The Business Traveler
HEY.....We NEED That!
Take heart, Road Warriors, somebody's listening!

It might be called the Hospitality Industry, but when you get right down to it, most hotels haven't been all that hospitable to business travelers. Oh sure, they're trying, but frankly, a poorly placed modem jack and an in-room fax machine that charges a kings ransom per page is not what business travelers had in mind. Unfortunately, that's about the best there is in most cases.

I checked into the Hyatt in Columbus, Ohio recently, to give a speech to a group of CEO's .On Hyatt's business floor I found a charming hotel room. Period.

As a woman of a little over 5'8", I'm about the height of the average male business traveler, so imagine my surprise when I sat in the chair and found that the desk top hit me at the uppermost region of my solar-plexus. So much for ergonomic working conditions. I felt like a five year old at the dinner table.

I had about three hours worth of work to crank out my first day, so I put pillows on the chair and tried to make the best of the situation.

I didn't need my notebook computer during the day, but I was forced to carry it with me everywhere I went, because you can't very well leave a several thousand dollar piece of equipment lying around loose.

Portable computers (followed by camcorders) are the items most often stolen from hotel rooms across the nation. I also couldn't very well leave the computer or my other portable electronic equipment in the trunk of the car, because (a) it's inconvenient, (b) it's not secure, and (c) depending on the weather, it will probably either melt or freeze. So I dragged around an extra 15 pounds worth of baggage with me all day.

During my stay I overheard a number of hotel guests complaining bitterly that their rooms had no facilities for business travelers whatsoever. My husband, meeting with some Congressional and Senatorial-type folk in Washington, D.C. recently, had reservations at the Marriott. He reported that his room, although otherwise most satisfactory, had the telephone on the nightstand, the desk was virtually unusable, and the desk lighting was abysmal. He had no reason to use his notebook during his meetings, (he carried it for communication and interim work production) but he too was forced to drag it with him all day.

Another speech to a group in Orlando found me staying at Disney's Contemporary Hotel. Terrific rooms but not for the business traveler, of whom there are many, trying to combine seminars with a family outing.

A stay at the gigantic Grand Old Opry Hotel in Nashville had me trekking to far flung meeting rooms towing my electronics laden briefcase on a luggage wheelie. My arm was beginning to give out. I'd rather have left most of that stuff in my room.

Business travelers have work to do, and the less equipment we have to drag with us, the happier we are. The fact that we're in a hotel room doesn't negate our need for ergonomic working conditions, and frankly, the right amenities could easily persuade us to choose one hotel over another. Notice that I said the right amenities.

Perhaps the Hospitality Industry doesn't quite understand what it is that I as a business traveler, actually need.

I don't want to work in the hotel's business center.

I don't even want to work in a business center on the business floor.

I want to work in the privacy and comfort of my own hotel room.

I want to be able to kick my shoes off, get comfortable, work a while, watch TV a while, and maybe get up at 00:Dark Hundred to finish a presentation over coffee and the morning news, before formally dressing for the day .

I also desperately need unlimited access to the Internet, through a fast-response, business oriented national ISP so that I can check my e-mail, or do online research--- or maybe in the evening, place a call to my favorite little person and go online to read a whimsical Bedtime-Story to her. ISP's charge under $20 a month for unlimited internet access these days. Charge per minute and you risk alienating the hotel guest.

In my humble opinion, online access ought to be considered as much a basic amenity as having a phone or a television in my room.

I would happily pay a bit extra for the convenience of having a fully equipped and LOCKABLE workstation in my room. I don't want a badly sized table, I want something designed for real work without it looking like it's designed for real work.

If the hotel is still averse to providing me with a computer, (OK, OK, I give up) I still need the fully wired, HEIGHT ADJUSTABLE, surge-protected desk with light, phone, separate modem line, a small in-room printer, and secure locking capability. Yes, that's right, I want to be able to lock away the theft-prone electronic contents of my briefcase, (Notebook, tape recorder, PIM, calculator, cellular phone, etc.) so I can quit dragging all this stuff around with me when I don't need it. Being able to recharge my portable and cellular during the time they're safely locked away would simply be the icing on the cake.

Does this kind of thing even exist? Now it does. And it's about the handiest piece of furniture you've ever seen.

The OFFICE™ LS model

The OFFICE™-Learning Station
by The Summerland Group looks like an attractive, 24" x 28" occasional table.

But that's where the resemblance ends.

The OFFICE™ LS-512
Learning Station™
Want to write postcards or scribble notes on a legal pad? Touch a switch and the desktop elevates to a comfortable writing height (it adjusts to fit any size user).

The entire desk surface also slides towards forward (up to seventeen inches if desired) to provide maximum leg room and optimum working comfort for any height user.
Want to work on your laptop? No problem, just slide the desktop back into place and touch the switch again.
Up pops a computer workstation with height adjustable monitor and keyboard platforms. Inside the workstation shell can be anything you want to install, from a complete computer system to a combination printer/fax/scanner and docking station.

Set the portable on the spacious keyboard platform and position the keyboard height wherever it's most comfortable. There's plenty of room inside to safely stow and lock your notebook and cellular (and recharge batteries) when you're out of the room. You can also use the laptop on the height adjustable (and leg-room adjustable) desktop if you prefer.

(There are any number of options available, from built-in task lighting and adjustable shelving, to an uninterruptable power supply).

Click to Enlarge
Who's that knocking at the door? Room Service? Time to take a break. Wait a minute, there's no table in the room....or is there? There is indeed. Push the button to make the computer go away, pull the desktop forward, insert the optional leaf and Viola!, your nifty computer workstation seats two for dinner. I love it! Hey, this is perfect for a college dorm room!

Wait, there's more! This thing is the Swiss Army Knife of Computer Furniture.
Since The OFFICE™-LS is mobile on demand, (and there's an optional tow-handle) it can be available at a moment's notice for use in meeting rooms or trade show booths. My height-adjustable, computer-equipped workstation can be safely closed, locked, and left unattended in a meeting room or a trade show booth while I go to lunch.

Click it!
Speaking of hotel meeting rooms, this line offers a height-adjustable mobile Lectern with a monitor visible through a viewport in the desktop. Think about going from speaker to speaker during a meeting or seminar without having to listen to that annoying microphone squawk as people of varying height try to position the mike so that they can be heard. Touch a switch and the lectern, monitor, keyboard (and microphone) silently adjust to fit each speaker. But get this....the lectern can shed its base and crown and convert to a below-desk monitor workstation. Double duty, right? You ain't seen 'nuthin yet. If you should change your mind even further, and want a workstation or sit/stand lectern that that permits natural viewing, there's a conversion kit to allow you to do that! Talk about user-friendly!

While we're at it, if these 24" deep units were available as modules that could integrate with virtually any office panel system, (they are, by the way), no matter what height the employees are who rotate in and out of a cubicle over the years, the ergonomics issue would already be addressed. The workstation adjusts to fit each one, it's handicapped accessible, and the computer equipment can be safely stowed and locked below-desk after hours.

And what a great idea a children's model would be for a kinder-care center. Come to think of it, this is perfect for classrooms and libraries. Adults aren't the only ones to have ergonomic concerns, and what a practical way to protect valuable computer equipment from rambunctious little kids when it's not in use!

The POP-UP electronics idea is so practical it would be perfect for televisions too.

Happily, it is, and the entire line is reasonably priced since Summerland also developed the lift mechanism that makes all this possible.

The OFFICE™ CEO model
1996 NeoCon Grand Prize Winner

Touch a switch and the monitor disappears. The full-size ergonomic chair closes up inside. It's mobile.
And that's just the beginning.

These lift-enabled desks are so amazing you'd swear they were invented by a collection of former NASA engineers.

They were.

They are so good those guys could probably even win Grand Prize at NeoCon.
(the World's Trade Fair for Interior Design, Facilities Management & Communications).

They did. TWICE. The Learning Station won in June of 1999.

And there's a raft of other practical products on hand and in development.

Good name, The OFFICE™. It certainly works for me.

The OFFICE™-LS & Learning Station Models
Patented and Pat. Pending products of The Summerland Group


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See Related Article in Information Week
REMOTE ACCESS: When Portable Isn't Enough-- The hassles of toting a notebook computer are amply apparent to business travelers. --By Tom Davey