Top view of industrial style office with concrete floors and wooden accents.

Bringing the ‘Third Place’ into the Workplace

In his 1989 classic, The Great Good Place, the sociologist Ray Oldenburg introduced the now-widely embraced concept of the “third place”—a space people use as a complement to their first place (home) and second place (work). 

The need for third places among office workers is evident in the ubiquity of coffee shops and internet cafés—informal spaces for collaboration, social interaction and relaxed solo work. 

But these public spaces, while filling a gap, come with problems of their own for mobile workers. Minimal power outlets, spotty Wi-Fi connections, uncomfortable furniture, tight spaces, disruptive background noise—they’re all factors that can get in the way of productivity.

Which is why architects, designers and the corporate clients they serve are increasingly bringing the third place into the realm of the workplace. 

“Our corporate projects tend to resemble hospitality with the lobby vibe or the restaurant vibe or the coffee vibe. These days, some people work in those spaces more than they work at their desk,” said Primo Orpilla, a principal of Studio O+A, a San Francisco design firm, in our article about nomadic workers. “There’s a real need to grasp the needs of the ‘other workplace.’”

The on-campus third place can be a favored destination—a retreat that provides a better experience than the local Starbucks. Opportunities abound for introducing advanced technology, out-of-the box design and innovative furniture to support creative energy.

By fostering the comfort, satisfaction and creativity of their workers in this way, companies gain benefits such as higher levels of employee retention and innovation

As for the design possibilities, the sky’s the limit. Below we offer a few ideas.

Square, light brown wooden table with yellow lounge office chairs

In a company lounge, café or pub, our Potrero415 Tables, with their seamless technology integration, provide versatile settings for creative collaboration or focused solo work. 

Large meeting room with red brick walls, two grey lounge sofas and blue lounge chairs around two big round wooden coffee tables

Relaxed neutral spaces offer mobile workers a break from desks and office chairs, encouraging interaction, conversation and personal renewal. This Adobe office space in San Francisco features our Circa Collection. Design by Valerio Dewalt Train Associates. Photography by David Wakely. See more photos from this space on Office Snapshots.

Open concept collaboration area with a group of people around a large meeting table and two people collaborating in a smaller space separated by divider.

Sometimes working off-site is more trouble than it’s worth. By providing well-equipped third spaces, such as this lounge featuring the Lagunitas Lounge System and the Sebastopol Table, businesses are encouraging employees to stay on campus, where connectivity is strong and spaces are tailored for mobile workers. Design by Hollander Design Group. Photography by Jasper Sanidad. See more photos from this BKM space on Office Snapshots.

Large open work space with blue lounge couches, green lounge chairs and small kitchen area.

A third-place environment at the office can give employees the sense of escape they get from going to a public space down the street, along with better amenities and more functional work settings. This space at Starcom MediaVest Group’s Chicago office features our SW_1 Lounge Chair and Circa Lounge System. Design by NELSON. Photography by Jamie Padgett. See more photos from this space on Office Snapshots.

Woman sitting with laptop in an outdoor work space with vase style tables and white metal chairs.

Given access to thoughtfully planned on-campus courtyards and open-air cafés, mobile workers—whether alone or in small groups—will shift to the great outdoors for rejuvenation and inspiration. Here our Emu Heaven Tables and Chairs create an outdoor workspace.

Published On: July 6, 2016
Filed under: Great Spaces

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