A Cornerstone of Our Community: Social Spaces at Work

Social spaces are part of the new future of work, but how can design inform the development of a community?

The true significance and relevance a breakout space might be overlooked by some when it comes to designing and developing a workspace. Essentially, the breakout area provides space for crucial social interactions and are fundamental for helping us learn and remain engaged at our jobs. When these spaces are designed correctly, socialising in a work environment can foster professional, mutually beneficial relationships and connections that would be difficult to replicate otherwise. A report by JLL describes how office design can have a major impact on social wellbeing. Large, open spaces designed specifically for social interaction have become typical among many office providers, often with some kind of watering hole’ acting as the focal point of the space. Not only is social interaction key to our wellbeing as individuals, social spaces can prompt similar effects among colleagues and professional organisations.

Our 25 years of experience and new industry research have shown thatsocial spaces are a hugely important element of workspace design. In allour new Centres and our ongoing renovations of older Executive Centres weprioritise community lounges and breakout areas. These spaces supportbetter work, easier collaborationFastCompany explains, “Workplaces that facilitate more frequent and higher-qualitycontact with others have been shown to have improved communication andcollaboration on tasks, job satisfaction, and social support.” In thisarticle, we will explore the necessary components of social spaces in theworkplace, analysing their benefits and unpacking TEC’s evolving role infacilitating connection, community and wellbeing at work.


Members enjoying our lounge space at Two Chinachem Central in Hong Kong.

Social Spaces at Work, What do the Numbers Say?

  • 81% of respondents to CBRE’s 2018 ‘America’s Occupier’ survey note noted amenities, including social space, as integral to the employee experience
  • 91% of workers recognisethe importance of a breakout space to ‘re-energise’ during the work day
  • 81% of Gen Z professionals highlight social and communal workplace facilities as a key component to the office as listed by Workplace Insight
  • Co-workers who eat together in large groups are 36% more likely to communicate during office hours
  • Close to 60% of respondents surveyed by HubbleHQ, cited that breakout spaces were “indispensable” to their work environment.
  • ‘Collaborative Overload’ reports that employees of high-functioning workplaces are spending 50% more time on “collaborative activities”, a trend dictated by spaces that enables them to do so

Form and Function

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg outlined the‘third space’as a place where people choose to spend their time outside of their firstand second place - the home and the office respectively. Since making thisdistinction in 1989, urban planners, architects and designers have adoptedthis lexicon to justify the concept of an in-built communal space.Theconcept is intended to facilitate connection, create a healthy balancedenvironment, support collaborative efforts and increase social wellbeing.Office design quickly followed suit in adopting this ‘third space'concept, and we saw the end of the cubicle era and the beginning of the foosball phenomenon. The shared workspace has become a symbol for progressive andproactive organisations. Social spaces, breakout areas and collaborativezones have for many, been regarded as innovations in office design thatsimply exercised a‘progress for progresses sake’attitude, as cautioned by the Harvard Business Review.

In recent years, changing expectations about work and workspaces havetransformed the way offices look and perform. Shared workspaces are atrend which continues to gain popularity amongst professionals and aredriven by overarching movements such as globalisation and technological innovation,encouraginga more mobile and flexible workforce. Understandingwhy there is such a rapidly changing work culture, impliesthat where we work needs to adapt to keep pace.The effectivenessof these spaces was, and is, greatly dependent on accuratelyaddressing the needs of an increasingly discerning client.


Our barista bars, like this one at our Three Garden Road Centre in Hong Kong, are a way of encouraging Members to discover the social and networking possibilities of a shared space.

Advantage in Anticipation

When TEC first entered the market 25 years ago, our dedicated workspacesfocused on the personal aspect of the office space. The early versions ofthese social spaces in our Centres served a secondary function, at leastin the eyes of our Members. Over time, these areas became an increasinglyattractive asset, becoming natural points of confluence for Members.Thischange in behaviour informed the future of our design - largecentralised spaces which supported the increasing sense of mobilitythroughout the workspace. Having anticipated this evolution in theindustry, TEC is ideally positioned to adapt to changing demands andexpectations. Our approach to design celebrates a newfound appreciation ofthe benefits a social space can present to modern corporates.

A Step Ahead

Over the years, many flexible workspace providers have recognised theadvantage that comes with including environments that allow their clientsto easily interact and provide the opportunity to foster valuableconnections. At TEC, our ‘third space’ goes a step further. Larger spaceswith more power outlets, long tables and a coffee bar staffed with aprofessional barista are the norm for TEC.Involving best practices in social ergonomics , these elements reconcile the disconnectbetween a space and the needs of its user. The development of our socialareas is a direct reflection of how our Members use them. They aredesigned to help convey an image of impressive professionalism andsophisticated intelligence. Although foot traffic is inevitably higher inareas with a multi-use functionality, these spaces maintain a highlyproductive climate. All of this is amplified by a high concept design,including TEC signatures such as Timothy Oulton furnishings andfull-service barista bars.

The Barista Effect

The breakout area is a highly valuable tool for Members, but there is oneaspect of added importance in the space - our baristas and the bars theymanage. According to a report cited byWorkplace Insight, coffee tops the list of most important officeadditions for reasons that have become obvious to us. Although undoubtedlystill part of a professional environment, our barista’s have demonstratedthe way a well-structured, thoughtfully designed social space can supportthe work of all manner of professionals. Social spaces and the effect ofthe barista;

  • An outlet for those who simply need a break from their routine
  • The luxury of exceptional service and a unique point of distinction
  • A source of energy and point of revitalisation
  • An inimitable and reliant human-element

Within the first days of becoming a part of the TEC community, barista’sknow Members by name and how and when they take their coffee. All ourbaristas are highly qualified and are acutely aware of the role they playin the TEC experience and community.


One of our baristas at work in The Executive Centre. Central tothe TEC ethos is our human approach to global business and moderncorporate culture. A unique mix of quality infrastructure and a keenunderstanding of the contemporary professional dictates the TECexperience- an experience supported by the design of our breakout areas.These collaborative spaces demonstrate the full-circle effect of what athird space can and should be. Breakout areas are more than a space towork collaboratively or to connect with fellow professionals, they signalthe end of the divisive work-life paradigm and the future of work.