What Is a Third Space?
Has the term “Third Space” flown past you yet? The idea of a third space in (or in addition to) the office has been making major waves over the last year. This is true in both discussions by HR professionals and in cheques cashed by corporations. Companies which are leaders in employee satisfaction and recruitment have been looking to expand into third spaces in a big way. They’re viewing it as a way to become more appealing in the job market and become a better place to work. Though, what actually is a third space? And why are employers so quick to jump on board? In this article we’re going to cover what a third space is, why it’s suddenly appearing, and how the market for them is shaping up.
What is a Third Space?
A third space is as it sounds. A third space which isn’t the office and isn’t the home. A place of socialisation such as a bar, mall or place of worship. They’ve always been around but now corporations are thinking of how to use these spaces to boost productivity. Shaping a third space into a place where work is encouraged. An example of such a space is the coffee shop. The coffee shop has been in use as a corporate third space long before the term picked up traction. Consider every job interview you’ve done, or seen, where were they held? It is not uncommon to first meet for a job over coffee rather than a conference room. This is because the coffee shop environment offers a more relaxed setting, potentially more fitted to an early interaction. The coffee shop interview leaves the corporate tension at the office whilst also allowing a space for communication. This is exactly what businesses are aiming to do with third spaces. Though, corporations are picking up on the fact that this doesn’t have to be limited to interviews.
Konrad Putzier, a real estate reporter at the Wall Street Journal, describes working in a third space as “the coffee shop experience”. That it was a space for remote colleagues to gather, whilst also being focused on individual work. The bridge between remote work and the complete return to the office.
Why are third spaces picking up traction?
In the post-pandemic climate, office culture takes on a new shape. After covid-19 normalised working from home, reluctancy to move back into the office rose. The office space doesn’t have the benefits or comforts that employees now expect. However, on the flip side, the home suffer from a lack of in-person communication. Additionally, being stuck at home day in and out can grow tiring and under stimulating. This explains a large part of the move towards third spaces. Employees are no longer satisfied with the office. At the same time, remote working may not offer enough socialisation.
How are companies responding?
Companies are ready to utilise third spaces in a range of ways. Either to create work-focused areas, or to encouraging team building or relaxation. If you enter the discussion surrounding third spaces you’ll most likely find companies taking one of three approaches.
The first is the workcation approach. Salesforce is a leader in this area, and we’re not surprised. Salesforce has long tried to establish itself as one of the best places to work. Offering employees flexible schedules, free snacks, and a variety of other perks. What Forbes is calling a ‘new employee working centre’ is really shaping up to be more of a retreat. Trailblazer Ranch is going to set the tone for new recruits in it’s use as a space for employee onboarding, training, and socialising. Though, the space will also offer yoga, art journalism, and meditation sessions according to Mr. Brent Hyder, President and Chief People Officer of Salesforce. The idea behind this third space is to give employees a spot to connect with one another. It is a blend between a wellness retreat and a space to grow together as a company.
Another company working in this space is Wander. Wander is an accommodation service nestled somewhere between an AirBnB and a hotel. They advertise stays at high quality smart-homes across the US and they’re keenly aware of the third space needs. On their website they advertise the choice of a workcation with Wander “You don’t have to unplug to unwind”. They provide all the necessary equipment for a great working-from home experience, even if you’re not at home. Their B2B marketing advertises the use of Wander for an employee perk or retreat. If a company needs to host a workcation, without buying a block of land, this is their company.
2. Blended and flexible work
IWG likes to say that they are the “global leader in hybrid working”. Back in March, they began a venture with the Instant Group hoping to become the ‘Airbnb for office spaces’. The new venture will allow tenants to book spaces including IWG managed offices, hotel meeting rooms and vacant offices. As a part of their marketing, IWG considers these flexible spaces as suitable third spaces. Whilst a rented office may not have enough to qualify as a third space. A hotel meeting room is exactly the type of space which could. This isn’t as relaxed as a workcation but is a middle ground space to step out of the office. Hosting a meeting in a space outside the office walls has a range of potential benefits. Aside from a potentially better location, there is additional benefits of the ambience, technology, and service available. Meeting outside the office could promote socialisation, or start the meeting off with a fresher energy.
3. Third spaces which are just offices with extra steps
Third space is, really in this context, a loosely defined term. This is why some office spaces are being considered as third spaces as well. Office spaces with expansive break rooms, libraries or lounges may be spoken about as third spaces. For example, HBC has been on a mission to create relaxed working spaces out of old department stores. Due to the nature of the office, it mimics that of a third space. Though, if it’s made into a primary place of work, it’s worth asking whether it fits the definition. Is this a part of the third space movement? Or is it simply an office which has grown and changed to fit the current employee expectations?
Should your company organise a third space?
For some employees, a third space will be a major perk, while to others it may not at all be necessary. Likewise, a company which organises a third space may see unparalleled productivity and retention boosts, or it could be a waste of funds. It’s a big investment to undertaken, but that doesn’t mean it wont be worth it. If you think a third space could fit into your company — test the waters first. A CiVS employee survey offers 13 different question types with a range of customisable options, so you can get a thorough overview of your company. Our surveys can provide valuable insight when it comes to expanding the office or implementing new strategies for employee satisfaction or retention. We can help your company make changes where it matters most.
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