As we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been much speculation and debate about whether we will return to our old habits of working in the office 5 days a week, or if working from home creates equal or greater productivity. However, many believe that the future of the workforce will largely be focused on a balance between in-person and in-office working, and a form of remote working, that summates into a new, hybrid model. But if you’re not at home, and you’re not working, then you must be somewhere else- exploring the true in-between of a public and a private space. Enter the concept of the “third” place, which is used to describe everything from coffee shops to banks, and even co-working spaces. If you’ve ever studied for an exam at a bookstore, or even dropped into an airport restaurant to catch up on some work, then you too, have visited a “third” place.
The term “third place” was first dubbed by Ray Oldenburg, a world-renowned sociologist who wrote The Great Good Place in 1989. In his book, which was a direct response to the privatization of home life that came with the increase in suburb growth, he claimed that if our homes were the “first” place, and our offices the “second” place, then the “third” place was most everything in between- or the more informal places where community gatherings would occur. These spaces are easily accessible by all and serve as anchors to modern society.
The desire for these spaces has significantly increased, especially as the world looks ahead to life after the COVID-19 pandemic, and we begin to understand how the consumer landscape can blend with design in a way that adapts to an evolving workforce that seeks out places that encourage repetitive visits and long-term stays. Think, for example, of the Starbucks you most frequently visit. You often see people spending time working alone or together- activities that are enabled by WiFi connectivity, comfortable lounge seating, and an ambiance that not only provides convenient food and beverage options but a strong brand presence and design aesthetic that eludes a sort of blueprint for success. The action of finding a place to sit, work, and drink a coffee in a place that isn’t your home or your office gives a sense of casual independence.
So what makes a “third” place successful, and how might we see more of them in the future? Just as much as Starbucks gives you access to coffee and a public park gives you access to greenspace, third places are most successful when they are able to provide value to their users through design elements and service offerings that will outweigh the benefits of the typical first or second places, and multiple companies are already beginning to crack this code to success. Capital One, a large retail bank, has begun to integrate cafes into their client-facing banking centers so after you handle your personal finances, you can sit and do some work in the same, intricately designed space. Convene, another company that takes on the stress and logistics of scheduling meetings and provides services for conferences that can be hosted off-site. If you don’t want to be stuck at home on a call, and you also don’t want to meet your teammates in the office, then Convene offers a viable solution.
In the near future, your employer might not require you to spend 40 hours a week in the office- but you might not want to spend much of that time cooped up in your house or apartment either. There’s a need to have a place to go in between those times, so expect these “third” places to be aiming to grab your attention and make you feel like you’re in the best of both worlds- neither at home nor at work.
We invite you to check out ArchDaily's coverage related to Coronavirus, read our tips and articles on Productivity When Working from Home, and learn about technical recommendations for Healthy Design in your future projects. Also, remember to review the latest advice and information on COVID-19 from the World Health Organization (WHO) website.