Three Companies That Succeeded In Building The Perfect Offices. . .And Two That Didn’t

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13-10-2017

6 min read

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Designing the perfect office will not be as easy as you hope it will be. There are a lot of questions and ideas that need to be put forward before that dream workspace can become a reality.

Everybody dreams of having an office well known for its unique attributes, but what are the little things that can take any workspace from ordinary to extraordinary?

Of course, it starts with having the right company culture in place – an environment where diversity and individual differences are embraced, information is not suppressed, and which adds value to their employees.

This may sound rudimentary but you’d be surprised how rarely companies really do invest in creating good workspaces for the employees. Some people may have yet to realise that the right office space can bring out the innovative and creative aspects of individuals making the company more productive and more efficient.

Let’s look at some of the companies that have achieved significant success simply by having good workspaces and those who failed due to terrible working environment.

 

#1 DreamWorks Animations

In an industry where creativity is the focal point such as the film industry, a good workspace environment is vital.

Thanks in part to this, DreamWorks Animations has been continuously noted as one of the most innovative companies in the world, with a 97 percent retention rate for employees.

Its workspaces are equipped with many different elements ranging from exercise areas to a well-stocked kitchen area. Every floor has its own dining space full of snacks, a perfect place for foodies! There are yoga and kickboxing classes as well as Monday night movie screenings for employees’ relaxation time.

Pic source glassdoor.com

Even more fascinating is that complimentary breakfast and lunches are provided to employees who work late.

Dan Satterthwaithe, DreamWorks’ head of human resources stated:

Many times true innovation, true ideas rarely take place in a conference room or the office. They happen in hallways, they happen outside. It’s the function of people bumping into each other that was really thought carefully through the layout of the workspace.

DreamWorks chief executive officer (CEO), Jeffrey Katzenberg is compelled by the idea of focusing on the company’s culture and instilling the knowledge that employees are allowed to make mistakes. He aspires to make DreamWorks a place where employees can be pushed beyond their boundaries.

 

#2 Google

What list of great workspaces would be complete without Google? The tech giant has become almost synonymous with the movement of innovative workspaces and its famed Googleplex is the envy of companies the world over.

Photo: Peter Wurmli

Google’s working areas (office and cafes) are designed to encourage interaction among Googlers and to spark discussion not only about work but life outside of the office as well.

The open plan concept enables the employees and employer to work on issues directly without having to go through a tedious process.

The best thing about Google’s workspace is that you can basically throw out your ideas anywhere and anytime. You can write on the tables, walls and even reconfigure the tables to be in any position you want because everything is on wheels.

This ignites the feeling of playfulness which help to break down barriers and encourages creativity.

Google’s concept of workspace is a mixture between kindergarten and a classy law firm. Having mentioned that, we can clearly see that Google likes to put the fun into their company.

 

#3 Zappos

Lately, companies like online retailer Zappos have been relying on reducing the size of their workspaces to increase collaboration among employees. With the aim of increasing the number of probable interactions per hour per acre, Zappos decided to shrink its headquarters from 150 square feet per employee to just 100.

Research from the University of Michigan found that a small, shared nature of workspaces will foster mobility, creating collusions on a greater scale. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh believes that companies designed on this model will be more productive and innovative.

However, there is always the other side of the coin. Sometimes being too creative can makes things go haywire.

Thinking outside the box and being too unique can be detrimental.

 


Here are some companies that have failed terribly in creating great workspaces.

 

#1 Facebook

Facebook workspaces have been known to be too vibrant and exciting that it has actually become known as having a terrible workspace.

Plans to have food options readily available have backfired as the offices have let to food wrappers and unwashed dishes regularly creating an unpleasant smell. CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s idea to have the walls covered with colourful sprays have make the workplace look tacky and poorly maintained.

Pic source: officesnapshots.com

All these creative ideas in designing the Facebook office were meant to reinforce its vibrant and youthful culture but turned out to be a complete mess.

Creating an open concept culture, Facebook very much encourages employees to be themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes this can result in a lack of professionalism in the company as employees stop taking their work seriously.

Many companies end up with a professional workspace because their employees are able to separate their personal issues from their work.

 

#2 Walmart

Having good a safe and comfortable workspace is not just limited to corporate offices – companies in the manufacturing sector have also come under fire for having ill-equipped factories.

Walmart’s factories, for one, have been known to be unsafe. The people working there have reported terrible conditions, something that came into the international spotlight when a factory in Bangladesh collapsed and killed over 1000 people.

Fran Parente for Estudio Guto Requena.

Due to this horrible incident, retailers all over the world signed a pact to ensure their factories and workspaces are up to reasonable safety standards. Walmart refused to sign and instead decided to continue conducting their own inspections.

 

In conclusion

In the end, it all boils down to how we define a workspace. The meaning is rapidly changing from “where work is done” to “how work is done”.

It is from this viewpoint that more companies are designing more comfortable and productive workspaces. In the past, offices featured employees working in cramped cubicles and factories just a line of machines with workers doing the same thing every day.

The modern workspace should be a place where we are able to think and work outside it. During my time as an intern at Leaderonomics, I experienced a workspace in which I was free to move around and sit anywhere as long as the work was done.

This kind of freedom and relaxed work environment made me more productive as I was able to find hidden nooks and crannies for working.


What not to do to your workspace

We often hear of what should be done to make our workspaces stand out but what are some of the pitfalls that a company can fall into when designing the dream office?

Here are some of the things you should avoid.

 

1. Making your office too homely

Yeah, we certainly get it that you want to feel at home when you are working. Family photos and gifts from friends can definitely brighten your day and inspire you during your working hours.

However, it is very important for you to know what is suitable to be put at your desks. No one wants to see huge, framed photos of you and your boyfriend smooching. That is downright disturbing and may indirectly affect your colleagues’ working productivity.

 

2. Nasty pantry behaviour

Contributing to nasty shared pantry behaviour by pilfering other people’s food and drinks without permission is a big “no-no”. It is also bad to leave your dirty dishes or leftovers that have well past their prime.

Worse still, is to leave your leftovers on your desk and let them colonise your workspace area. Remember, mould is bad for business.

 

3. Being disorganised

You do not have to be a complete cleanliness enthusiast to be well organised. No matter how busy you are, try to keep your workspace area neat.

For some people, a messy desk with stacks of paper lying all over the place is a sign of creativity but to some, this may be their worst nightmare. Try to keep your messiness to a minimum.

Being neat will definitely earn yourself respect from others. It also shows how respectful you are towards your colleagues and this will help strengthen bonds between co-workers.

 

4. Sleeping on the job

It is understandable if you are exhausted from a sleepless night. Your work is just too much to handle but hey, this does not provide you an excuse to just simply sleep anywhere you like in the office.

It is an unpleasant sight especially when there are clients visiting your company and find you sleeping on the floor. That would be such an embarrassment to the company!

 

Syasya is a 2nd year accounting and finance student at the London School of Economics and previously interned with Leaderonomics. Being a Potterhead and a Directioner, she is indeed living her ‘British’ dreams. She loves traveling and is always up for new challenges. Also, she loves smiling as it adds value to other people’s lives. To connect with her, email editor@leaderonomics.com

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