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Google London Office. Image CC credit Marcin Wichary

How beneficial are whacky designs in a modern day office?

Julie_Anderson_PolaroidTHE DESIGNER’S VIEW

Who knew from when Google first started in 1996 that they would dominate the Internet, Video and now Interior Design world!

We have a number of clients asking us if we can make their offices just like Google, but why does everyone aspire to be like the Search Engine Giant?

We wanted to understand this ourselves and have had the privilege of visiting Google’s London office and despite in places feeling like a magical trip to Narnia, they certainly were whacky and inspiring – so much so that the term ‘The Google Effect’ had been created.

Despite all the randomness from Daleks, to Gyms, Spas and more, it is clear to see the reasoning behind the madness – putting their staff first!

They have ditched the isolating cubicle layout and opted for a funky, employee friendly space plan which has been tailored to make the Googlers well driven and innovative.

It’s a well-known fact that no one works the 9-5 office shift any more. More people in the UK are treating their office space like a second home to accommodate their 6am -9pm, flexi working hours or 14 hour work shift. Incorporating this home office atmosphere into the workplace can be great for staff morale and improve productivity and this is something you can see Google have included in their workspace. But how can you incorporate this it into your current space?

Even if it’s just subtle elements such as funky wall vinyls that stand out from the rest of the environment or comfy office furniture that allows employees to work where they choose through funky hot desking solutions, changes to your office space don’t have to be too drastic for your company and can do wonders for employee productivity. A happy and healthy office is also a productive one, that being said Google’s offices aren’t for everybody.

In reality not every office can be like Google’s, but there are elements of their wackiness you can bring to your workspace environment. Remember that their office style will not suit all so make sure you consider what your business is about – a slide and ball pit probably isn’t best for a Law firm.

This approach can also be a double edged sword, as going overboard in your modern office design without reason can be incredibly distracting. As for what workers need from their office, it’s all about creating a workspace that tailors to everyone but at the same time matches the company brand. So if your company is as whacky as Google and can afford the crazy office designs then go for it, though if you’re more corporate then it’s probably best to stick with the familiar.

The key thing for businesses to remember is that all workers need a space that inspires and motivates them to their full capabilities. Having a well-designed space shows your staff that you put them first and appreciate what they do – and this is what Google have done right.

So to answer your question on whether the Google offices brings any relevance or benefits to the modern office space, I would say ‘yes’. The Google effect inspires the comfortable, modern office to try new things, and to stand out from every other office space instead of being the drab cubicle days we’ve all come to know and dislike. 

David-Kentish-PolaroidTHE COACH’S VIEW

When I first started work in an office, I was grateful to have a desk, chair and my own telephone (anyone remember the big black Bakelite ones?). And we were all pleased just to have a kettle and a toaster tucked away in a filing cabinet for elevenses.

Nowadays unless there is a choice of ethically sourced coffee, with a team of baristas to brew it, and a seating area that could have come straight off a furniture designer showroom floor to drink it in, I get the impression that some people would turn up their nose at working for you.

Or could it be that this is just what I read in the media and because it is referenced so much we start to believe that it’s true.

Now of course, it appears that creative, tech and media companies all go for the funky look and each one seems to want to out-funk their competitors. The thinking behind this is straightforward. Being in a creative company, a creatively-designed workspace should increase the creative thinking of their staff.

Would a firm of solicitors, accountants or surveyors feel the need to go as far as ‘doing a Google’ to imbue creative thought in their staff? Many of these businesses would argue that their people are not expected to continually come up with fresh ideas, so why waste a fortune on funking up the place? Or are these companies missing the point of what and how a modern workplace has become to those who work in it? Creative and innovative ideas should be allowed to come from everyone, irrespective of that organisation’s core business. And if the environment is conducive to allowing that thought process, then why not have a bit of funk around the place.

What’s important is to ensure that the office environment mirrors the values of the company. Organisations with straightjacketed inflexible processes, a rigid nine to five mentality which drills down from above, won’t change simply because they ‘do a Google’. That becomes a cosmetic substitute for good management, career prospects and higher salaries. That money would be better spent in other areas such as leadership and management training, creating a talent pipeline and improving communication skills. And importantly, finding out from the people who actually do the work, what their ideas are on what changes should be made to improve the service to their clients or customers. These are basics that successful organisations get right.

That said, a great working environment is hugely important to the wellbeing and welfare of the staff. We work with companies where the workplace is not just about working. It is about supporting staff with their own individual holistic wellbeing. They provide good nutritional food and advice, alongside stress-busting methods and simple fitness routines.

Time off work through illness is a measurable factor. Especially when it comes to evaluating how stress can manifest itself in physical illness and mental health problems. It’s a no brainer to come to the conclusion that the healthier and fitter your staff are, the less time they will take off work, leading to a more productive and creative approach to the job that they do.

The design of the office is just one piece of the jigsaw puzzle of what makes a great company. A company that truly believes their staff are their most important asset will make sure that all aspects of staff welfare are taken care of, allowing people to get on with what they do best with a minimum of distraction. And if all of this is done in a funky office, with stairs that go nowhere and swing chairs hanging off the ceiling, why not?

Ok, time for a cuppa, now, which drawer is the kettle in?

About Sarah OBeirne


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