en-suite bathroom stocked with Molton Brown toiletries. The desk was set up at the end of the room, a space normally occupied by armchairs and a small table. The desk itself was large, with plenty of room for your laptop and bits of stationery, and the chair was very comfortable. There are plenty of sockets for charging devices, and guests can make use of the strong wifi by logging in with their last name and room number.
In terms of lighting, the room had a standing lamp beside the desk and a small desk lamp, but I only used these when the sun set thanks to the natural light flooding in from the three large windows facing Trafalgar Square.
The package includes complimentary tea from the Tregothnan estate in Cornwall, and coffee making facilities (including a Nespresso machine), while the free-of-charge minibar offers soft drinks and bottled water. Guests also get access to the hotel’s gym, though I was too busy and lazy to partake.
Where is it?
As its name suggests, the hotel is located just off Trafalgar Square, steps away from Charing Cross station and a ten-minute walk from both Piccadilly Circus and Embankment stations. Local attractions include the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, with artworks curing any writer’s block you might be suffering, and it’s ideally placed for picturesque walks, with The Mall on your doorstep.
I had perfect blue skies on the day that I visited, and used my lunch hour to wander through the neighbouring St James’ Park and embrace being a tourist for the day, walking past Buckingham Palace and peeking into the various government offices as the final round of Brexit negotiations took place.
Despite being on the (usually hectic) Trafalgar Square, the hotel remains very quiet and I was not distracted by noise from the busy road. My desk faced large windows which looked onto the square on the right, with Nelson’s Column in view, and the Canadian embassy directly opposite, flooding the room with natural light and views of the city’s double-decker buses and its matching red postboxes.
Food and Drink
The Workspaces package does not include any food however you can choose to order room service or dine at The Rooftop, the property’s seventh-floor restaurant, during your stay. The cost of additional food and drink will then be settled at checkout. Rockwell, the hotel’s ground-floor bar and restaurant, is closed until further notice.
After my walk around the area, I settled back into my work routine and ordered lunch via the in-room tablet, which advised that the current waiting time was 30 minutes. There’s plenty of choice, from cooked breakfasts (eggs benedict, pancakes, porridge) to larger plates including pizzas, soups, paninis, and Asian-inspired dishes. I opted for the latter – salmon teriyaki with rice and a watercress salad – and also treated myself to a glass of Veuve Clicquot rosé champagne to get the creative juices flowing.
The food arrived within 20 minutes, with a masked staff member handing over a tray with the inviting glass of bubbly and lunch in a cardboard box with a plastic lid – though a plate is also provided. The salmon was perfectly cooked, with a gorgeous sweet glaze, fuelling me for the remainder of the day. I now had quite the heavenly work set-up, a refreshing departure from my repetitive lunches facing a wall at home. To organise the removal of the tray, you simply tap a button on the tablet and leave it outside the door for collection.
I highly recommend this experience if you are suffering from Groundhog Day syndrome at your makeshift ‘work from home’ office. The change of scenery does wonders for your mindset, particularly when you are blessed with London at its finest, and the hotel is a stress-free environment – breakfast and lunch are delivered to your door, the wifi is fast, and you won’t be interrupted by family members or housemates (provided that your phone is on silent). The staff are also very helpful, calling the room about ten minutes after you arrive to check that everything is satisfactory.
It also gives you more purpose, forcing you to wake up a bit earlier, perhaps dress a bit more formally than usual, and sign off from work at a normal time. Of course, if you were to do this regularly then the novelty would certainly wear off, but that’s not what it is designed for.
Workspaces by Hilton gives you the chance to retrieve your work-home life balance, which has blended into one over the past year. I left the hotel feeling far more positive and accomplished than I do when clocking off at home, and suitably festive as I walked to the tube amid Christmas lights and the capital’s illuminated landmarks.
Internet rates for a flexible midweek workspace in December started from £101 for a Queen Room.
2 Spring Gardens, SW1A 2TS; +44 (0)20 7870 2900; trafalgarstjames.com