My good friends at PDT Architects sent me a link to the 12 Coolest Offices in the world. My immediate reaction was one of disappointment given that one can’t help but compare the best of the best with your own situation. Let’s face it, most people aren’t going to make it to the Voice final even if they sing ok in the shower and so it is with ‘groovy’ offices – most of us aren’t going to work in one in our lifetime even if we are great employees.
But then I got to thinking….what is the half-life of the attractiveness of the office environment in terms of job satisfaction? I’m not convinced the physical surrounds can contribute to job satisfaction at all. I think it can lead to job dissatisfaction however if your office falls below certain standards. Cool offices come at a price. Browsing through the pics I could tell that the fit-outs were mega expensive. Perhaps this is good as it sends a clear message that you are valued as a team member (aka talent).
But perhaps there is a dog whistle here as well. Perhaps the employer is really saying that if you want to work around here you had better be pretty cool and groovy as well. It’s damned hard to get into Google and hard to keep the job as well. There are plenty of digital natives chomping restlessly at the bit if your creative juices show any signs of drying up. Not everyone can be creative and cool. Not everyone was in the cool group at school.
For the world of business to work you need the steady, the methodical, the reliable…..hell even the fastidious. And here in lies the rub. If all this money has been spent, and it’s such a nice environment (most probably nicer than the flats the talent lives in when out of work mode), then maybe you don’t want to go home on time, or are a little scared of going home. For example I saw one wall clock in the entire suite of pictures. Not many knocking off on the stroke of 5 o’clock at these offices methinks. So maybe the design and fit-out cost is recovered in other ways through longer hours. There may be more F W Taylor (think Gradgrind) at play here than Elton Mayo.
The key to a productive and seductive workplace is the culture within and not the Petrie dish in which the culture grows. The saying goes that ‘a fish rots from the head’ so the CEO and Board set the culture and presumably the creation of a vibrant and cool workplace is part of this. A culture of creativity is created through the creative surroundings? However I cannot recollect those who roll this line out ever successfully explaining in what ways an organisation resembles a fish. I would have thought if we are looking for a flora/fauna analogue then a tree fits the bill much better. Guess what – a tree rots from the roots! So the culture can be very much influenced by the team members.
Creating a culture of encouragement and diversity from the bottom up is likely to pay better dividends than some expensive fit-out from a design team unencumbered by cost or taste parameters. And quite possibly your team will all leave by 5pm, happy, but also armed with the knowledge that in the history of work no job has ever loved anybody back. That will satisfy more than an afternoon whooshing down Lego’s flume.
If the concept of the cool office still has you in its thrall and after all if you were given a choice … then there is a very good example on the Sunshine Coast – home to our creative colleagues POMO. Very much the G in groovy.