What is ‘third space’ and how can it be meaningful in office design?
What is third space?
If tradition dictates that first space is home and second space is the office, then third space is that in-between where people can meet informally, discuss freely, access the internet and work in comfort. Whereas companies were expecting staff to transition out of the workspace - perhaps into a coffee shop or hotel lounge - to access third space, an increasing number of organisations are bringing this into their workspace envelope and giving time and thought into how it can be used effectively as part of a design scheme.
What are the enablers?
Digitisation of corporate infrastructure including large-scale cloud filing systems has greatly increased the ability of staff to access whatever they need and wherever they are. It has hugely increased the mobility of the workforce and is fundamental to the ‘work-anywhere’ concept. This means that organisations can often get the best from their staff when they are enabled to work in a space where they feel physically and intellectually comfortable, without the restrictions of the conventional workstation.
What are the benefits of incorporating third space into a design scheme?
Apart from increasing staff comfort, incorporating third space within a design blueprint will formalise the commitment to collaboration and provide an important forum for junior staff and senior management to interact, share ideas and strengthen corporate culture.
Third space can also play an important role in resolving issues in open plan offices. Organisations are looking for ways to maximise the efficiency of their space and create boundaries between teams which are as flexible as their organisations need them to be. Innovative meeting pods and quiet booths can provide effective sound barriers and create a softer architectural barrier rather than a conventional partitioning system.
Third space can also be used to alleviate over-congestion of meeting rooms. With no formalised booking processes and easy access to food and drink, staff will often choose to meet in social spaces in favour of the boardroom. Some companies will also bring clients into these spaces to give a more authentic brand experience and make the relationship more genuine.
What does third space look like?
Our clients, Remy Cointreau, used social space as an important element in the re-design of their space in London. Removing the cellular offices created a blank-canvas floorplate and enabled our team to think creatively about how headcount could be increased and occupier experience improved. The design has incorporated a generous third space element, including several quiet pod zones and touch-down points for informal meetings. The incorporation of a drinks bar close to the formal meeting area gives flexibility in how meetings are configured and enables clients to join with staff in the space to enjoy the Remy Cointreau experience. Read more about our Remy Cointreau project here.