Celebrating the Third Place

Inspiring Stories about the “Great Good Places” at the Heart of Communities by Ray Oldenburg

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The global workplace community is in the midst of a revolution of thought and action about how, where, and when work should take place. For all the right reasons, we are in search of how to enable meaningful work from literally any place on earth, in order to create what has quickly become known as a “hybrid workplace.”

In the midst of all the appropriate focus on technology and productivity in all those diverse work environments we sometimes forget to pay attention to the social and physical contexts in which that work takes place.  It is time to go back to basics – to revisit the original concept of a “third place”- a location that falls between a commercial office and a home office.

Fortunately the first meaningful analysis of third places remains readily accessible; it has been on my bookshelf for over twenty years.  Author Ray Oldenburg coined the term “third place” in his classic discussion of cafes, diners, pubs, and other informal gathering places where people originally came not to work but to unwind, to meet friends, and to engage in meaningful conversations.  Those were, after all, what really mattered, and why third places became so popular all around the world.  As the television series Cheers proclaimed about that familiar neighbourhood bar, “It’s a place where everybody knows your name.”

While Oldenburg’s insights won’t tell you everything you need to know about creating a great, good hybrid workplace, this book is a marvellous way to round out your design insights.  After all, if you can get the culture and the norms right, your employees and contractors will flock to that place and find ways to be productive even if they have to overcome inadequate technology, poor lighting, and noisy surroundings W&P


Reviewed by James P. Ware, PhD., Work&Place Managing Editor – December 15, 2021 as part of the W&P Bookshelf series of classic workplace related books found on the Work&Place editorial team’s bookshelves.

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