Last week we showed you some of the startup world’s most creative office spaces. These colorful environments with airy floor plans and comfortable conference rooms put the cubicle to shame — but before you start shelling out for employee skate parks and rock climbing walls, consider that not all office luxuries will serve your workspace equally well.
Mashable spoke with several startup employees to find out what they loved about their unconventional office spaces, and the results were fairly unanimous: An open floor plan and quirky extras encourage communication, collaboration and general satisfaction far more than cramped cubicles.
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“The more comfortable our employees feel in the office environment, the more comfortable they are to speak up and share their opinions and insights with the team,” ZocDoc CFO Netta Samroengraja says in an e-mail.
Most startups have certain crucial design elements in common. These include employee lounge areas with cozy seating and colorful accents, snack-filled kitchens where employees can chat as they refuel and TV monitors used for everything from video-conferencing to gaming.
Startups with enough square footage also tend to shell out for recreational spaces — ZocDoc has a game room outfitted with beanbag chairs, a ping-pong table and an acoustic guitar — that contribute to a playful work environment that’s not just about punching the clock.
Some office add-ons will make sense for only a small segment of businesses; TastingTable, for instance, rents a test kitchen and dining room staffed with two full-time chefs near its SoHo offices. The extra kitchen space is a boon for the food-and-drink newsletter, but is probably a less prudent investment for a software firm.
At Zazzle’s sprawling Redwood City headquarters, everything from the communal desks to the wallpaper was custom-made to reflect the company’s design-it-yourself ethic, according to co-founder and CTO Bobby Beaver. Likewise, Etsy takes a DIY approach to office design with colorful knickknacks, quilts and plushies, all made by Etsy sellers. “My apartment is so boring compared to the office,” says Sarah Starpoli, Etsy’s Employment Experience Manager.
Quirky office additions such as HowAboutWe’s popcorn machine — which one employee assures us is regularly put to good use — or Zazzle’s ping-pong table may not rank as “strictly necessary” for your startup, but they undoubtedly contribute to a more welcoming work environment. “Go to your local IRS office to get a taste of the dark side of an office landscape,”Squarespace’s director of interface, Michael Heilemann, suggests.
There is, however, a fine line between a morale-boosting office perk and a misallocation of your startup’s precious funds. So, when you’re decorating that new exposed-brick loft space, go the more sensible route and avoid the 10 extravagant accessories in the gallery below — ball pits, bike repair shops and Bengal tigers are on the list — that only Google and Facebook can really afford, at least until you’ve made your first million.