Physical space matters. It’s easier to be productive, creative and happy at work in a colourful, organic, playful environment than in a grey, linear, boring one.
And I’m not talking about the outside of the building. Many companies have buildings that are sleek, modern, architectural glass-steel-and-cement sculptures on the outside - and cubicle wastelands on the inside. These companies need to remember that most employees tend to work inside the building.
With that in mind, here’s some eye candy from 10 different innovative, well-designed workplaces.
(Also check out my post on 12 Ways to Pimp Your Office).
Could you sit in grey cubicles and come up with stuff like The Incredibles and Finding Nemo? Naaaaah… And that’s why Pixar’s offices look more like this:
The last picture shows a row of little huts, each of which is an office. The pictures are from this cool photo tour of the Pixar HQ.
Kathy Sierra’s trailer
Kathy Sierra, who writes one of the best blogs in existence, created her home office in a vintage trailer.
What a great way to create a fun, different home office. Kathy talks about it here.
Red Bull London
Here are some pictures from Red Bull’s London office. Shiny!
The last picture shows a slide that people can use to go between floors. Yee-hah! There are many more pictures here.
Who says government offices must be boring. Mindlab at the Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs in Copenhagen, Denmark is a meeting facility available to all employees.
The heart of it is an egg-shaped meeting room inside which all the walls are whiteboards - you can write on any surface in there. This was designed by Bosch & Fjord.
The Happy At Work Project
We (=The Happy At Work Project) wanted something simple, fun, flexible and practical for our office. The central piece is a high desk where three people can comfortably work side by side. You can stand or sit on high office chairs. Up to 8 people can meet around it. Everything you see there is from IKEA, and setting up the whole office with workspaces for 3 people cost us about 1000 euros.
While it’s not as fancy as some of the other offices shown here, it works great and it shows how much you can do for almost no money - In just one room we have workplaces, meeting space and plenty of floor space for workshop exercises or plain old fun.
This has got to be the coolest idea in a long time. 7 people pedal along, one steers. It’s the conference bike and I want one!! While it’s not a workplace, it would make a great meeting room!!
Menlo Innovations is a software development company in Ann Arbor Michigan. They do all their programming work using eXtreme Programming, and while their offices aren’t particularly fancy to look at, they are ideally suited to the work they do.
Being situated in a nice area of town, they can even take meetings outside on the sidewalk. Again, this shows that creating a fun, innovaticve office environment doesn’t require a huge budget - just a little common sense, creativity and a willingness to risk doing something different.
What If? Innovation
What If? Innovation were celebrated as the UK’s happiest workplace in both 2004 and 2005. I visited their London HQ last week for a grand tour, and here are some of the highlights:
Looking in the window on the combined reception and meeting space. A great idea that creates a hub for everyone in the company.
Praise for employees is written across the walls and ceiling in the hub area.
Spider cow and a meeting room.
VW Phaeton plant
But what about industry? You could never create, say, a really cool car assembly plant could you?
Sure you could. Check out the Volkswagen Phaeton plant in Dresden, Germany:
Who says a factory has to be ugly and dirty? That plant is simply beautiful! The photos were taken from this photo tour where you can see many more cool pictures. There’s also more at the plant’s website.
Yes, yes, I know - using Google here is almost too predictable. But they get it, dammit! Their HQ, the Googleplex is seriously cool and creative.
The physical workspace is one of the most ignored, yet most important factors in creating good workplaces. None of the ideas shown here will apply to every company, but most companies could stand to improve a little. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money but it does take a little creativity and courage.
What could your workplace learn from some of the designs shown here?
UPDATE: Having this post on reddit, digg and lifehacker at the same time was too much for my server and mysql crashed - I apologize. I’ll look into fixing this, so it won’t be a problem in the future.