The “Third Place” in the Modern Office

By Gary Miciunas

“Third places,” both in common areas and within tenant spaces, can add value to office buildings.

URBAN SOCIOLOGIST Ray Oldenburg first wrote of the “third place” in his 1989 book “The Great Good Place.” He enlightened readers about the importance of a place without ties to personal obligation — an environment that encourages relaxation, collaboration and decompression — for people’s overall well-being. In his words, “daily life, in order to be relaxed and fulfilling, must find its balance in three realms of experience. One is domestic, a second is gainful or productive, and the third is inclusively sociable, offering both the basis of community and the celebration of it.” Now, almost three decades later, this third place has become even more relevant for people seeking work-life balance.

Consider the rise and prominence of the open office; it can encourage collaboration, foster learning and cultivate a strong culture. However, if poorly implemented, it inhibits the employee’s ability to find personal solace as well as the ability to process complex ideas and revitalize oneself during working hours. Current studies reveal the importance of balancing group interaction and personal space. While collaboration is essential in today’s workplace, so is “sequestered time,” which enables individuals to process information and develop their own perspectives.

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