Third Places. Working in different locations.

New Working Environments Office Trends Living Space

Patrick puts his bag on the seat next to him and pulls out his laptop. "I love riding the train", he thinks to himself, as he organises his documents. Before, he used to drive his car everywhere, but for the last year he has only used the train for business travel - it's both more relaxing and saves time - because writing up the meeting's results while travelling by train means that by the time he gets home, the meeting notes are already finished – very nice!

Not just couch potatoes

Working exclusively in the office - a thing of the past. Previously, people were only considered productive when they were sitting at their desk. And some companies are still enslaved to this way of thinking. Yet this perspective doesn’t sufficiently capture reality, as the designer duo PearsonLloyd, the inventors of PARCS

You have to learn how to tune out

On the topic of "personal preferences": individuality and free choice are writ large in our society - but sometimes , however, this may be an illusion. Free choice is not always truly free; it can be determined by pressures in the background. This can also apply to working outside of the office. For some, it is a great thing to be able to work creatively in trains, cafés or in the park. For others, working outside of the office is an unpleasant obligation. According to a study by Gensler, a company active in office planning and consulting, 52 percent of knowledge workers say that are never really able to tune out their work. No wonder, then, that many of them also check emails, conduct conference calls and work on their laptops, even while on holiday. This inability to put work aside, however, can have negative effects on health and wellbeing. It’s necessary, then, to be careful and to plan in periods of time that are completely free of work.

Third Places as places of creativity

ON the other hand, if you can maintain the right balance and you enjoy your work, Third Places can be ideal workplaces. The First Place refers to the home, and Second Place the office. Third Places (according to Ray Oldenbourg) are all of the other public or semi-public spaces - from the train station to the train, the taxi, the hotel lobby, Starbucks, the library or the park. These places are open to everyone in principle and enable an easy, social meeting point as well as vastly different types of use - including work. One could say that work is possible everywhere – both on the way from one place to another as well as at a place especially selected for work. Yes, knowledge workers today are incredibly mobile – both mentally and spatially. Their thoughts are constantly in motion between diverse projects and tasks. They might find themselves in one of the four stations of the creative process: i.e. discover, design, discuss, decide. The process starts with a discovery or idea. Then comes the phase of design, editing and articulating this idea. Next, the discussion process begins, inviting and assembling other ideas and information. Finally, it’s time to decide whether something is going to be implemented, and if so, how. Third Places can be inspiring and motivating during this process, during every one of these four stations. Some of the best ideas come to people while they are outdoors, far away from everyday stresses. Some prefer the atmosphere of a library to expand upon their plans and put them down on paper. And an informal meeting with colleagues in a café can be relaxing and lead to inspiring discussions.

Spatial diversity

In our typology of the knowledge worker - see our articles, "Research for innovative product concepts", "Invitation to an ongoing journey" and "Knowledge Workers: The new Working Class Heroes" - Gatherers and Navigators are particularly likely to use third places. They are frequently underway and perform their job "on the go". But the other knowledge workers also need a work environment that ideally supports their creative work. Different spatial qualities are in needed. The most suitable office area is selected depending on what needs to be done. Walt Disney was aware of the importance of spatial diversity. Every participant in the creative process was able to use different spaces; playful spaces for dreaming, spaces with a workshop feel for practical implementation, and clear, strict spaces where criticism took place.

The ways in which a space is divided up and partitioned can also have a positive effect on the office environment design. A practical and clearly arranged office is simply more motivating than strictly divided small cubicles. If employees feel better in social settings, they are more cheerful and engaged; you don’t have to send them off to a café to get good results. Bene’s transparent RF corridor wall visually dismantles spatial boundaries and makes a broader horizon possible. Without visible frames between the glass panes, the wall, designed by Johannes Scherr, conveys a high degree of openness. One is, so to speak, among people – but completely free of acoustic disruptions. The RF corridor wall therefore makes a valuable contribution to the optimisation of the work landscape for today's knowledge work



Ronnie Heiner