5 Reasons Your Office Needs a ‘Third Place’ to Gather

If you’ve ever spent time working from a good coffee shop, you know there’s something refreshing about leaving the office to get things done. That’s because coffee shops act as a “third place”—that is, a community space that isn’t home or work.

The core concept isn’t new, but after urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg labeled and defined it almost thirty years ago in his book, The Great Good Place, the trend toward intentionally creating “third places” has taken off.

The reason is simple: people thrive in easygoing social settings that encourage conversation and creativity.

But simply sending your employees out to Starbucks to work through their to-do lists is not the best way to harness the benefits of the “third place.” Between travel time and having inconsistent access to WiFi or electrical outlets–or nowhere to sit during peak hours–your team may lose momentum. Moreover, your company will lose a terrific opportunity to foster community internally.

At Knotel, we believe it’s important for employees to get out of the office to foster creativity. That’s why we recently rolled out Gather @Knotel, a space in New York City where any member can go, enjoy a (free) coffee or kombucha, take a meeting or just chill out. It’s an amenity we are exploring in other locations as well as we grow in new markets.

Your team needs to have its own “third place.” Here’s why:

1. To gather

Community is only built when people spend time together, interacting naturally. Teams can be built in the boardroom, but community is created on neutral ground when everyone is able to be their authentic selves.

2. To eat

Meals are meant to be a communal experience, not another task to be completed at your desk. Your employees are most likely to mingle with people outside of their departments in the lunchroom. You can encourage those organic connections by creating a space that is warm and welcoming.

3. To play

Helping your team have more fun at work doesn’t mean you need to build a gym or install a game room. “Third places” provide great opportunities for employees to get to know each other over cocktails or enjoy a movie night.

4. To host

Not every meeting at your office is a formal one, but the rooms allocated for them usually feel that way. With a “third place,” your team can host guests in a more comfortable environment, and build more meaningful relationships with clients and recruits.

5. To recharge

The primary goal of “third places” is typically to build community, but it’s also an atmosphere that should inspire creativity. Even if your team members chose to enjoy the space in a solitary way, the relaxed atmosphere will help them brainstorm or get a fresh perspective.

Keys to Creating a Great “Third Place”

Ambience is the most important ingredient in seeding a “third place”—warm, comfortable, relaxed—but you’ll need more. Here are some tips to make it a long term success.

  • – Even in conversational situations, people are likely to have their laptops or mobile devices out. Make sure your WiFi is fast and easy for visitors to join, and install ample electrical outlets.
  • – Good lighting makes a big difference in how inviting a space feels. If you don’t have a lot of natural light, install fixtures that soften light.
  • – When great ideas strike, help your team make the most of it. Keep mobile whiteboards, markers and sketch pads handy.
  • – Facilitate good communication. If the space is used for events, post a current schedule. Create a bulletin board for community updates or house rules.
  • – Your “third place” needs to be well-maintained above all else. Have it cleaned regularly and be sure to keep the snacks and paper goods well stocked.