Home > The Monday Musings Column > developing the second place; more thoughts on the office of the future

developing the second place; more thoughts on the office of the future

Continuing last week’s  thinking about the workplace, but here using the definitions of First, Second and Third places as defined by Ray Oldenburg, with the First Place being home, Second being where we work and the Third Place as being somewhere between the two as Mr Oldenburg describes. (Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories about the “Great Good Places” at the Heart of Our Communities. New York: Marlowe & Company. ISBN 978-1-56924-612-2).

We are becoming familiar with Coffee House Person, taking up a table for four with their laptop, phone and paperwork whilst creating a health and safety issue by having both on charge as they hog not just the space, but also at least two of the available power sockets. Their territorial behaviour is also apparent as they fiercely defend their little corner (you also find them on the train) and is becoming such a pest that some places are putting up notices asking them to desist.

This sort of behaviour is nothing to do with the Third Place and it is detrimental to that concept as a benevolent environment where people can thrive in a buffer zone between the other two places. In the Coffee House Person context they are simply creating a replacement for the Second Place and bring out the worst in what we, as Facilities Managers, recognise as one of our less popular end users, but it is also symptomatic of a decline in standards of personal behaviour, but let’s not get me started on that one.

One of the real replacements for the Second Place, the office, for the road warrior is the serviced office space where there is a lounge facility. This was a concept that my team introduced to our multi-site corporate environment back in the 90s and we were reasonably successful in doing so, but there was always a pressure on space and our Drop In Zones were largely taken over for other things within a short time after our team had moved on to new jobs elsewhere; maybe we were a little ahead of our time?

Now this type of facility is thriving as an independent enterprise, and there is considerable scope for having them in the corporate environment as I have seen in a recent project up the M4 in Maidenhead, but why not look at them from a more communal angle? From my experience of operating multi user corporate sites this is certainly a valid one as a shared resource and worthy of development. If we want to have a name for this type of space, then rather than stealing the Third Place from the socialogists and using the term incorrectly, perhaps we should establish the conecpt of the Fourth Place?

We share our buildings with franchise retail and catering, even going as far as to try to create village style areas, so why not open these up to a wider customer base? There are many possibilities to change the ways we use the Second Place and we can tailor these to have different concepts of personal space in one area, from individual spaces to shared working space and group thinking space, noisy spaces and quiet ones.

All of these are necessary in any case, but also help to cater to the differing generations as has been discussed in one of the LinkedIn forums recently, but generation may not be as much of a factor as some imagine as the proliferation of silver surfers shows. The important thing is that there needs to be a variety of spaces available for people to come together in as and when the job requires.

Social interaction is a fundamental part of human behaviour. Making an interesting workspace that both works and stimulates its occupants, those who are there all day or just a short stay, is our challenge.

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