Tennis Tables vs Conference Tables: Can “Cool” Office Spaces Really Increase Productivity

The Origins of The Cool Office Space Trend

From big-name brands like Google to… just about every interesting startup from the last five to ten years, having a hip office space is all the rage. Long gone are the days when any company could line up some cubicles, throw down some bland carpeting and call it a day. Nowadays, it’s all about the ping-pong table in the break room, the brightly patented accent walls, the well-lit lounges designed like a hipster coffeehouse.

Is Creative & Modern Office Design Only for Startups?

How important are these things to a brand’s success, really? It’s difficult to pin it down exactly. Spending your working hours in a thoughtfully designed space bursting with personality is a surefire way to boost creativity and job satisfaction. But on the other hand, an office barista and conference rooms named after pop culture icons aren’t usually up there on most candidates’ priority lists along with excellent benefits and great work-life balance.

Pixar’s work space is all aglow with funky string lights and features mini fairytale “cottages” in lieu of cubicles, among many other delightful design touches that call to mind the endless imagination at the heart of everything they create. Of course, a spirit of playfulness and fun is indispensable when it comes to helping their employees do what they do best. Red Bull’s London HQ famously features a slide connecting one floor to another, as well as lots of bold colors, natural light and sleek design for an effect as energizing as the product the company’s all about. In addition to offering nap pods, Google has lego building stations with 1000’s of legos.

No one likes wiling away their 9 to 5 hours in a fluorescent-lit beige box. But employees in the most over-the-top funky cool office spaces also can’t help but question how much of the money that goes into maintaining their adult playground turned brainstorming lounge could be going into their paychecks or 401(k) instead. Making the workplace an enjoyable place to be and helping to nurture employees’ creativity are both admirable goals, but it should be kept within rhythm.

Collaborative Work Spaces Aren’t For Every Business (Or Employee)

If you’re thinking of getting your building tricked out according to the latest trends, exercise some caution and carefully consider each purchase or remodel: will this really serve my employees and my business well? Just because collaborative space is all the rage right now doesn’t mean that it’s the right fit for your business — some tasks are better performed in a quiet atmosphere with minimal distractions.

You should also take into consideration that every employee will respond differently to his or her work environment. What’s energizing and inspiring to one worker could be overwhelming and distracting to another. There’s no way to please everyone, of course (just talk to the overseer of the office thermostat) but attempts can certainly be made to create spaces that appeal to different personality types within the same work space.

Focus On What Matters Most

For every dollar invested into a foosball den or a basketball court that’ll get your extroverts on their best game, a few should also be spent on enhancing natural lighting and creating comfortable, quiet work spaces perfect for the introverts who need to spark their creative spirit in a different way.

And whatever you do, make sure you’re making a positive impact on your employees’ lives outside the office, too. As alluring as a hip office can be, nothing beats a great salary and killer benefits package when it comes to employee satisfaction and appealing to new talent.

Not sold on cool office spaces and ping pong tables? Check out other ideas for increasing productivity here.

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