What is a Third Space?
It’s often said that we spend the majority of our waking lives at work – it’s like a second home to many of us. In the 1980s, Sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the term “third place” – the third place where people work. For many, the first place we work at is the office and the second place is home. The third space is a place outside either of these where people can fulfil their roles as well as network and interact with other relevant people.
Two perfect examples of the “Third Space” concept are coffee shops and coworking spaces. Coffee shops, long regarded as the home of the digital nomad, have become more popular not (only) for the coffee, but the atmosphere and facilities. This trend has also driven the rise of coworking for similar reasons. These “in-between” spaces have a special function in our modern culture to connect people and enable genuine synergy.
But can you recreate that synergy and innovation in your own workspace? By bringing diverse people within your company (and others) together, could you provide an environment for collaboration to flourish? Creating your own third space can offer a retreat from the pressure and sometimes blinkering mentality of the day job. In a fresh and inspiring environment, your people can connect informally and build a sense of community and culture.
While video meeting solutions have been surprisingly successful over the last few months in enabling virtual communication, they are not as effective as an in-person third space. According to Oldenburg, “If you get people sitting together, talking together, innovation comes quicker. And that’s going to be the thing for business and industry for a long time.”
The Benefits of a Third Space
But it’s not all about making your people happier and more interactive, though that can have significant benefits. A change in environment can be the catalyst to inspire new concepts and paradigms. By allowing your people to switch off from the “thick of thin things” they can look at the bigger picture and create true win-win solutions, rather than just becoming another unit of labour. If you create a third space within your own workspace, you are taking control of the environment and can guide this process and engrain this concept in your culture.
More time spent at a desk doesn’t necessarily mean more work produced. By keeping your people mentally fresh and open, they can become more innovative and productive in their roles. As Oldenburg says, “Managers found out that if they let people work where they want and when they want, productivity went up”. An effective third space can have a significant impact on productivity in your business.
How to Create your Own Third Space
Creating an environment that maximises the potential of your people is something that can have a massive impact on your culture and results, and creating a third space within your second space can play a big part in this. An on-site third space serves as a retreat for your people, allowing them to disconnect from their immediate pressures and enables chance interactions and connections.
If you’re wondering where to start with your third space, you can take inspiration from restaurants, coffee shops, bars and other spaces your people will associate with socialising and recharging. The use of luxurious materials such as wood and leather, mood lighting, and even the amenities design all contribute to creating an atmosphere that is more conducive to creativity and serendipity.
At a time when employees are under more pressure than ever, it’s crucial to provide them with the opportunity to switch off and relax when they need to. Not only is this essential for their wellbeing, but it also benefits you as a business, boosting productivity and guarding against burnout. An effective third space inspires, engages, and connects your people, increasing their effectiveness and making your workspace a truly creative place that drives company culture and performance.