Hybrid working, work from anywhere and the evolution of the Third Place

Two people working separately in neighbouring booths in an office to illustrate the principle of third place facilities in hybrid working cultures. The restrictions brought about by COVID-19 altered where we work and thus also how, when and through which channels we do work related activities. These changes radically altered the way previously office-based workers thought about ‘work’ as an activity. This new era of hybrid working had a significant impact on traditional models of workplace provisioning. One could argue that pre-COVID-19 the ‘work mindset’ was almost an afterthought because there were distinguishing markers that indicated when you were expected to work and when you were not. If you were in the office, then you were expected to be doing work-related tasks. Then, at the literal end of the day, you switched off your computer and went home and mentally ‘turned-off’ until you returned to work the next morning.

Now, because people feel that they are ‘always on’, they now make a conscious effort to separate their working hours from the rest of their lives. COVID-19, however, made that increasingly difficult as suddenly the physical difference between work and non-work environments (i.e., the office versus home) was removed; this in turn created a paradigm shift.

The first phase in this mindset progression was ironically a physical transition: from the office to primarily working from home. No longer was this work style associated with the most progressive of companies; it became an experience had by all, regardless of industry, department, or title.

Inevitably, the initial allure of working from home lost its lustre but returning to the office, in many instances, was not an option; as a result, individuals started to take decisions into their own hands.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The realisation for employees, their employers, and clients alike, was that work can take place in spaces other than between four pre-defined walls[/perfectpullquote]

Enter the rise of ‘Work From Anywhere’ and hybrid working. At this point, the realisation for employees, their employers, and clients alike, was that work can take place in spaces other than between four pre-defined walls, at a desk, from 9-5pm, became evident. But what makes a workplace the most productive? The answer in a world of hybrid working and work from anywhere is: it depends.

An ideal workspace might be as casual as a café, or a place more specifically designated for work such as a flexible workspace; it might be a home office or even a comfortable section of your sofa; or it might be a traditional office. The thing that needs to be recognised is that no work is the same, and that in and of itself should justify multiple workspace types/settings. The key factors that determine workplace productivity and satisfaction are:

  • self-awareness of your workplace setting preferences for different types of activity,
  • your awareness of and access to a variety of practical workplace options and
  • the positive versus negative perceptions of making the choice that works best for you

While we might not be clear on exactly what the workplace will look like in the future, one thing is pretty clear: the importance being placed on trying to understand these dynamics, both on a personal and an organizational level, will have a positive impact on how and where we work tomorrow.

Understanding how places other than the corporate office or home (i.e., third places) fit into that ‘balancing process’ is essential in developing a workplace solution that is best for both the organisation and the people delivering the results. Companies already utilising flexible workspaces only see the importance of those third places and the mindsets associated with them increasing.

To explore the subject in more detail, please go to Chelsea’s long-form article in Work&Place journal. This shorter comment first appeared in IN Magazine