In my last blog post, I discussed a lot about what the coworking climate looks like today in America. Freelancers, entrepreneurs, and even large companies are beginning to utilize coworking centers as a means for inspiration and collaboration. However, it is important to note that the average monthly cost of renting a flexible desk in a coworking space in the U.S. is $195. This is a luxury that not everyone can afford. Apart from that, a coworking center may not be for everyone. Which begs the question, outside of coworking centers where are freelancers, remote workers and entrepreneurs conducting work?
The Third Place
A common place individual’s find themselves doing their work is at their home. In fact, in a survey of remote workers, 78% use their home as their primary place of work. However, the home can serve as a distraction. There are always things to do around the house and more than that, it can be lonely. As such, people are becoming more and more drawn to doing their work in a third place.
A third place can be defined as a place people gather outside of the first place (the home) and the second place (the workplace). Put simply, a third place acts as a “living room” of society. The concept of the third place dates back to the 16th century, when individuals gathered to discuss life in taverns and bars. In fact, the Protestant reformation was born in a third place at a local tavern in Cambridge, England. Examples of modern day third places include restaurants, parks, recreation centers, and gyms. There are many third places that naturally lend themselves to being a suitable location for individuals (such as freelancers, remote workers, and entrepreneurs) to do their work. For example, cafes, libraries, community centers, and of course coworking centers.
When you step into your neighborhood coffeeshop, one thing you tend to notice is individuals on their laptops, busy at work. In fact, 5% of remote workers use a café as their primary place of work. Take Starbucks for example, quite honestly, they have perfected their atmosphere to attract remote workers. With free wifi, a relaxed atmosphere, and a great selection of food and drinks it is easy to see that you can be productive there. With this in mind, each person has their own needs and cafes can pose many disadvantages. For example, where does someone go if they have to take an important business call? Or, what happens if they need to have a space to invite clients to? In those cases, a café simply won’t do. You need a space that is more flexible and adaptable.
Not only do libraries have nearly limitless resources, they also provide a calm and relaxing atmosphere. However, libraries are not always the easiest place to socialize and network. One library that has launched a new concept is The Edge located in Queensland, Australia. The Edge is an initiative by the State Library of Queensland to create a space in the library designed with collaboration and open sharing in mind. For example, the furniture is moveable and can be manipulated to fit the needs of the user. In addition, The Edge hosts a variety of workshops and presentations to foster knowledge sharing.
Unconventional Work Spaces
As the coworking industry continues to grow, individuals have sought to find spaces that differ from coworking centers or your local café. While coworking centers can provide peace and quiet, they can be quite expensive. On the other hand, cafes are free of cost (except for delicious muffin and coffee you always end up purchasing) but are not necessarily the most professional environment to conduct your business. Facing challenges similar to these, Nick Jiang and Ray Choi launched a new coworking concept entitled Birdnest. Birdnest is based in San Francisco, CA and turns underutilized spaces (such as restaurants) into makeshift offices for companies. At the cost of roughly $3 a day, the intrigue is hard to deny. Even more, restaurants are seeing close to 15% more of additional revenue. Birdnest solved the problem that many coworkers and start-ups were facing— a private, low commitment, and flexible workspace to conduct business.
Corporate Take on Third Places
Larger companies are organizations are beginning to take notice too. In response to changing work preferences, companies like Google are beginning to create spaces for their employees to recharge, be social and become inspired. The on-campus third place is becoming exceedingly more common and looks different from one company to the next. For example, Facebook has a video game room whereas Google launched an on-campus coffee shop called Coffee Lab. Regardless of its appearance, these spaces have been created to bring comfort within the four walls of a company and to increase employee productivity and engagement.
So, what does this mean?
Of course, individuals are finding spaces to work outside of cafes, libraries, community spaces and coworking centers. But these tend to be the spaces that individuals find themselves to be productive and able to connect with others as a means to collaborate. Looking into the future, the number of remote and freelance workers will continue to grow. As the number increases and the landscape for working in today’s world has changed, I am certain that we will continue to see how organizations and companies create a better work environment for their employees by incorporating elements of the third place into the office.