08/11/2022 • 4 min read

Is Your Organisation Planning for Third Places?

Encouraging employees to use third places helps them be more comfortable, productive, and efficient

by Haworth, Inc.

Working from a coffee shop, café, or someplace other than the office or home was previously reserved for people like account managers, who are often required to travel and touch down in different locations as part of their job responsibilities. In organizations today, however, a wide variety of work is happening in more than one location.

Many people work from home at least part of the time and use the office as an organizational hub for culture and connection. Working from other locations known as "third places" has also gained ground as being “normal” for many people in all kinds of roles—and employers are now seeing the benefits those spaces offer.

What Is a Third Place?

A third place is an alternative to the workplace ("first place") or the home ("second place"), when neither is the best option for specific types of required work activities. Many third places provide access to others in a different atmosphere to spark creativity, enhance connection, and foster a sense of belonging when away from the office. Examples of third places include cafés, clubs, public libraries, hotel lobbies, bookstores, parks, coffee shops, or coworking spaces, like The Atom in Cambodia. Because neither employers nor employees own these spaces, they are neutral and often allow for fewer distractions—leading to increased productivity and greater innovation. According to a recent JLL report, up to 36% of employees work in a third place at least once a week.  

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When and Why Does a Third Place Make Sense?

The freedom to work at a third place is incredibly valuable, as it allows people to focus differently than they do in the office or at home. At a coffee shop, for example, people are able to tune out distractions —even all the surrounding conversation—because they know it isn’t relevant to them. There’s no talk about projects they are working on and no cues to respond like there would be in the office.

Sometimes working from home can help with focus, but other times it can be distracting—with interruptions from family members, roommates, or pets. The mere sight of projects and chores that need to be addressed in the home can pull anyone’s attention away from the task at hand. Getting out of the house takes people away from those distractions.

With many offices still not operating at full capacity all the time, third places are even more important than they were prior to 2020. According to a Bloomberg survey, around 40% of remote workers are working in third places. Even with the prevalence of remote work, people are still moving into cities to take advantage of the social and economic advantages they don’t have in the suburbs. Cities are now taking on many characteristics the office used to own exclusively, and third places are changing to accommodate demand.

Many third places have evolved to support people specifically for work. People want to be comfortable wherever they work, and businesses offering third places are making those considerations: internet connectivity, privacy, moveable furniture, marker boards, etc. They have provided space for teams to collaborate privately in small breakout spaces, often with
collaborative technology.

While cities are seeing a surge in these coworking third places, they are popping up in the suburbs, as well. Many companies have their own high-end coffee shop area for employees at the workplace. This combines the best of the office and third spaces for the organization, enticing employees to come into the office more often. Some organizations have chosen to take it a step further, extending an invitation to neighbors to use the space as a third place too. This provides others in the community with beneficial restorative space and spots for individuals to focus. Plus, the hosting organization gains the diversity of thought, creativity, and innovation others in the community can bring in.  

The work we do hasn’t really changed, but embracing change in where we work helps support well-being for employees, giving them a sense of personal control and security. Providing people with options and allowing them to choose the right space for their work activities help them be more comfortable, productive, and efficient.

Is your organization encouraging employees to take advantage of third places?

Work from Anywhere

When given the choice, people are drawn to the places that make them feel the best and most productive. Why do people value being in the workplace?