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Clare Hudson
Clare Hudson
  • 2 Minute Read
  • 28th February 2011

Office Space and the Third Place

In this post I aim to address the possibility of the office space moving into the realm of the ‘third place’ as telecommuting becomes more popular.

In December 2010, President Obama signed legislation that requires agencies to improve their use of telework. Companies are encouraged to employ telework managers and establish new policies that allow employees to work outside the office space.

In 2009, a report was made in U.S.A which found that 5.72 percent of the federal workforce teleworked; an increase of more than 11, 000 workers from the previous year. Will the figures continue to increase? How will this shape the work space of the future?

Sociologist, Ray Oldenburg discuses the first, second and third places in his influential book, ‘The Great Good Place’:

The First Place- Our homes and the people we live with.

The Second Place- Our workplaces, where we may well spend most of our time.

The Third Place- Informal meeting/ gathering places in a community.

The term ‘Third Place’ basically refers to a community building separate from ones home and workplace. Oldenburg argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement and for establishing feelings of a sense of place. They can be described as anchors of community life that facilitate and foster more creative interaction. In these places people can expect to, develop friendships, discuss issues, and interact with others.

I read an interesting article on the website, ‘The Future of Work’ called, ‘Business Community Centres (BCC) as third Places’. The concept of the Office Space becoming more like a community centre is argued to be more productive for individuals and companies.

‘The Future of Work’ said, “A BCC would be designed for use either by people who work from home, small business owners, sole practitioners, and/or ‘free agents’ who need part-time access to a workplace infrastructure and community on a cost-effective basis. A BCC should provide its members with a variety of technologically advanced amenities such as conference rooms, workstations, IT technical support, wireless broadband Internet connectivity, back office administrative support, and informal café-type facilities – all in an ergonomically-designed environment and complemented by on-site professional development and business development activities and assistance”.

On the surface, Work Spaces becoming more like informal, community spaces sounds like a great idea but it could also be interpreted as our community and social places becoming more like work spaces. The Future of Work said, ‘Work is no longer a place you go, it’s what you do’. With this in mind, are we in danger of the boundaries between home, work, and social life becoming totally blurred? Does increased mobility due to globalization, advanced technologies and the internet mean we will be working more or less as a society?

It seems that there will always be a need for office space. However, will we see an increase in office spaces linking up with other places in a community, such as the library and coffee shop? Will these spaces become increasingly accommodating for teleworkers? Are work spaces of the future going to become more informal or social spaces more formal?