Why Third Spaces Matter More Than Ever

As many of us gradually return to the office with guidelines in place, we hope this information serves as a look toward the future. Our team at HON is here to support you through the transitions and help you look forward to productive collaboration in all forms. 

A few months ago, we were talking about one of the fastest-growing concepts in workspaces across the country: third spaces. 

In the last few years, businesses have heard from their employees about the design and functionality of their office spaces. Workers now thrive on the freedom of working when (and where) they’re most productive, and with remote work on the rise, many companies have become more open-minded to the design of their spaces. 

That’s where third spaces entered the equation, and became a popular topic before COVID-19 forced many Americans to work remotely. 

A “third space,” by definition, is a space where people spend time between work and home; it’s not technically an office and it’s not your comfortable living room couch, but a place where you can step outside of familiar settings and still get work done.

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A Safer “Connection Point” for Teams 

The “third spaces” many businesses were planning to develop are now being re-thought. 

As the office floor plan shifts toward a layout that ensures adherence to safety and sanitation protocols, the challenge is finding where and how third spaces fit. Susan Manjoine, Marketing Manager of Seating for The HON Company, says companies still must consider those communal or common spaces for employees because the desire to move about hasn’t waned. 

“Will this create a new space for the third space? We think so,” Manjoine said. “People are going to want to get away from their desks, and especially so when you’re not having impromptu conversations in the hallways or meeting anywhere communal because of the new traffic flow designations. 

“These new third spaces will provide a connection point for employees. Before the pandemic, you’d have meetings and chance conversations throughout the office, and now those aren’t happening. In a re-imagined third space, you can safely sit at a distance, have a cup of coffee, and do something together.” 

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Responding to Our Changing World

A third space plays many roles in the office environment. It’s a place to meet, a place to relax, or a place to simply get work done. Employees can get away and unwind for a quick regroup so that they’re refreshed and ready to go with creative ideas. 

HON has been working to ensure our customers can plan for a safe yet seamless return to the office. The Healthy Workplace and Easy-Clean Solutions programs feature products and protocols that promote proper distancing, sanitization, and peace of mind. 

Introducing a third space in this environment can achieve two major objectives for businesses: adherence to CDC and health department guidelines, and a way to give employees more freedom of choice regarding where they work and collaborate. 

“As an organization, we’ve focused on a few initiatives that help our customers and partners determine what the right path is as we navigate through these crazy times,” said Michael Ryan, Category Merchandising Manager for The HON Company. 

“Because there will be less encouragement of having meetings in conference rooms with closed doors, having more open spaces—such as third spaces—will be really important.” 

Employers can safely promote mobility throughout the office and encourage alternate workspaces for their staff. Whether single-seated or two-seated stations (the latter option is in compliance with social distancing guidelines), these can be used in open, common areas or enclosed rooms. 

Once the layout and/or purpose of the third space has been defined, the next item on the agenda is furniture. 

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Purposeful, Functional Furniture for Your Reimagined Office Space 

When it comes to selecting furniture, there are now more considerations. 

We’ve often heard from customers and partners that materials are important, but with safety now at the forefront, the cleanability of those materials has become a top priority. 

As cleanings become more regular throughout the work day (and after hours), customers are looking for chairs and accompanying furniture with materials that can hold up. 

It’s something the HON team has been hard at work on. Seating options like West Hill™’s cleanable fabrics and Ruck™’s easy-clean shell (with more product lines forthcoming) can be wiped down quickly, and moved throughout the office to a variety of different work spaces. 

“As COVID-19 hit and cleanability became so focal for furniture, we applied cleanable fabrics to the privacy panels on our new collaborative work series, Astir,” Ryan said. “These privacy screens were originally designed to be made of a knit mesh material but we quickly pivoted to include knit mesh and cleanable vinyls options.” 

Another key characteristic of furniture in this new environment is its functionality, both Manjoine and Ryan said. HON products are available in a variety of styles and can be used in multiple types of office setups, enabling businesses to put health and safety first without sacrificing productivity. 


Give Your Employees a Safe, Productive Space 

Third spaces may not look the way they were envisioned a few months ago, but done right, they serve an essential purpose in the office and help employees get the most out of their work days. 

“There’s this new normal of having a clear and safe path to your desk throughout the office, so there’s less traffic,” Ryan said. “Not only do our products fit into many different spaces, but you can create a single workstation or a collaborative space while still ensuring proper distancing and keeping everyone safe.” 

To learn more about HON’s seating and collaborative furniture options, visit hon.com.