The modern day “fun” office but does it work?

Slides, sleeping pods and ball pits but how is this affecting work output?

Edward Muldrew
5 min readJun 28, 2019

The modern day office has evolved over recent years with the first adopter being Google and many technology companies followed suit.

Offices can now includes slides, ball-pit meeting rooms, bikes around campus, ping-pong tables and sleeping pods. But do these fun, quirky offices actually improve work productivity or is it a gimmick?

Ball pits, slides and sleeping pods

The Why?
Well one of the reasons behind the move to a more interactive and less formal office is the change in management styles and the way in which we work. For many software companies the need for more interaction and less individual autonomy has produced a more open plan space for employees to communicate in.

The importance of team work and collaboration is one of the reasons why Google has made long lunch tables to expose them to more people. Why Google has made waiting in lunch lines about three to four minutes long, to ensure people get to meet new people but not waste time. This helps employees bed in to the company and constantly learn from others.

In an industry were staff turnover can be high as developers are a highly sought after commodity creating a loyal workforce is of high priority. The design of Googles office removes fixed offices and high-walled cubicles in favour of open space for brainstorming and face-to-face communication. I feel this is especially important for an industry where developers are spending the majority of their time on computers. The social aspect of software development is encouraged and motivates employees.

The new generation
Millennials and Generation Z are quickly emerging in businesses across the globe, and their new attitude towards work means that office design is one of their most prevalent considerations. The younger generation place a higher importance of work, life, balance. Hence the emergence of flexible working and working from home.

Instead of separating work from personal life, offices are now focusing on how they integrate the two, by making the space as comfortable as possible.

“Most of the IT professionals in Silicon Valley said that making a lot of money was very important to them — yet many of them stated that they would work for less, just for the opportunity to work on something that energises them and helps them grow professionally and, potentially, create more value for their organisation.”

The new generation

A home away from home
When working in an office that is less formal and more comfortable, employees are likely to spend more time there because they don’t feel trapped.

The designs are done to serve several purposes including casual collisions for creative people and engineers to come together, idea generation and the triggering of maximum creativity while also ensuring employee happiness. Thus, rooms for Googlers include a meeting room that resembles a pub, in Dublin; ski gondolas in the Zurich office, and a sidewalk café in Istanbul.

A massive advantage to this “home away from home” office style is that it allows employees to truly focus on their work. In the sense that there is free food, laundry services and financial advice all available on campus. This reduces decision-making and frees up time for employees to worry about what truly matters, the work.

Part of the reason why wealth enables people to be so quick and efficient is that the financial cost of decision making (where to eat, which mode of transport to take) is directly tied to the mental cost of decision making. Wealthy people simply choose the options that take the least time because their decision making time is that much more valuable.

The Flip Side
However some companies reject this idea. Amazon is famously cheap about its offices, and the head of password company Dashlane tells Fast Company,

“We’d rather spend our resources and money on things that are going to make us stronger as a team. More — maybe — than on things that would ‘look cool’ like a big slide, or a big whatever.”

Dashlane CEO Emmanuel Schalit takes pride in the lack of offerings.
“We’d rather spend our resources and money on things that are going to make us stronger as a team,” he told Fast Company. “More–maybe–than on things that would ‘look cool’ like a big slide, or a big whatever.”

Rather than investing in a personal chef or a ping-pong table, Schalit believes he can attract employees with a mission, values, and a quality product that people care about. The focus is more on the work the company is doing as opposed to side benefits which come along with the job.

“When you know you have all these crazy perks you get people who are just driven by: ‘I want that perk.’ It kind of becomes about that once you’re there and it’s like ‘let me tweet about all these great perks that are at my office.’ Then all your coworkers are there just for the perks. Whereas here, nobody is really here because we don’t have a play slide.”

The point is not all job seekers want to land a job where they do “a ton of work,” which makes offices with pool tables and booze so appealing to so many. Of course, companies invest in perks not just to impress potential employees with a compensation package that includes free sodas, but to keep workers in the office.

Conclusion
To conclude the new modern work space is used in order to promote innovation, creativity and produce overall work output. However arguably this can create unnecessary distractions for employees. I believe the nature of the work should dictate the office space.

At the end of the day I believe it comes down to the individual to which office space they prefer. Perhaps a happy medium of both allows for the best work and creativity.

Sources Used:
https://bruntwood.co.uk/blog/psychology-office-design-how-new-generations-are-shaping-the-places-they-work/
https://www.workspacedesign.co.uk/what-can-we-learn-from-googles-offices-about-workplace-design/
https://www.mnn.com/money/green-workplace/blogs/why-are-tech-company-offices-so-weirdhttps://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/07/09/are-google-employees-more-productive-because-of-company-perks/#393f06f44b4d

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Edward Muldrew

Software Developer, YouTuber and all round technology fanatic. Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EdwardMuldrew