July 15, 2021 by Andrea Rajic
How do you define “normal” these days?
There are people wishing they could go back to the old normal - the way we lived and worked before the pandemic. On the other hand, some would rather quit their jobs than go back to the office - they’ve fully embraced the new normal and they love it.
Other than changes in global economics, business, social interaction, and the way we think about mental health, there’s been a huge change in the way we work. Remote work and coworking in flexible workspaces timidly introduced themselves before the coronavirus hit, but now are in full swing. In March 2021, there were around 35,000 flexible workspaces worldwide, and their global market value was around $26 billion. We can only imagine how much these numbers have grown by now.
So, you may as well call third spaces the new normal - they are undoubtedly disrupting the workplace. We think it’s a great thing - read on to learn why.
Your main two spaces are your home and your office.
That’s where you spend most of your time - you sleep, eat, spend time with your family, work, socialize with colleagues, and more. So the definition of a third space or third place would be the following: space where you spend time while not at one of the primary spaces. In terms of work, third spaces are places where you can do your job outside of your home or your office. For many people, those places are coffee shops or coworking spaces.
These places offer amenities such as:
Third places have become increasingly popular, especially lately, when people were faced with a dilemma: the office is closed, but their home isn’t the most productive environment for them to complete their work-related tasks.
Where should they go then? These spaces are the go-to option for many. Here are the main reasons why.
Employees all over the world celebrated the fact that they no longer need to spend long hours commuting to work. Time is the most valuable resource for both employers and employees, and when you need about an hour to get to work or come home after a long day, you may begin to question whether the perks that come with your job are worth it. Frustration also gets in the way of reaching your maximum performance at the office.
Over 80% of third space users claim they’ve benefited from working there, according to a survey. These spaces provide you with the equipment and space to do your job that you may not have at home. If your home lacks appropriate lighting, a desk, a copy machine, or anything else you need for work, you may find it challenging to work from home.
Many remote workers are also parents, which means they may not have a private, noise-free space to do their job. For them, a third-place means a quiet environment where they have all the necessary devices to work.
Third spaces give you the freedom of organizing your own time. You can arrive early or have a late breakfast and then head to work. You can take breaks when you feel like doing it, without anyone breathing down your neck.
If your company offers flexible working hours, you can use them to organize your errands so you can balance your work and free time better. You can also visit different third spaces in your area and work from a different place every day if you’re a fan of change.
Instead of working with the same team every day, you can organize meetings with them once a week and have a brainstorming session or a casual chat to maintain your interpersonal relationships.
But on other days of the week, you can meet other people using the same co-working space and exchange ideas with them. Everyone can use a fresh perspective from time to time - who knows who you may meet and if that may be your future business partner.
Third places bring cost savings to both employers and employees. Companies save money on office space costs, such as rent, deposits, maintenance, and upkeep of the space. When you calculate these savings and multiply them with 5 or 10 years - you can see the impact these spaces have on company finances.
On the other hand, a survey showed an average employee can save up to $4,000 a year by working from home. If they split their time between a third place close to home and their actual home, it's way more cost-effective than commuting to work every day. Not only will they save up on gas, but also gain more time to use productively.
Over the years, the way third spaces look has changed.
Back in 1995, 17 computer engineers created a space to exchange ideas and code together - this could be the first attempt at creating a coworking space. But later, in 2002, the first real coworking space was created in Vienna.
Different work spaces offer different working opportunities. In many of them, you’ll find open desks that you don’t rent for yourself only, but you share them with another person. They can also be designed for an individual.
Third places may also offer private offices where you can hold a meeting or have a phone conversation when you need a quieter environment. For bigger teams that want to gather for in-person meetings, presentations, or brainstorming chats, many flexible spaces offer larger conference rooms with projectors, boards, and more.
Third spaces often include coffee stations where you can refill your favorite coffee mug when you run out of fuel and even kitchens where you can grab a healthy snack when taking a break from work.
Coffee shops may also be considered third spaces suitable for work, especially given that many owners today have in mind that people may want to use their premises for working. They offer suitable tables, comfy chairs, lots of sockets, healthy foods, good lighting, and great coffee.
Some corporate buildings also offer third spaces inside their premises, for those who like to change the environment when working. These employers have incorporated a flexible workspace with desks, chairs, whiteboards, and other necessary equipment so their employees who work in an open-space office can also have some private time when they need to focus or attend a meeting.
These spaces are often used for relaxing, too. Many corporations offer a “fun room” in their buildings, where they have lazy bags, football tables, pinballs, and more. The purpose of these places is for the employees to take a break and recharge so they can get back to work refreshed.
By 2022, around 13% of companies outside the US will be using coworking spaces for their needs. By 2030, flexible workspaces will likely represent 30% of US office stock.
Companies adopting the hybrid work model will become mainstream instead of being an exception to the rule.
A McKinsey study suggests that many executives are planning to operate their business using a hybrid work model. Their employees will work both remotely and from the office, and, for example, JPMorgan plans to allow their employees (over 60k of them) to work from home two days a week, or one to two weeks a month, depending on their positions.
Simply put, third spaces are the future of work, and it’s up to you if you’re going to keep up with the rest of the world. To stay competitive as an employer, you certainly need to remember that employees won’t give up on the possibility of remote work as the main perk a company offers.
For many workers, their confidence in their own skills and productivity has increased over the time they’ve been working from home, so you should really leverage this fact to build a strong, reliable team rather than force your people to go back to the “old normal” without a good reason.
Flexibility is the new normal. Options are the new normal. Giving people the freedom to find their most productive ways of working is the new normal.
So, are you ready to accept it as your new normal?
Introducing a third place to your company brings two enormous advantages to your business:
You’ll become an attractive employer with one of the most desired perks across industries so you’ll be able to attract top talent to your company. That could mean more revenue, growth, and business expansion. After all, 70% of people in the UK only consider an employer more attractive if they offer flexible working conditions.
Your employees will become the most productive versions of themselves. By giving them more freedom and options, you’ll help them maintain their motivation and increase loyalty to your business.