NOVEMBER FOCUS: Architecture & Design


Design Hotel Hybrid Work Environments for Evolving Guest Needs

By Claudia Abt Chief Design Officer, citizenM | November 2023

As if the hotel industry weren't disrupted enough in the last decades, new approaches to hotel co-working are shifting the way many operators design and program their properties.

Today's work-life trends include new hybrid (remote and in-office) work schedules as well as solo, heads-down work and dedicated organization gatherings in "third places" including lifestyle hotel settings.

Many companies in tech, law, consulting and other professional services are now  building – or maintaining – a "remote-first operational model," which encompasses solo co-working and varied kinds of remote in-person group work, including onboarding breakouts, company off-sites, and annual company retreats.

Leading hotels are supporting these mobile work lifestyles including "work from anywhere" (WfA) teams. The hotel company and lifestyle brand citizenM was founded with a prototype design - the first at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport and now in 30-plus locations globally - that welcomed and promised to support what soon became known as co-working, predicting the rise of the mobile citizen (thus, our name citizenM) and an engaging hotel program with comfortable co-working offerings adjacent to lounge and food and beverage (F&B) settings, as well as meeting rooms equipped for varied kinds of meetings.

Working at the hotels has been part of citizenM's concept from inception. The public spaces have been designed to see teammates, clients, friends, family, the locals. Moreover, citizenM's design approach is to bring people together for whatever that purpose is – whether it's as a local coworker in our common areas, known as Living Rooms, a happy hour among friends at the cloudM rooftop bars, or on a business trip overseas. None of these ideas, all incorporated from day one, are reactive design gestures prompted by any short-term trends.

Adding to that, citizenM's public spaces need to serve primarily their guests but also offer a "third place" for local community members as well. The respective needs of guests and neighbors are quite distinct, and the architectural programming and interior design of citizenM hotel public zones are geared toward addressing the typical requirements of those two groups.

The challenge we addressed starting in 2008, and through to our more recent R&D efforts on WfA launched with our reLead Summits on the future of work in 2022, now faces all hotel operators: to lay out and design hotels for broader workplace acceptance and traffic as well as optimal remote-work lifestyles. That lifestyle aspect, too often neglected or relegated to low priority status, is critical: Examples that reinforce the lifestyle-first approach are seen in citizenM hotels around the United States, from New York to Los Angeles, Boston to Seattle, and in unique locations like the headquarters gate of Meta in Menlo Park, Calif.

citizenM New York Bowery, New York

Getting Started

To get started in reinventing longstanding hotel models and enhancing the more modern approaches like those seen at citizenM, hotel design teams need to first take a hard look at the post-pandemic situation. (Surveying the target guest base is a serious, quantitative way to get a fresh baseline understanding.) "Overall, with advances in communication technology, the remote work phenomenon is widely accepted and people have discovered they can work from anywhere," says HotelExecutive publisher Benedict Cummins. "As a result, hotels are adapting by creating spaces to accommodate those travelers who wish to remain connected to the office while on the go." He explains that lobbies are being transformed into co-working spaces, promoting community engagement, reinforcing brand loyalty, and increasing F&B sales.

From the standpoint of guests and their organizations, WfA and in-person options create an increasingly diffuse work environment, a significant opportunity for both organizations and employees. For workers, the greater flexibility can have life benefits, such as reduced commuting distance and more time at home or in personal pursuits. Employers potentially gain access to a wider pool of talent and may benefit from reductions in real estate portfolios, with less office space needed.

At the same time, many well-intentioned hotel transformations have missed the real opportunity for appeal and long-term loyalty. To see why, consider the concept of third places, which underlies guest satisfaction in co-working settings. According to The Brookings Institution, the term third places, "coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, refers to places where people spend time between home ('first' place) and work ('second' place). They are locations where we exchange ideas, have a good time, and build relationships." This nugget is the touchstone of design excellence in the new normal. For citizenM, it was a core organizing principle of our business model and an architectural partí for our first locations.

With that experience validated over almost two decades of planning and growth, it seems critical for all hoteliers to study some of these findings and apply them to their own hotel approaches. Consider these related dynamics:

  • We see that after Covid, guests are staying longer at our hotels on average.
  • Our current offer to the guests are meeting rooms, called societyM, as well as a hybrid work environment in the lobby-lounge hybrid areas we call our living rooms.
  • Responding to guest preferences and the fact that they are spending more time with us, we've developed a design strategy to further differentiate the various work settings in our hotels.
  • Responding to the varied needs of travelers and guests, including hybrid bleisure mobile citizens and the communities where our hotels have opened, we are creating ways to strengthen the opportunity for co-working.
  • New offers for co-working include options for neighbors and city dwellers in the local community, as well as the addition of co-working as a discrete and rewarding element in the evolving citizenM membership program, mycitizenM+.

Unlike some global flags, citizenM debuted 15 years ago to challenge the traditional hotel model in the world's biggest cities - and to disrupt the hospitality industry by removing common frictions in the guest journey. As our founder Rattan Chadha puts it, "We don't want to be just another building, we want to become part of the neighborhood's fabric while showing residents and visitors a different side of the city." This led to pioneering the concept of "affordable luxury for the people," as our brand promise says, with a focus on well-connected locations in the world's most popular cities that we can turn into cultural landmarks of their own, with newly commissioned works of art by local artists in addition to convenience and novelty.

Creating a Powerful Third Place

Inside the typical citizenM hotel, entering guests experience a remarkable environment with conversation-starting artwork, comfortable high-end furnishings, a prominently located bar, and perhaps a signature architectural flourish. The programming and layouts try to keep all of the different public activities on the same floor. The diversity of these various movements, the buzz and varied activities creates a space that is energized and used at any time of the day (or night). At a glance, guests and visitors sense a design language that  is intentionally bold, colorful and even provocative at times, so that the effect evokes an emotional reaction with guests.

The citizenM Bowery location in New York City features double-height ceilings, bookshelves, a signature 24/7 canteenM bar, and glass walls that stream abundant daylight and offer an open view to the plaza outside. Insiders and frequent guests know the special features and delights that may lie within any single location: running throughout the circulation core at citizenM New York Bowery, for example, is New York's one and only Museum of Street Art, with original graffiti works by some of the genre's biggest names.

Also, the 24-7 aspect is essential. At any time of day in any citizenM worldwide, a guest can ask for a cappuccino or a cocktail and settle down in plush designer furnishings to work, relax or socialize. The public zones let co-working, entertaining and F&B activate the third space, an essential for almost anyone who has ever worked in a bustling office or elegant executive suite. Yet a quiet nook is also possible - citizenM's Living Rooms are generous and well spaced. Behind glass partitions are the varied societyM rooms, double-glazed for acoustic privacy and with blinds for visual privacy, too. Not only activating our common areas, co-working by guests and transients also generates ancillary revenues through F&B sales.

As part of R&D into effective co-working and new trends in remote and hybrid-remote work, last year citizenM hosted the first in a remarkable series of programs called reLead Summit. Bringing together prominent "advocates" from around the United States for a retreat-style, two-day leadership ideation on the future of work, the design-thinking group brainstormed and huddled in breakout sessions, taking on a think-tank agenda to break new ground in the latest remote and hybrid-remote work concepts. It was organized by the leading membership community for remote professionals, Remotely One, and hosted at citizenM Washington DC Capitol, where the individuals and groups tested existing societyM rooms and co-working areas, as well as the hotel's cloudM rooftop bar with breathtaking views overlooking the city.

This national innovation summit revealed the state of today's work-life trends, described current needs, and predicted near-term trends. Their new remote work ideas and views on the future of work brought insights about lifestyle hotel settings, including solo co-working as well as multiple kinds of in-person group work, including onboarding breakouts, company off-sites, and annual company retreats.

The gathering broke new ground, but it also reinforced our primary design concept – essentially, "cater for all moments in their journey – as well as the basics of workplace design, pushing us to better integrate work environment strategy into the hospitality setting. Among the priorities for design are flexibility, so that workers have more options and ways to decompress and relax or to dive into "focus work," all in the same location. Meeting areas also need to adapt to technologies such as video conferencing and to varied group work setups. Second, good workplaces offer elements of art, biophilia and outdoor views, among others traits, which allow coworkers to rest their eyes, recharge and recalibrate, and then immerse once again into their work. Think about well-being in these aspects, as well as the choice of materials and finishes.

As the tech industry workplace revolution showed the world, the coffee bar and the playroom can make an otherwise straight office experience one that is special and engaging: companies want to create a stronger sense of belonging, and the workforce seeks to engage more fully with coworkers. So third, hotels need to offer these elements - foosball tables and board games, for example, as well as a centrally, easy-to-see espresso machine. (Of course, connectivity is important, and recharging devices is essential.) Fourth, workplace acoustics are very distinct from hotel acoustics, so it helps to study the best practices. A low hum of chatter, piped-in music, and soft guest noise set the stage for comfortable productivity, but  table clearing and reverberant surfaces that echo are all mere disturbances. Can you hear other guests taking annoying phone calls? Perhaps there needs to be a new looks at space planning, another critical element to manage noise management. Skip this at your peril: It only increases the chances your coworkers will not remain so loyal to your location.

A position of sustainability is also important for longer-term loyalty and business success. Surveys show a large portion of remote workers are attracted to businesses and products that reflect a deep commitment to environmental, social and governance leadership. Hotels – just like any company today – need to take a clear position towards their efforts in contributing to a more sustainable way of designing, constructing, and operating their buildings. Guests and capital markets are setting challenging targets which can only be reached only through deliberate changes in material and product choices, building methodologies, technical operations and energy consumptions.

Co-Working IS Hospitality

Over the last 15 years, hotels have increasingly adopted the co-working model. It's fair to credit some local boutique hotels, some catering to tourism or discrete industries, for pushing this into a new era: They embraced wi-fi moochers and freelance nomads as early as 2009. In fact, they redesigned their lobbies to have hip food and beverage options, which further attracted millennials. A new business model was created, that is far more attractive than renting out loft space. As for citizenM, this approach seemed essential to the business traveler, which we developed just prior to that time.

In doing so, we watched the emergence of the WeWork model, which created a third place in cities by merging the corporate model with a lifestyle component: coffee places, lounge areas, communal work desks, and the like. The citizenM hotel lobby took this in a radical and valuable direction for business traveler hospitality, and several other other hotel brands have been following suit, more recently, as a result of WfA. The "old" lobby idea consisted of a counter and two sad chairs – there was no space allocated for guests to "dwell" in a ready-made setting. Melding the comforts of home with business, citizenM's Living Rooms feature stylish Vitra furniture and sculptural lighting fixtures, making working in a lobby, making working feel fun and connected.

Seeing they could bank on a higher occupancy rate for conference rooms, too, big hotel chains began working to deliver improved competing models, as at Marriott and Sheraton, two early adopters. Some of the common spaces in the Marriott International brands have more than doubled in size over the last five years, growing at a rate that is four times as high as that as the growth for the rest of the Marriott International portfolio. Sheraton hotels set out to revamp some 450 existing lobbies, adding "productivity tables" in their lobbies, replete with outlets, USB ports, and drawers that users could rent and lock. Some hotels added private phone booths in their lobbies, and made meeting room spaces easier to rent.

These efforts have had mixed results. The citizenM-hosted reLead Summit uncovered some of the impacts of architectural and interior design on the attraction and success of co-working audiences. They summed up the advantages of meeting at a "third office" option instead of the HQ office, and described what features, benefits, and cultural elements remote teams look for when selecting an on-site destination. Comparing hotel options to co-living spaces or privately owned residences, they defined the advantages in the hospitality world - a revealing and fascinating peek into the mindset of workforce nomads.

One of the most valuable insights is worth sharing: Seeing specific signs that a company's distributed team might need an in-person gathering, human resources professionals and managers are more often calling for in-person options today. These include:

  • Onboarding Retreats. Used by virtual-first organizations with minimal real estate, these work gatherings enhance virtual onboarding for new hires with in-person interaction for more instantaneous leadership visibility, cultural immersion, and relationship building.
  • Company Off-Sites. These are increasingly popular for any hybrid or virtual-first team who has limited access to company-provided real estate for in-person gatherings or wants a "third office" option to optimize creativity.
  • Annual Company Retreats. Ideal for any hybrid or virtual-first organization that gathers their distributed team together at least once a year for a workforce retreat for culture development, annual planning, and/or employee recognition program, these programs benefit greatly from a conducive, well-designed hospitality offering.

These findings, and others being tracked by citizenM, reinforce some things many hospitality leaders already assume: First, statistics still show that co-working is here to stay. Compared to the uncertainty surrounding companies like WeWork and the lack of panache seen among many large hotel brands, a more sustainable model can be seen in the public spaces of citizenM hotels. Another example is Denizen – basically an Airbnb model for workspaces – which seems to hold promise. These third places respond uniquely to locale; there is no cookie-cutter formula. They meld tourism and the local workforce, too.

Ideal for our business model, citizenM's co-working design provides repeat business because of the hotel amenities and attractive interior design. The citizenM hotels with flourishing co-working scenes such as in London and New York illustrate the appeal. These settings benefited from some foresight: There were already built-in conference spaces that have shown a greater degree of occupancy. And our common areas are built around a different kind of guest, and the local community, with the flexible approach they need. For these reasons, we expect they will continue to attract the increasingly itinerant workforce.

Ms. Abt Claudia Abt is a German architect and the Chief Design Officer for citizenM. Ms. Abt founded her own company, abt.architektur, in 2001 and ran it until 2004 when they joined Nike EMEA. She worked at Nike for six years before joining citizenM in 2010. In her role as Chief Design Officer for citizenM worldwide, Ms. Abt now works with the leadership team at citizenM and serves as strategic design department lead for all citizenM developments in US, Europe and Asia. Previously she served as Retail Design & Development Director for Nike Europe, where she delivered strategic retail design solutions to support Nike. Ms. Abt also implemented Nike global retail standards ensuring premium executions as well as consistency within her region. In her roles, she provides leadership across concept design, design development and implementation for major brands across varied locations globally. Her close collaboration with cross-functional teams includes sales, marketing, development, ESG and more. Ms. Abt implements state-of art project management tools to ensure efficiency and accuracy, and she manages outside design and construction providers and ensures third-party supplier and vendor performance. She studied at the Technische Universität Braunschweig in Germany, and at the Ecole d'Architecture de Paris-Belleville in France. Extended Biography & Contact Information

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You agree that we have the right, but not the obligation, to investigate any complaint received. By reserving this right, we do not undertake any responsibility in fact to investigate complaints or to remove, edit, disable or restrict access to or the availability of Content. We will not act on complaints that we believe, in our sole discretion, to be deficient, incomplete, or otherwise questionable. If you believe that Content remains on HotelExecutive which violates your rights, Your sole and exclusive remedy shall be against the user or other party responsible for said content, not against HotelExecutive. your sole and exclusive remedy against HotelExecutive shall be to terminate your use of HotelExecutive and service.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act Compliance. As set forth in Subsection (b), you must contact our agent if you believe that a work protected by a U.S. Copyright which you own has been posted on our Site without authorization or that our Site, in some material way, contributes to its infringement. It is our policy in appropriate circumstances, if possible, to terminate the access rights of repeat infringers and other users who use HotelExecutive in an inappropriate or objectionable manner.


HotelExecutive reserves the right to fully cooperate with any law enforcement authorities or court order requesting or directing HotelExecutive to disclose the identity or other information regarding any user or member alleged by any governmental entity to be using HotelExecutive or any Content or materials available in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive in violation of any law or regulation, or in violation of this Agreement, including, without limitation, the posting of e-mail messages, or publishing or otherwise making available any such materials. By accepting this agreement you waive and hold harmless HotelExecutive from any claims resulting from any action by HotelExecutive during, or as a result of, its investigations, and from any actions taken as a consequence of investigations by either HotelExecutive or law enforcement authorities


If any provision(s) of this Agreement is held by a court of competent jurisdiction to be contrary to law, then such provision(s) shall be construed, as nearly as possible, to reflect the intentions of the parties with the other provisions remaining in full force and effect. HotelExecutive's failure to exercise or enforce any right or provision of this Agreement shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision unless acknowledged and agreed to by HotelExecutive in writing. The section titles in this Agreement are solely used for the convenience of the parties and have no legal or contractual significance. This Agreement may be assigned in whole or in part by HotelExecutive. This Agreement may not be assigned in any manner by you without the express, prior written permission of HotelExecutive.

Any and all disputes or controversies of any kind, including but not limited to any performance, duty, obligation or liability arising under or related to this Agreement which are not first resolved informally, shall be determined by binding arbitration in San Francisco, California, in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association. The final award in any such arbitration proceeding shall be subject to entry as a judgment by any court or competent jurisdiction, provided that such judgment does not conflict with the terms and provisions hereof. The jurisdiction of the arbiter (or arbiters) with respect to legal matters shall be limited only by the statutory and common law of the State of California and the United States.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, any and all disputes, which the parties cannot informally resolve, regarding the scope of issues or matter with the jurisdiction of the arbitrator, shall be resolved by a separate dispute resolution process whereby HotelExecutive, in its sole discretion shall elect the dispute to be resolved by either (1) a court of competent jurisdiction in the State of California or (2) a panel of three new arbitrators.

This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of California notwithstanding any conflict of laws provisions. You and HotelExecutive agree that the venue for all legal disputes, controversies, actions of any kind arising under or related to this Agreement shall be San Francisco, California. You and HotelExecutive further agree that in case of any litigation regarding this Agreement, you irrevocably and unconditionally (i) consent to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the state and federal courts in the County of San Francisco, California for any litigation or dispute arising out of or relating to this Agreement, (ii) agree not to commence any litigation arising out of or relating to this Agreement except in the California Courts, (iii) agree not to plead or claim that such litigation brought therein has been brought in an inconvenient forum, and (iv) agree the California Courts represent the exclusive jurisdiction for all litigation relating to this Agreement.


Hotel Business Review Subscriptions

If you choose to purchase a subscription, member subscription payments can be made in U.S. Dollars, as well as a variety of international currencies. Membership terms are Annual Recurring, and Monthly Recurring. The Annual Recurring subscription is an annual commitment and subscribers will be charged each consecutive billing cycle. Annual Recurring subscriptions can be cancelled after the first billing cycle and within 30-days of the billing date for a full refund. Monthly Recurring subscriptions are ongoing and subscribers will be charged each consecutive monthly billing cycle. Monthly Recurring subscriptions can be cancelled after the first month and within 7 days of the monthly billing cycle for a full refund.


Payment for the services provided to you in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive may be made by automatic credit card, debit card, direct debit, bankwire or Paypal and other approved payment means offered in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive, and you hereby authorize HotelExecutive and its agents to transact such payments on your behalf.

You hereby authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card to pay for your membership to HotelExecutive. You further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card for any and all purchases of products, services in association with HotelExecutive. You agree to be personally liable for all charges incurred by you in association with your access or other use of any content provided by HotelExecutive or any third party in association with HotelExecutive. You acknowledge and agree that your liability for all such charges shall continue after termination of your access or any type of membership arrangement with HotelExecutive.

In the event that you have chosen to have your membership automatically rebilled, unless and until you notify HotelExecutive that you wish to cancel or terminate your membership to HotelExecutive, you hereby agree and authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to automatically renew your membership to HotelExecutive on a continuing basis and to charge your credit card (or other payment means you have selected) to pay for the ongoing cost of your membership. You hereby further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card (or other approved payment means you have selected) for any and all purchases of products, services and entertainment provided to in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive.


The following is the Privacy Policy for HotelExecutive

We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

Frank Pitsikalis
Amanda Gray
Sarah Bassett
Matt McClelland
James Downey
Connor Vanderholm
Leo Tonkin
Robert  O'Halloran
Robert  O'Halloran
John  Signorelli
Chintan Dadhich
Jill Rigsbee
Kristiyan Yankov
Coming up in December 2023...

Hotel Law: Forever Evolving

The legal environment of the hotel industry is forever evolving and there is always a myriad of issues for hotels to address. One ongoing challenge for hotels concerns cybersecurity and their legal exposure should a major hack or breach occur. Because hotels offer Wi-Fi services to the public and because they collect and store substantial personal information on their guests, it is imperative for hotels to have advanced security systems in place. In the event of a breach, they must be able to prove they took every reasonable measure to protect the sensitive information of their guests and to comply with all privacy laws. Another legal issue involves the licensing and training of all employees who serve alcohol at any establishment that sells alcoholic beverages and permits customers to drink on site. Though this law is presently confined to California, it is expected to be enacted by other states in the near future. These are just a few of the issues that will be reported on in the December issue of the Hotel Business Review.