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There's No Place Like Home or Is There?

I remember being a bright-eyed child, sitting criss-cross apple sauce on the floor in front of the big back TV (yes, I am big-back TV old), watching a young Diana Ross, click her heels, say "there's no place like home" and then break out into "Home" (a song best known for being sung by Stephanie Mills). My happiest moments were at home, in front of the TV, watching "The Wiz." I loved it because The Wiz reminded me of the importance of home. After all, Dorothy spent her entire journey trying to get home.

But here is the rub; the real question we should be asking is whether she was trying to get "home" to 433 Prospect Place, Brooklyn, New York, or was she in search of home, a place where she and her friends belonged. I tend to believe it is the latter. Isn't that what we all search for on this journey, a place where our friends and we belong?

As the CEO of a performance optimization and DEI firm, I am constantly leading a team of professionals to help companies create spaces that foster belonging, especially for people who have been historically made to feel unwelcome. So, I was excited to be a part of the first reLead Summit. The Summit brought together a group of remote work experts to discuss the state and future of remote work. And though remote work has been around since the 1970s (look it up), it is all the rage.

Why would a team of remote work experts gather in one location? Great question: glad you asked. One of the biggest myths about remote work is that teams don't come together. Wrong! Remote teams come together quite often, sometimes more often than "in-office teams." A remote team gathering looks different and is not bound to the walls of the traditional office; enter CitizenM.

The host of the reLead Summit was CitizenM hotel, the perfect location for such a summit. Remember, I told you, "Home is where you and your friends feel welcomed" and "we are all in search of home, even when we are away." Every space I enter, I ask, would my employees, clients, and friends, feel at home here? Would my melanated family members feel welcomed, would my LGBTQIA+ employees see themselves represented, and would my differently-abled client feel comfortable? CitizenM screamed, "YES." Check-in desks were the perfect height for wheelchairs; many tables were the ideal height for a person with a mobility issue, precisely knee concerns; the videos playing in the elevator included a Black man doing his best vogue and a screen that read "Put Some Respect On My Name"; modern art paintings that were a twist on the US Presidents; and the final kicker, which sealed the deal for me and elevated this hotel to my top 5 around the world…The Golden Girls. Upon arrival, an episode of The Golden Girls was playing in the bar. We could stop here, but it gets better.

The experts around the table ranged from techies to lawyers to HR experts, everyone a phenom in their own right with no expertise repeated. I was in awe of everyone around the table as we threw out ideas and made each idea better. We had a session where we did that

  • One person threw out a problem,

  • The following person threw out a solution.

  • The next person refined that solution.

  • And we went around the table repeating that process.

It was amazing.

One issue I threw out is the issue of the need for a third space. What is Third Space when we talk about remote work, and why would I raise the issue?

Third Space

The coffee shop, mall food court, public library, and CitizenM Hotels; are all third spaces. We often use third spaces; we just have not heard them referred to that way before. Third spaces are alternate locations where people may work. Alternate means not home and not the office.

The Importance of Third Spaces

Remember when I said I walk into every space and ask, "will my family and friends feel welcomed here." Third spaces have the task of making people feel welcome in multiple places.

  1. In the third space; and

  2. On the work team

Making people feel welcomed

CitizenM offered great areas to serve as a third space for employees. With tables close to outlets, tables at wheelchair height, open areas that let you catch the vibe of the hotel's clientele, and upstairs were more secluded spaces for just a bit of privacy. But here is a big thing that is often missed, the lighting was terrific. Why is this so important when discussing open spaces and, historically, DEI?

The Lights

Third spaces are often a place employees go when the office is not desired, and home is not ideal. Home may not be suitable for several reasons; noisy home construction, screaming children, or poverty. Many employees may not be in a situation where they are comfortable showing their home. What these employees often do is opt to keep their cameras off. While "camera off" should mean nothing more than "I have my camera off," we know people interpret much more. So, camera off, while a safety mechanism can be perceived as disengagement, lack of focus, multi-tasking or just plain slacking off. A third space helps here. Employees can go to a third space with great lighting and confidently turn their cameras on. This helps them be seen, get noticed, network effectively, and be in line for the promotion they want and the pay they deserve (ok, so I made a big leap here, but you get the point).

Many people are concerned about what remote work will do to already overlooked groups of people. After all, they were overlooked when teams met face-to-face; won’t that be exacerbated in a virtual world? That is something I think about as well, and I have some answers. But, for now, let’s just say third spaces like CitizenM Hotels is one solution, especially when traveling.

I am headed to the Miami location and will fill you in on my next blog.


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