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By Kirk Layton, President & Co-Founder, The Tenex Group

Like a lot of people, I’m very excited to see the energy and vibrancy returning to downtown office buildings. Just yesterday I was in Brookfield Place and enjoyed feeling the hum and vibration of a bustling office tower, something that the work-from-home crowd is definitely missing out on.
I expect that a lot of people who are working from home are going to be drawn back to the office because they miss that energy. And as more property managers engage their tenants with dynamic lobby events – think puppy cuddles and ballet performers – the WFH crowd will realize that they’re missing out on a social experience that simply doesn’t exist at home. We all crave interaction with people to one degree or another, and the building lobby, concourse, and other common areas brought to life by property managers with engaging events are becoming a great place to satisfy that craving. So in addition to the gym and the coffee shop being places where we can connect outside our home and our office cubicle – places sometimes referred to as “the third space” – the office building itself has become a third space, an important space where we can connect, engage and thrive.      
The third space is a term first coined by Harvard academic Homi Bhabha to describe the area that develops when two or more people or cultures interact. (Don’t worry … this is the only time I will use the word “academic”!) The third space is any place outside your home (the first space) and your company’s office premises (the second space) where people engage and interact with each other in a dynamic way.    
I think the view that the building lobby itself can serve as a third space has significant implications for commercial property managers as they welcome their tenants back into their buildings. The more property managers can do to energize and engage their tenants, the more likely the occupants will experience the dynamic interactions with others that are the hallmark of third spaces.
Here’s a quote from Chad Remis, now Chief Investment Officer of Oxford Properties, that I pulled from a 2016 article in the Boston Business Journal about the third space. Referring to a lobby redevelopment at 125 Summer Street in Boston, Chad explained that Oxford is “taking more of a hospitality approach to the lobby, in the sense that we want it to be a third space. We want our tenant base to feel comfortable and to want to use it, want to interact in it, and want to have meetings in it.” Given Chad’s belief in the importance of providing a third space for Oxford’s tenants, I thought it made sense for me to follow up with him to get his latest take on the third space. Here’s what he had to say:
“We were big believers in the concept of a third space prior to the pandemic, and today remain equally as focused on creating those environments across our portfolio. The workplace is about teamship, collaboration, relationships, growth and development, and what we have missed while working from home are those moments that come before the meeting, in the elevators, at the front door, over lunch – the informal and organic connections we make with our colleagues and networks when we are physically together. As an owner, if we can provide engaging environments that actively foster these connections while putting wellness at the front of mind, we will fulfill our goal of creating spaces that help people to do their best work and enrich their day.”
For me, that last sentence can serve as inspiration for all property managers as more people return to their workplaces: If property managers can provide engaging environments that actively foster the connections we make when we are physically together, they will fulfill their goal of providing spaces where people can thrive. Property managers now have, perhaps more than ever, the power to facilitate the interactions between people that we all so sorely crave in a brand-new way, creating a new third space in the process.  
I’d love to hear about your experience with how your lobby is becoming a third space. Please share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” section below.
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