The “2nd Place” Faces the Changing Work Environment

The what? The 2nd Place. This is a great term coined by Ray Oldenburg, the urban sociologist. The 1st place is our home. The 3rd place is emerging offsite work places like Starbucks. Originally the 3rd place was Oldenburg’s focus, but he hadn’t considered the how the changing workforce would alter the shape of the 2nd place.

You can click on this link to read an article published by Gigacom that goes into more detail about the 2nd place. I like the article because it further solidifies my feeling that a spoke and hub model for work at home is the most efficient. Actually it should be spoke and hubs – plural.

If the collaboration, communication, information, security and reliability of the office can be provided in the home then shouldn’t the office take on a different function? The 2nd place is morphing into a work space that’s convenient (or close to home). This may mean multiple smaller spaces in a market rather than one huge hub. It means the 2nd place may have a more open space environment that encourages greater collaboration. Open space allows employees to choose where they’re going to work when they come in. It may be a meeting room with for a team that they need to interact with that day. It may be a smaller room appropriate for a few folks focused on a project. The Gigacom article does a great job of expanding on this thought.

The point is that it’s important to have some, local work environment “hub” that employees can visit. It has to be a reasonable distance from the home, should be smaller and more cost-effective than a traditional facility and help maintain the culture of the organization.

The article also touches on a study conducted by Stanford University in cooperation with a Chinese travel agency. The study found that employees that worked at home were more productive.

“Ok Ian we’ve heard this before” you’re thinking. However the study goes back to the impact on the work environment. In this case it wasn’t that the work at home employees were better than their “facility based” counterparts. Both groups had the same closing percentage. What accounted for the productivity increase was two specific factors: 1)  the work at home group took 15% more calls; 2) the work at home group spent 11% more time on the phone.

Both these factors are the result of the benefits of work at home. Employees have fewer distractions, a greater focus, fewer needless meetings, arrive to work early more often, take fewer breaks and take less sick time.

Finally I found this article interesting because, frankly, it affirms many of the “assumptions” we included in the ROI Calculator we recently created. The calculator takes a close look a the factors that account for increased productivity and employee attendance. For a recent project we just completed  the ROI Calculator showed a small increase in productivity and just 2.4 hours of increase employee attendance every month created over $1 million in new revenue within 12 months.

The bottom line for the Gigacom article is that is shows how a holistic look at work at home is essential to success. The home environment (the 1st place) and the work environment (the 2nd place) both need to be addressed. Both need to be supported by reliable technology and network, encourage collaboration, allow the employee a certain amount of autonomy, support the company culture and ensure ongoing communication.

I hope you enjoy the article and as always look forward to your comments.


2 thoughts on “The “2nd Place” Faces the Changing Work Environment

  1. Excellent points, interesting data.

    20 years ago we visited SAS HQ in Sweden, they had a glass building with offices around the edges–all with glass walls and every few offices was a lounge area with comfortable furniture, couches, tables chairs, so that employees would communicate and brainstorm and collaborate. Very effective and welcoming. Home away from home. Good 2nd place.

    I have always worked from home, before it was fashionable. Much more productive. No wasted commute time also
    high on the list, lower clothing costs, etc. The less sick time was interesting, given the cost of health care for companies these days. Made me wonder how much of sick time taken is: From illnesses caught at work, or for non-medical reasons. Hmmm.
    Glad to see you keep including supporting the culture. Very important, assuming the culture is positive/collaborative..
    Dr Linne
    Economist, Positive Leadership Systems/Culture expert

  2. Dr Borget thank you for your feedback. It means a lot coming from someone with your experience. Culture is key above everything when it comes to the success of a work at home program. If the W@H program doesn’t support the culture and the culture doesn’t suppor the W@H program then the business goals and objectives can’t be met. Keep reading. I hope you find future articles as valuable.

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