I expect HI USA’s announcement about replacing desks with bunk beds at its headquarters office will trigger applause from some and questions by others. But it shouldn’t be a total surprise coming from one of the world’s leading hostel organizations.

Sitting at desks isolates staff in cubes or offices.   In a way, it’s the antithesis to the reason HI USA exists — transforming strangers to friends through conversation and common experiences.  Upright desks help. When placed in cubicles, standing upright promotes eye contact and camaraderie with others.   Plus standing carries medical benefits compared to sitting.

Bunk bed with two staffBut HI USA’s experience with bunk beds holds even more promise. Time and again, dorm rooms are where our mission comes to life as amazing conversations foray to cultural understanding.   Bunk beds play an important but overlooked part in setting the stage for the whole experience.

Whether you want to sit, lay back, or stand and lean, bunk beds are easily adaptable. In a dorm setting, they are certainly a place for rest and relaxation. But they also are a space for conversations that prompt new thinking and fresh insights about politics, religion, customs, and traditions, which in turn leads to deepened understanding of other people, places, and cultures.

As the #1 HI hostel network in the world based on guest ratings, HI USA depends on “out-of-the-cube” thinking and organizational learning.

The shift to office bunk beds also will help staff here be regularly in tune with the experience of our community of travelers, so we can better serve their needs. And while plenty of research shows the importance of an afternoon nap, staff have pledged to reserve sleep time for home.

This initiative begins today, April 1, 2016, and also ends today, on April Fool’s Day.