people in an office

Third space in the workplace

Thought Leadership on Workspace Solutions presented by Benhar Office Interiors. 

In his book, The Great Good Place, the urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg wrote about the importance of third places—the informal “public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact.”

While overtly, we may not think of our workspaces and offices as communities, Oldenburg’s ideas are applicable. The first place is our home, the second place is our work, and the third place is an integral part of our day to day patterns, neutral shared spaces that serve a variety of purposes. Third spaces occur, whether curated or not in every office setting. As our work styles change, these spaces should be considered and planned for, and Herman Miller, a leader in office research, has come up with some interesting findings.

Here are the basics from Herman Miller’s White Paper, Taking a Second Look at Third Space. It is a resource provided from the forward thinking manufacturer that presents a data driven point of view about the value of the third space concept.

The paper contends that a third space may consist of a combination of any of the following:

  • Areas for impromptu group collaboration
  • Spontaneous “touchdown” workspaces
  • Space for communicating to groups
  • Space for receiving visitors
  • Space for relaxation/contemplation
  • Individual and communal space for quiet/confidential work
  • Unassigned workstations
  • Space that’s off-site


At Herman Miller’s direction, Forward Thinking Inc. conducted in-depth interviews with real estate experts in more than 30 companies in Europe, the Middle East, Africa (EMEA), and Asia, as well as an online survey across a broader range of companies and markets.


The findings overwhelmingly supported the hypothesis. Third space is important: 60 percent of companies surveyed said it’s an “important” or “major” consideration in their workplace strategy. On average, businesses currently allocate only 11 percent of space to it.

They also studied the purpose of this space, and concluded third space has varied roles. When asked which role was most important, participants said:

  • Enabling flexibility and flexible workplace practices

(20 percent)

  • Fostering greater employee productivity

(16 percent)

  • Fostering effective knowledge sharing (14 percent)
  • Employee satisfaction and retention (13 percent)
  • Building community (10 percent)
  • Creating distinctive culture (9 percent)
  • Supporting visual brand communication (7 percent)

The living office response

Herman Miller’s response to these findings is the concept called Living Office. Living Office recognizes that each business is different, and is based in the idea that place can act as a powerful instrument to express an organization’s unique culture and progress its unique ambitions.

Each Living Office is unique, based on the distinctive purpose, character, and activities of its inhabitants. With the goal of creating a more naturally human experience of interaction and creation, Living Office begins with an understanding of what all people share to create, workplaces that feel intuitive and inevitable. Its basic origin is in Third Place, but then layered this idea with rigorous research about how peoples work styles have changed.

Benhar Office Interior’s is a Herman Miller dealer. We recognize that ‘one size’ does not fit all, and can provide research based solutions that can support any organization.

Our diverse experience in each of these disciplines allows us to offer our clients the best furniture solutions for each business model, thus creating innovative and functional workplaces. Everyone has their own vision of the perfect office environment. It’s our job to help you achieve yours.

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