When you think of our everyday endeavors and going through life as adults, we’re not really encouraged to be playful. But when we play games, we relax and become more receptive and less judgmental. Games trigger our creative juices—through solving problems, navigating complex systems and managing resources. They present us with hard problems; like solving a puzzle or defeating a boss. As players we need to be creative and come up with good ideas to solve those problems. They make us more playful in our way of being and experiencing life. Best of all, games bring us together. Go ahead, organize an office recess and create your own game—and use the toolkit at the link to help get you started.
This article brings up an interesting idea of a “forced” playful space. You can certainly encourage creativity and playfulness, but forcing the issue can backfire in a bad way.
“We have recently seen many offices that try to evoke a kind of forced playfulness,” says Sam Hecht, founder of London-based Industrial Facility. “Slides, chill-out zones, ping-pong, or a kind of home-like interior. We were very suspicious of this.”
For his own take on the flexible office system, Hecht and his partner, Kim Colin, adopted a more nuanced approach to getting employees to think fondly of their office–and not view them as places of mandatory drudgery. Locale, for Herman Miller, uses modular pieces that easily adjust in place and height to create what Hecht calls neighborhoods.
I definitely agree that everyone has to buy in or the “playful” environment doesn’t truly exist. A space designated for “play” just becomes a dead zone at work if nobody wants to hang out there, or knows they’ll be scolded by fellow workers for disrupting work, or viewed as “lazy.”
I’m curious to hear more of why the Locale design would make people feel more neighborly. Thoughts? Ideas? Leave them in the comments below.
Since 2004 IBM conducts every two years a Global CEO Survey among global business and public sector leaders to research what keeps them busy (at night in bed). The survey consists of in-person interviews with (in 2012) over 1700 CEO’s worldwide.
More than half of all CEO’s see Human Capital, Customer Relationships and Innovation as key sources of sustained economic value (report 2012).
The findings (2010 & 2012) show a fast growing need for some critical capabilities of employees, in order to deal with the complexity of operating in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world. These include; creativity and creative leadership, collaborativeness, connectedness, communication and flexibility.
To foster these capabilities “CEO’s are creating more Open & Collaborative cultures – encouraging employees to connect, learn from each other and thrive in a world of rapid change. The emphasis on Openness is even higher among Outperforming organizations(*) – and they have the changemanagement-capabilities to make it…
It already feels like Thursday, and it’s only Monday, ooy!
Thankfully my office space is a great space to work in and take a breather every now and then, and even play a little. And that idea of creating playful work spaces is catching on more and more.
The project accommodates the headquarters of two companies in Paris – PONS and HUOT – with a total of fifteen executives. Consequently the unit has seven individual rooms for each director and one open-space-office for the remaining eight clerks.
This is a great idea! So many people have told me how they hate being inside the office all day, especially on nice summer days like this. We NEED exposure to the outdoors and nature in order to stay productive, mentally healthy, and physically fit. Just a 20-minute walk in the woods can have the same productivity benefits as an hour-long nap.
What’s your dream office? If you fantasize about bouldering on your lunch break–and appreciate being in a zero-waste, net zero-energy environment–you might want to take a look at the soon-to-be-completed space in the slideshow above: the new Alameda, Calif. headquarters of VF Corporation‘s outdoor and action sports coalition brands, which include The North Face, Lucy, and Jansport.
Now that VF’s outdoor brands are on good financial footing (especially The North Face), the corporation is working on a headquarters–set to be completed this summer–that was built with employee wish lists in mind. It shows.Below, some of the amenities available at the new 160,000-square-foot complex (many of them suggested by an employee task force).
A large onsite garden that will grow things like kale, tomatoes, and basil. VF expects to grow so much that employees won’t even be able to consume all of it. Leftover will be donated to a local food bank. Employees will be encouraged to help out with the garden, but local volunteers will also pitch in. A side note: Originally, VF toyed with the idea of installing a volleyball court, but employees elected to grow a garden instead.
Lots of natural light. 90% of employees will have access to direct sunlight, and in many areas of the complex, the overhead lights can often be kept off. Bonus: All the windows in the complex open (this should be a given, but it isn’t always).
Opportunities for onsite fitness, including an indoor fitness area and yoga room, an outside training area for bootcamp, an outside bouldering space, and an outdoor gear rental and repair shop.
A cafe serving the vegetables grown in the garden, among other things.
Eventually, if employees are really lucky, the ability to kayak out into the water just outside the complex (VF would need to make sure this is feasible and legal first, but employees have been asking for it).
A convenient location for almost everyone. When VF first started thinking about the new complex, it “took employee addresses and mapped out where they were” to figure out an ideal spot, according to Steve Rendle, group president of VF’s Outdoor & Action Sports Americas.
The office space is inside out: executive offices are in the middle of the room, and other employees sit by the windows.
VF is far from the only corporation to have an environmentally and outdoors-friendly campus. New Belgium Brewing Company, for example, buys clean energy, powers itself partially with methane from an on-site water treatment plant–and it offers perks like free bicycles and volleyball.
But the idea of a company keeping employees active, innovating, and considering the environment shouldn’t be a novel one. We hope, in other words, that this becomes a trend well outside the outdoor apparel industry.
The only thing I’m bummed about is that they didn’t use one of the hangars on the old Alameda Air Base, that closed down just over 12 years ago and hasn’t had much development done with it since. It would have been very “green” to recycle those old structures, but I also understand the price and space limitations. Still, very exciting overall, and I hope this trend continues with new office buildings.
Most of us these days work in a cubicle, although the past ten years have really seen a transformation of space and place at the workplace in order to create happier, and therefore more productive, workers. This article in the NYTimes focused on some organizations in Seattle that have embraced a more open work floor plan:
MARTHA CHOE’S ideal working space is not her private office, nice though it is, but rather a long, narrow table in the vast atrium of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters here.
Ms. Choe, a former member of the City Council here, is the foundation’s chief administrative officer, and she had considerable input in the building’s design. One objective from the start was to give the 1,000 employees a variety of spaces to accommodate different kinds of work. “There’s a recognition that we work in different modes, and we’ve designed spaces to accommodate them,” she says. “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.”
The building was designed by NBBJ, a 700-employee architecture firm whose largest operation is in Seattle. The structure is a culmination of ideas about the 21st-century workplace that NBBJ has been exploring in corporate office designs worldwide, including its own offices here.
These are the main concepts: Buzz — conversational noise and commotion — is good. Private offices and expressions of hierarchy are of debatable value. Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it. Daylight, lots of it, is indispensable. Chance encounters yield creative energy. And mobility is essential.
This isn’t a suddenly exploding trend. NBBJ’s research has found that two-thirds of American office space is now configured in some sort of open arrangement. But even as these designs save employers space and money, they can make office workers feel like so many cattle. So how to humanize the setting?
SEATTLE serves as a test tube because of several converging factors: There’s a lot of money here to experiment with projects. The work force is relatively young and open to innovation. And the local culture places a high value on informality, autonomy and egalitarianism. People will put in long hours under high pressure if they feel respected, but they won’t tolerate being treated like Dilberts.
Most office workers in Seattle and elsewhere labor in environments much less inspiring than Ms. Choe’s. And most employers have much less to spend to make things pleasant. (Bill and Melinda Gates personally contributed $350 million of the campus’s $500 million cost.) But staying competitive requires coming up with the best ideas, and the office environment can be the incubator for them.
I am all for creating spaces that encourage collaboration and make workers feel comfortable and ready to get down to business. My only question is lack of meeting space. In my last two jobs it has been very hard to find private spaces to meet, although both were cubicle-based workspaces so that layout doesn’t necessarily solve things either. And I’m not alone in my concerns, as the article points out:
NOT all of NBBJ’s corporate clients have boarded the informality-and-buzz bandwagon. When the R.C. Hedreen Company, a real estate development firm based in Seattle, commissioned a renovation of a 10,800-square-foot floor in an old downtown office building five years ago, it specified a perimeter of private offices. Collaborative spaces are provided for creative teamwork, but the traditional offices remain the executives’ home ports.
“Individually, a lot of our workday is taken up with tasks that are better served by working alone in private offices,” says David Thyer, Hedreen’s president.
What are your thoughts on work space? Do you like having an open space to share, or do you prefer your own cubicle or booth? How do you handle the meeting privacy issues at your office? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
I read an article recently about a very cool developer in the Seattle area. His company focuses on creating buildings and projects that are good for the environment and for the community:
Rogers’… 4-year-old company, Point 32, is developing one of the region’s highest-profile projects: the Bullitt Center, billed as the greenest office building on the planet.
The Capitol Hill project, which broke ground last month, has been designed to produce its own water, treat its own waste, and each year generate as much power as it uses.
“It really could change the nature of green building, nationally and locally,” Rogers says.
He acknowledges his career path hasn’t been a conventional one. But his background in conservation and the arts prepared him well for what he’s doing now, he says.
Rogers and his business partners, Chris Faul and Matt Kellogg, have been working with the owner, the environment-focused Bullitt Foundation, almost from the start. They helped find the site, design the six-story building, obtain permits and arrange construction financing.
Point 32 also recently completed the first project in which it has an ownership stake: a high-end, boutique live-work loft complex in South Lake Union called Art Stable, targeted at artists and art collectors.
The award-winning building’s most distinctive feature: a crane on the roof and enormous, hinged windows through which oversized art pieces can be lowered.
So what’s the thread that ties together Rogers’ eclectic career?
“I think it’s an interest in place-making,” he says.
Creating something that’s aesthetically appealing is part of that, he says, but there’s more:
“We’re interested in helping create places where people can come together naturally of their own accord, places that improve the physical and social fabric of the city, places that provide a greater benefit than just the physical structures.”
He’s already played a major role in creating one highly acclaimed place: the Seattle Art Museum‘s Olympic Sculpture Park. As SAM’s project manager, Rogers oversaw all facets of the $85 million park’s development — permits, financing, design, construction.