The future of work has been dominating recent commercial real estate conversations since the workforce was able to get back into the office after working remotely throughout the most severe point of the pandemic.
An Overview of the New Hybrid Office
Now that many of us are back at the office, the landscape is completely different from where we left off back at the end of 2019.
As organizations invite their employees back into the office, workflows have evolved to become hybrid. Hybrid work employees have the option of working from home or coming into the office. Some workplaces require team members to come into the office a certain amount of days per week, while others allow individuals to decide where they want to work based on personal preferences and circumstances.
Hybrid teams are leveraging technologies to collaborate with each other, even while people are dispersed. For example, many teams now base operations on a digital projects platform to ensure that everyone has access to what they need while working remotely. Another important tool is video conferencing apps, which are being hooked up into conference rooms to connect on-site groups with off-site team members.
The Rise of Third Places
As we move forward with hybrid work, interesting trends are coming to the surface.
One of the most noteworthy trends is the increase in popularity of “third places.” As employers have been striving to create workplaces that rival the appeal of the work-from-home model, the workforce has begun to branch beyond both the home and the office by choosing to work in other locations.
These other locations, referred to as “third places” besides the home or the office, may include cafes, local lounges, and coworking spaces. The flexibility of hybrid workflows has allowed employees to choose where they work and when as they create their own personalized experiences.
According to research from JLL, 36% of employees work in third places at least once per week. Last year, the number of employees who did this was only 8%.
The Appeal of Third Places
Workers are choosing to conduct work tasks at locations other than the office as this flexible system offers many benefits that improve the work experience, such as:
- Providing a positive change of pace. Working in different environments can help employees mitigate stress, fatigue, and burnout that can occur when working in one location every day.
- Offering an enjoyable location for teams to meet up. Just because an employee chooses to work at a third place does not mean they are alone. Many teams meet up in groups at third places to collaborate in an enjoyable environment of choice.
- Allowing employees to meet up with their friends that work in different organizations during the work day for a work session. Even though they may not have the same employer, they can still conduct work side-by-side while socializing.
- Access to amenities, such as on-demand food and beverage service, leisure activities, and internet connectivity.
- Placing workers in proximity to high-demand metropolitan activities and social spaces, such as malls, restaurants, fitness classes, parks, and cafes.
- Providing access to lively social environments that were not accessible throughout the pandemic’s market closures.
- Improving the work-life balance of employees by providing them with the freedom and flexibility to make personalized choices based on their own preferences. For example, a worker may choose to work at their favorite downtown cafe — simply because they love it, and they now have the ability to do so.
What Third Places Mean for Offices Moving Forward
As more and more employees choose to work at third places, it is disrupting the initial trajectory of hybrid workflows. While this is not necessarily a bad thing — as it celebrates the flexibility of today’s workforce — it does introduce a challenge to organizations, office owners, and facility operators.
In the future, organizations will need to consider how they will provide their employees with all of the tools required to work successfully from any location of their choosing. Companies may need to continually adjust their hybrid work strategy based on evolving workforce preferences and needs, which will likely continue prioritizing third places as viable work locations.
JLL’s research on the topic predicts that the future of hybrid work will look like a week split into 60% at the office, 20% at home, and 20% in third places. Keep an eye on the growing trend of employees choosing a unique combination of locations for performing weekly work tasks.
Keep up with the latest trends shaping the office sector by reading the RealNex Blog.