It’s Monday morning and the drive to work through pouring rain seems a high point as you get to your desk and have to endure Sandra from accounts regaling of what “her Barry” got up to over the weekend and Alan’s egg sandwiches. Trying to block out the nightmare of mediocrity that surrounds you, you focus on a snap of last year’s holiday pinned to your beige desk divider and try not to feel like you work in the Ministry of Truth. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Join us, if you will, on a tour of some of the more progressive companies takes on the “work space”.
10. Google, London
Whilst Google HQ in California has become synonymous with cool offices thanks to the likes of The Internship, we think a special mention should be made regarding their London branch. The interior here is a homage to British kitsch and features among other things a ‘Granny Flat’, fully upholstered Pub area and padded cell meeting rooms complete with acoustic airlocks. Nice to see where those tax dollars have ended up then.
9. Inventionland, Pennsylvania
According to the company its Pittsburgh based design facility is an “Idea Incubator” or “Invention Factory”. Whilst this nauseating use of management speak might come across as off-putting, it’s certainly a fact that Inventionland is unique for an office. Inventionland has more in common with Disneyland than your usual work space. Features include a shipwrecked pirate ship, faux cave, treehouse, pet shack, giant shoe, cupcake kitchen, giant robot and of course a turreted castle complete with moat and drawbridge. It all sounds fantastic, provided of course you are not having a bad day.
8. Pallota Teamworks, Los Angeles
Pallota Teamworks was an event fundraising company. When it became time to build a new head office there was only one thing in their way, money. Having leased a 47,000 sq ft warehouse it was calculated that they had a budget of around $40 per sq ft to furnish it. Enter architects CWA, who utilized shipping containers as executive offices and a series of tented “breathing islands” dedicated to each of the companies departments. Fluff aside, the result was fresh, innovative and most importantly cheap. Unfortunately Pallota Teamworks closed in 2002 after losing the affiliation of its main beneficiaries. The legal battles that followed (which Teamworks went on to win) were perhaps a more telling indication of the state of large charity organisations than the swanky offices attest.
7. Dropbox, San Francisco
One of the most apparent things about Dropbox HQ is that the offices are big. Big enough to warrant every employee being furnished with their own push scooter. Situated in the center of the office space is a fully equipped Gym complete with various fitness classes. The canteen is run by a Michelin Star chef. However, if you fancy a snack or drink there are a multitude of suitably equipped fridges boasting a manner of completely free treats. Need a phone charger or other periphery? No need to bother I.T, just use one of the tech vending machines, it works off your employee card and registers what you have borrowed automatically. Throw in a Lego room and themed meeting areas and you have a perfect example of out of the box thinking.
6. Airbnb , San Francisco
Airbnb is the online marketplace that enables people to list or rent their homes as holiday accommodation around the world. It should come as no surprise that their offices reflect their global theme. Several themed rooms abound including a Mumbai coffee lounge, complemented by vast open spaces and contrasted by neat and uniquely themed “listing rooms” that provide personality and a soothing aesthetic. Central to this idea of a pleasant space are the many kitchen areas that allow employees to meet whilst they prepare their company provided lunches. Not bad for what is ostentatiously a call center.
5. Facebook, California
So what is it like working for a company that can boast over 1.6 billion users? Well, if their offices are anything to go by, pretty sweet would seem the answer. The interior is home to a host of quirky and edgy art shouting quippy slogans. There is a games room full of consoles and a ping pong table, although you can play beer pong if you fancy something different. The canteen produces a range of free healthy meals and innovative “Instagram” desserts and “sweet sushi”. Various complimentary candy shops litter the area and there is even a tiny office, complete with every miniature detail, so that you feel like you’re a giant whilst sat inside it. Fancy a power snooze? Grab forty winks in one of the sleep pods or alternatively pick up a refreshing cocktail, beer or wine at the company bar. There’s a lot to like at Facebook it would seem.
4. Nokia, California
Whilst they may not be the phone giant they once were, Nokia certainly manages to compete with the rest of the Silicone Valley big boys when it comes to swanky offices. Whilst Facebook’s dormitory inspired chaos has a certain charm, Nokia’s building makes IKEA look like an episode of cash in the attic. Apart from the exquisite design, features abound such as wellness centres, daybeds, showers and brainstorming pods. At Nokia, it certainly isn’t just another brick in the wall.
3. Urban Outfitters, Pennsylvania
When Urban Outfitters decided to consolidate their operation into one building they hit upon the old ship-works in Pennsylvania. The building itself is the main feature of the 370,000 sq ft campus. Special attention has been made to the buildings heritage and original features have been preserved such as colossal ship cranes and cathedral like spaces. Of course there are the usual amenities such as cafeteria, coffee shop, library, fitness centre and courtyard. But it’s the architecture that keeps you coming back for more. The fact that Urban Outfitters employee turnover has fallen by 11% since the big move just goes to show how much the new offices float the boat.
2. Lego, Denmark
You can keep your social media, internet powerhouses and chic design centers. Just imagine working for Lego! Lego take their bricks seriously and given that they’ve been a worldwide hit since 1958 they must be doing something right. Their HQ in Denmark echoes the company’s philosophy. In order to stay in touch with an increasingly sophisticated customer base, the idea is to inspire and entertain its workforce. Competitive gaming breaks are a thing and are complemented by desks replete with bonsai gardens. If you need to head downstairs you can take the tunnel slide. You are surrounded by oversize Lego creations. The result is a childlike fun space, perfect for encouraging the designers to get inside the minds of their little customers and come up with some genuinely fun and entertaining products. Remember, everything is awesome when you are a part of a team.
1. The Virtual Office, Home
When collaboration is the key, it’s certainly an advantage to work in an inspiring space with all the amenities you could ever wish for. But for the majority of us mortals, working for a Silicone Valley multinational isn’t an option. Short of adding a spider plant, there isn’t much the ordinary person can do to improve their working environment. Except there is. We happen to be living in an age of unrivalled communications. Cloud computing, video conferencing and the host of collaborative apps out there mean that there really isn’t any excuse for having to commute. Whilst home is where the heart is, there is no reason that it can’t be where the head is too. A host of studies have shown that productivity is increased in home workers, add to that a reduction in congestion, pollution and days off sick, and one has to wonder why it isn’t more commonplace. Facebook looks fun, but you can’t get to work in less than a minute and turn up in your PJs.