There’s no doubt about it, work culture is changing. Offices are no longer a place of stuffy suits especially in the tech industry. It appears that more and more companies are deliberately creating fun, relaxed working environments.
It started apparently with Google introducing bean bags, then ping pong tables, now many of their offices sport slides and meeting rooms that look like beach cabanas. They have been deliberate about creating an office environment that is more like a playground and it’ setting a trend that many organisations are trying to emulate.
Why it works for Google
Google describes its organisational culture as open, collaborative, creative and fun. It encourages all employees to share ideas, ask questions and have a hands-on approach similar to that of small startups. It’s not uncommon for employees to engage in casual conversations with the execs in the company café, in fact it’s encouraged as part of the work culture.
With a focus on the end user, Google knows that engagement is key and because they have a global audience they embrace people from all walks of life across the globe. Ultimately in getting to know their employees it helps them to understand their end users.
Most importantly, they believe that you can be serious about business without being a suit. The founders of Google built the business around the idea that while work should be challenging it should also be fun. Plus it is fun that often helps to fast-track great ideas through to implementation.
The social media giant’s corporate head offices hide a surprise around every corner. Exposed beams and ducting give the office an unfinished look – something that’s apparently intentional. Their objective to connect the entire world is yet to be completed and the office space reflects this as a reminder that there’s still lots of work to be done.
But the helium balloons tied to desks, the giant pinatas, wall murals and motivational posters all point to a culture of fun. But it is also a work culture of getting the job done. You simply don’t to be at your desk to do that. You can be lying on the grass in the nine acre rooftop park, or strolling through the gardens.
The Samsung Space
Samsung’s culture is about encouraging mobility, because they believe that sitting for hours at your desk doesn’t make you more efficient. They believe that optimum cognitive function is achieved by walking outdoors and as a result the offices are lined with outdoor terraces and designed so that all employees have easy access to them. Even the cafeteria (that offers a global assortment of cuisines) is housed in a separate building so that employees have to get outside during their lunch break.
Will playgrounds as a work culture suit everyone?
There are some corporate designers that think that trying to emulate the Google playground vibe in office design can be a disaster. They claim that the playground effect can distract from rather than encourage productivity and that unless the work culture is similar to Google, Facebook or Samsung, it would be a mistake to create a playground office environment.
So what is the average tech industry culture? Are all programmers really just overgrown kids? Do techies really want the playground effect or do they just want to be left alone in their little bubble world? More importantly is creativity really inspired by an office that looks more like a child’s fantasy world than a workplace?
Too much play?
It’s true that fun promotes laughter and relaxation and when employees have that as part of their work culture they can become more productive. It can also reduce absenteeism and employee attrition because people value their jobs and enjoy work rather than looking to see if the grass is greener elsewhere. Perhaps this is the key to playground success. It’s not as much about the playing as it is about encouraging a culture of positive productivity.
Work culture is driven by the company leadership. If there is a clear message that the fun creative environment is about driving the business forward and creating a stronger competitive edge in the industry, the company will attract creative tech people that are inspired by that. Far from the office being a boring place to commute to each day it becomes a place where people feel engaged and purposeful. This is something that is becoming increasingly important to employees.
The link between play and productivity is a common factor when considering the work culture of tech giants such as Samsung, Facebook and Google. If a fun workspace is created it’s not so that employees can goof off, it’ so that they have a relaxing and fun environment to work in – in order to be more productive.
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