It’s no secret that companies like Google and Facebook have cool offices. Tech startups initially challenged the status quo, throwing out traditional office designs for concepts like open floor plans, lounge areas, game rooms, and even sliding boards. The idea was to turn work spaces into playgrounds where ideas would flourish. Office culture innovation meant thinking “outside of the (cubicle) box,” and it worked.
Like technology, these once cutting-edge office designs are constantly evolving and changing. Sales of ping-pong tables are down 50 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. Economists believe that this could signal trouble as the once-popular tables are becoming passé. Office design is in a constant state of reinvention, with tech companies asking, “What’s new?” and “What’s next?”
Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino—still under wraps—is expected to be highly innovative in its design. Matching the Pentagon in size, the four-story building will resemble the doughnut shape of an iPod dial. With an investment of $5B, The Economist reported that it will be the most expensive corporate headquarters ever constructed.
Salesforce is building a new tower in San Francisco, with plans to put on a light show every night that’s visible from up to 30 miles away. Meanwhile, Uber’s new headquarters is designed to be entirely transparent—perhaps in an effort to escape its reputation for secrecy and start fresh?
The truth is, architectural design says more about your office culture innovation than you think. It also reflects your company’s values and internal processes. Technology has changed how people work (consider how tools like Slack transform how you collaborate with coworkers). This positions IT as the champion of innovation, office design, and functionality. With technology, we can envision what physical spaces could look like and how they could help meet company objectives.
You know you want to work here
Forty percent of companies report a talent shortage, according to a study by Manpower. This creates fierce competition for the best talent. Working in a cool office space might be what drives someone to choose your company’s space over your competitor’s.
For example, Instagram’s corporate “Gravity Room” encourages employees to take and post photos that look like they’re floating. LinkedIn’s “Silent Disco” inspires workers to rock out and dance while wearing headphones. These unique office features are making headlines, positioning particular companies as awesome places to work, and becoming unexpected recruiting tools.
Is a gravity room or silent disco directly related to effectively doing your job? It depends on who you ask; however, productivity improves when workers enjoy coming into the office, and they probably won’t be job hopping anytime soon.
“Out of the office” has a new meaning
Design also controls how people across the office work, whether independently or collaboratively. Tech companies are removing cubicles and corner offices in favor of wide, open areas with communal tables and lots of shared space.
One idea being championed by the tech industry is providing employees with many spots to work instead of confining each person to a fixed workstation. Standing desks give people a break from sitting, which makes them feel more alert. Work nooks are useful when privacy or quiet time is needed. Open tables allow for impromptu meetings or a chance to work among coworkers, which younger employees find reminiscent of study sessions in college.
A fluid work environment also allows for chance encounters with other employees, which could lead to new ideas and unexpected collaboration. Mobile desks offer the greatest versatility. Wireless technology, including printing, means that no one is tethered to one spot. According to The Economist, embracing open spaces has resulted in tech companies using about a quarter less physical space than any other industry.
Take the time to consider work space innovation, as it’s a good reminder that work is more than just a job to employees—it’s a way of life. Companies that continue to evolve send messages to employees and customers about their mission and values like, “We care about your office environment, and that means we care about you.” What does your office space say about your company?