Sound familiar? Social media and internal surveys have been awash with polls focused on the future of work – where do we want to work, how many days a week and for how long. Much of this debate, however, has looked at the workplace in black and white and placed workers in one of two camps; those who want to work from home and those who want to work from the office. Although this makes for a clear-cut argument, it also omits a key variable – the third workplace.
The third workplace has seen a rise in popularity in 2021, but what is it? The third workplace is a go-to spot which employees can choose to work from that is neither home, nor the office. Think coffee shop, library, hotel or even co-working spaces. As put by CBRE’s Julie Whelan:
“Hybrid work is not a binary choice between home or the office.”
In lockdown, the phrase ‘work from home’ perfectly described the situation we were all in. Millions of workers were doing precisely that – working from home. But coupled with eating from home, exercising from home, socialising from home, the concept of ‘at home’ quickly lost its novelty. As lockdown restrictions eased, we couldn’t wait to escape the four walls we’d been stuck behind for 18 months. For many, this meant a desire to get back to the office – because being in the office was better than being stuck in those same four walls.
But now, ‘work from home’ doesn’t seem to accurately reflect the possibilities we have in front of us. Terms like ‘remote working’, ‘hybrid working’ or ‘work from anywhere’ are much more representative, and appealing, than the thought of being tied to a home office. The third workplace brings more possibilities to realise that work-life balance we’re all chasing, and provides an extra level of flexibility to mix-and-match our work environment based on our mood or to-do list. Working from home when you’re expecting a delivery or have laundry to catch up on. A couple of hours in the coffee shop to get that in-between-meetings caffeine fix. One day a week in a co-working space to network with other local professionals. A day in the office to catch up with the team and plan for the next quarter. A week in the sun with your laptop in a Spanish villa.
Third workplaces aren’t just about leisure and flexibility, however. They’re also about productivity. Whether it’s kids demanding a snack, or colleagues requesting a last-minute meeting, the home and the office can be equally distracting environments. The third workplace acts as a neutral, distraction-free environment where workers are free to focus on their tasks. The beauty of working in a room full of strangers going about their own business is it provides the buzz of background noise that can help people focus, without the layer of distraction that comes with working amongst family or peers. Plus, cafes, hotels and coffee shops are places we normally associate with relaxation and refreshment. Bringing work into this type of space can also help employees feel automatically at ease – another factor which can positively impact productivity.
Granted, working from anywhere isn’t a luxury that every role allows. There will always be roles that require employees to be in a specific location at a specific time with specific equipment. But, for the millions of workers who need nothing more than a laptop and Wi-Fi, the workplace really can be anywhere. Especially with tools like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and Viva, and the introduction of Windows 365, it’s never been easier to pick up and shift your workspace on a daily or hourly basis.
Whichever way you look at it, the workplace has changed, and will continue to change in the next few years. One thing seems clear, however. As long as quality of work is maintained and deadlines continue to be met, it’s no longer about adjusting your life to fit your place of work, but adjusting your place of work to fit your life.