Increasing Workplace Productivity Through a Winning “Third Place”
There was no real reason my supervisor and I couldn’t have discussed this article at the office.
We went to a local coffee shop instead.
The office may have been more convenient, but the coffee shop was a better place to brainstorm. It was neutral ground, where my supervisor was less the boss and more just another colleague. What’s more, the coffee shop had a cozy couch. Free WiFi. And plenty of coffee.
It was an almost perfect collaboration space.
Indeed, coffee shops and cafes are exactly the kinds of places sociologist Roy Oldenburg had in mind thirty years ago when he coined the term the “third place.” Spaces for social interaction—community—in a world where people are increasingly spending time in isolated “first places” (homes) and “second places” (offices).
The main downside to relying on a coffee shop as a “third place” is that employees have to leave the workplace to get there. This concern has prompted many businesses to establish a similar space within the office building itself. By creating an office “living room” or “lounge,” an employer can offer a welcoming spot for employees to relax and interact. It also allows providing amenities to optimize productivity: reliable WiFi, comfortable seating, excellent lighting, access to smart boards, and abundant charging ports.
An in-office “third place” can be personalized to meet the needs of both the business and its employees, and can adapt as these needs change. Whether the focus is on providing employees with a place to recharge or establishing a spot where workers can comfortably gather to exchange ideas and problem-solve, a well-planned “third space” can make it happen.
Employees working in a high-stress environment may benefit most from a large, airy space for relaxation and connectivity—possibly with a well-stocked café area and even a foosball table or small basketball hoop to allow co-workers to unwind and bond.
A “third place” may also include some private areas for small group collaboration or to use as swing spaces. This can be particularly important for businesses with a significant number of mobile workers. Being physically present with their co-workers can make these employees feel more a part of the team.
An inviting, secure gathering space within the workplace, easily accessible to all, is an amenity that many employees have come to expect. More than any coffee shop, an in-office “third place” can encourage productivity and innovation, and can lead to greater employee satisfaction.
And the coffee can be better, too.