An old idea is gaining new momentum

The philosophy of the third space (or place, in some writings) is not a new one. In 1989, urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg coined the phrase in his New York Times bestseller, The Great Good Place. In that work, he described “first place” as home, “second place” as the workplace, and “third place” as the community anchors – informal meeting places such as parks, malls, gyms, libraries, rec centers, and the like.

Urban planners have increasingly relied on third spaces when developing new communities or revitalizing existing ones. These are the living rooms of the new millennium, a vital component for human interaction in a world that seems increasingly devoid of it.

Work isn’t what it used to be

In the 28 years since Oldenburg first introduced his ideas, a lot has changed in the world, particularly in the office. Cubicles have been torn down in favor of open space designs, which have also transformed into a combination of open and private spaces to meet the needs of group and focused work, as well as collaborative spaces to offset costs.

In addition, more employees are able to work from home, from the field, or from the coffeehouse down the street. While telecommuters report increased isolation, full-time employees also report longer and more intense workweeks.

Third space meets second space

To meet these challenges, more and more designers and property owners are looking at third space ideas to do for companies and workers what they’ve been able to do for communities: revitalize and recharge.

Before embarking on a third space design, there are a few key concepts to keep in mind so that the space is more than just a coffee shop in the office.

  • Location, location, location: The obvious spot is the company cafeteria or an area of under-utilized space. The important thing is to observe where key social interactions already occur and to build upon that, even if those spaces include areas outside of the building.
  • Technology is essential: The downfall of the local coffeehouse is not enough outlets and weak Wi-Fi. Third space areas should be technologically integrated to support collaboration, information sharing, creation, and, of course, seamless Wi-Fi and ample power connections.
  • Ambiance: The look and feel of a comfortable and welcoming environment can be achieved through design. Just as in new office environments that blend group areas with private focused work areas, third space areas should feature the same. Lighting, furniture, colors, textures, and aromas are all necessary ingredients to create a space that’s inviting.
  • Once the work is done, the work isn’t finished: As with many things in business, it’s important to seek feedback so that the space can continue to evolve with the changing needs of the staff. In order for the real estate to be resilient, it must be flexible.

The corporate third space is an investment

In an interview, Ray Oldenburg, the man who started the discussion, had this to say about the role of the third space in the office:

“Corporations used to believe that the longer they could keep each employee at the desk, the more productive they’d be. That’s been shot to pieces. Managers found out that if they let people work where they want and when they want, productivity went up. The marketplace is highly competitive, and it’s important to be first with new innovations. If you get people sitting together, talking together, innovation comes quicker.”

Morris Southeast Group couldn’t have said it any better. A healthy and supported workplace is good for innovation, which is good for business, which is good for real estate and investment opportunities.

For a free consultation or to learn more about CRE opportunities, call Morris Southeast Group at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at