Image Source: Office Snapshots, Northland Controls Offices – Milpitas
Corporate design has undergone a remarkable transformation in the past decade. As workplace demographics and technology have continued to evolve, so, too, has the traditional approach to real estate management. Flexibility has become a key component in attracting and retaining workers and overall employee productivity. Beyond workstations and formal meeting rooms, informal areas that foster collaboration, creativity and decompression are now being recognized for their valuable role in workplace engagement. These “third spaces” are giving employees the freedom and flexibility they crave, but are they beneficial to employers? Below we’ll outline what constitutes these informal spaces, the role they play within a workplace and why the benefits are too significant to ignore.
The Corporate “Third Space”
What is a “Third Space?”
The idea of a third space is quickly gaining traction within the workplace, but what does it really mean to employees and their employers? The term describes the third of three spaces where people perform work, the first two spaces being home and formal workstations respectively. With technological advancements and a rise in the number of telecommuting employees, the line between work and home has become increasingly blurred. Employees are looking for an informal, comfortable location within the office to relax, collaborate with coworkers and work independently away from their desks, all without losing mobility. Third spaces within a corporate environment not only support a plethora of work styles, but also the freedom and flexibility that boost employee engagement and satisfaction. Break rooms, workplace cafés, company lounges and even technology-powered patios are all examples of third spaces that provide functional benefits within the office.
Addressing the Need for Change
While the issue of healthy, employee-centric work spaces has certainly taken center stage in the last few years, workers are still facing long hours, stress and the feeling of being tethered to their desk. Offices that lack updated furniture, finishes and properly utilized architectural elements may appear drab and actually inhibit employee productivity and engagement within the space. A diverse, multi-generational workforce demands a physical environment that not only supports their differing work styles, but re-energizes and inspires them.
A 2016 Workplace Index surveyed roughly 2,000 U.S. and 1,000 Canadian employees to obtain an overview of workplace sentiment. Below are a few highlights.
- The three terms workers most frequently use to describe their office are “standard,” “plain” and “dull.”
- Roughly 65% of respondents feel most productive at their office desk. When it comes to feeling inspired however, only 36% feel their desk is the best location.
- Nearly half of those surveyed say they would like to see more attention paid to office design. As for what office features are most enticing, natural light and lounge areas are two of the most popular responses.
- Respondents noted that their creativity, health and inspiration would be most positively affected given the opportunity to choose a variety of work locations.
With these statistics in mind, there’s no question that there is a growing need for change within the office. The all-purpose workstation no longer offers the amenities and flexibility that our diverse, multi-generational workforce requires. Without the opportunity to choose a location that best suits their needs and preferred work style, a decline in employee productivity, engagement and satisfaction may result. Informal spaces that foster collaboration, social interaction and relaxed solo work are what the workforce is demanding and well-equipped third spaces offer all of the above.
Designing Your Third Space
A well-designed third space can accommodate a range of functions in one location, increasing productivity and stimulating creativity by offering employees a plethora of ways to work. Today’s workplace is taking design cues from the world of hospitality, incorporating the same relaxation, refreshment and social interaction that hotels, restaurants and lounges offer their guests. While the location of a third space can be virtually anywhere, its aesthetic and accessibility are most important.
Similar to a popular coffee house or hotel lobby, a third space should be warm, welcoming and comfortable, mixing the comforts of home with the productivity of the office. It should allow workers to come and go as they please, providing them the opportunity to use the space as they see fit on any particular day. As a growing number of employees have the mobility to leave their desks and work with a laptop or mobile device, a third space should offer multiple seating options with technology capabilities for accessibility. Lounge furniture paired with seamless technology integration is an advantageous way to incorporate a comfortable aesthetic while allowing for creative collaboration or focused solo work with a refreshing new view. It is important to remember that finishes, lighting and artwork should all compliment the ambiance you are trying to create. The space should feel like a retreat, welcoming workers to use it as they deem best while stimulating creativity and sparking interaction.
Workdays continue to grow longer as technological capabilities and flexibility in schedules allow employees to work at all hours of the day. Just as amenities have helped hotels become both the home and office away, increasing the amenity offerings within the office can enhance employees’ daily life and encourage a healthy work-life balance. Incorporating full-size kitchens or cafés, telephone rooms, refreshment bars, and even game and fitness rooms with showers can play a significant role in attracting and retaining workers. These areas provide a connection to the comforts of home as well as additional opportunities for employees to take a break from their desks and connect with others, which has been shown to reboot cognitive energy and increase productivity.
Image Source: Office Snapshots, WeWork Moorplace Coworking Offices – London
The third space is the also perfect location to implement biophilic design and its many physical and mental health benefits. Improved artificial and natural lighting, internal and external views onto nature and the use of natural materials through textures, patterns and colors are all effective methods of improving connectivity to the natural world. Employers and employees will reap the benefits of increased productivity, engagement and alertness by reducing stress and boosting moods.
Reaping the Benefits
Results from the aforementioned Workplace Index demonstrate just how crucial it has become to incorporate hospitality and flexibility within the office.
- 69% of respondents believe in the importance of creating a proper balance between work and personal life.
- According to those polled, the top four most interesting features of an office are natural light, private space, standing desks and lounge areas.
- Nearly 85% of all respondents believe that a well-stocked break room leads to happier employees. 56% believe that this also leads to increased productivity.
- 80% feel more productive after a break.
A well-designed third space can incorporate the features today’s multi-generational workforce is seeking. In striving to provide the flexibility and freedom that workers are asking for, employers will see value added to their business. Creativity and opportunities for collaboration can increase knowledge sharing, build a sense of community within the office and improve employee satisfaction, productivity and retention.
Hospitality-driven design not only enhances the employee experience, but the experience of office guests and visitors as well. Just as hotel lobbies welcome patrons into an establishment and offer various amenities for their comfort and enjoyment, office spaces have the same opportunity to make their visitors and potential clients feel well-received and create a powerful first impression. Allow guests the opportunity to choose from the fresh, delicious treats of the workplace café before guiding them through to a cozy lounge seat, where natural views can ignite the senses and bright colors spark creativity throughout your meeting. Rather than meeting in a formal conference room, gather together on cozy sofas and intimate touch-down tables. A well-equipped third space can help instill a warm, lasting impression, giving employees and visitors alike a sense of belonging.
Image Source: Office Snapshots, Honest Company Offices – Los Angeles
How Will You Use Your Space?
As new generations of employees continue to enter the workforce, they are bringing a diverse set of habits, perspectives and work style preferences with them. It has become essential for the office to create an inclusive culture that strives to fulfill the varying needs of each age group and offer the flexibility they desire. No longer should employees be chained to workstations and closed offices, as evidence has proven it to be detrimental to not only physical and mental health, but productivity levels as well. The corporate third space has the ability to offer the flexibility and freedom our workforce desires and the inspiration they crave, benefiting our employees and employers alike. And while the freedom to read through the day’s emails with a beach breeze running through our hair and warm sand massaging our toes sadly has yet to present itself… we’ll wait patiently on a plush couch in the work lounge with a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
For more information, pricing or to schedule a showroom tour, please contact:
CDI is a cutting-edge commercial furniture dealership that believes thoughtful design and strategic planning are critical components in the success of every project. We can help companies achieve their business vision and goals and help maintain your workplace investment. CDI creates functional and inspiring interiors designed to foster employee well-being, productivity and engagement.
CDI is a “Select” Kimball Office dealer. The “Select” status is Kimball’s premier dealer designation, which demonstrates dealership excellence in sales, service, financial stability, business processes and more.
Corporate Office & Showroom:
1711 Paramount Ct., Waukesha, WI 53186