Who said the office can’t be fun?

In a Silicon Valley loft sometime not quite 20 years ago, someone asked a question very much like this and decided they weren’t going to be yet another drudgery-inducing white-washed office complex.

As the start-up doctrine kicked into full gear in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with fast growing game-changers like Google and Pixar, soon to be followed by the likes of Zappos, Facebook, ThinkGarden and others, the very idea of what an office could and should be changed.

Donuts and stale coffee became four star chefs with a full service kitchen.

Empty lobbies with security guards and plastic plants were soon populated with giant red slides and video arcade cabinets.

Sure, it was a great way to lure in top-tier talent in an industry whose leaders are always desperate for the very best. But it was also an important motivator.

Mindless distractions, good meals and toys for all ages, it turned out, were incredibly effective at bringing out higher levels of productivity in workers who previously felt worn out and downtrodden.

Where coffee and sheer willpower got a wary programmer through the day before, executives started showering employees in parties, in-office perks, and more.

Bringing the Most Out of Your Employees

Whether you’re launching a start-up with five people, or running a multi-national corporation and want to boost morale AND productivity, there are some creative, effective, and downright fun ways to do it.

Here are 10 game-changing office upgrades brought to you by some of the world’s best companies to work for.

1. Open It to the Great Outdoors

SelgasCanoOfficeThere’s something innately calming about the outdoors. Of course, actually sitting in the park with your laptop is icky, with bugs invading your space and squirrels begging for the leftovers of your bagel.

So if you can’t go outdoors, take your office with you. Selgas Cano, an architecture firm, did just that, building a bunker for their central work space. Every day, these lucky architects get to relax with the beauty of nature all around them–which is a nice break from drafting software and board meetings, to be sure.

2. Make it Feel Like Home

RedbullOfficesI could show you a picture of quite literally any of the offices on this list and it’d fit the bill, but there has been a huge movement toward the “home away from home” style of office design.

Here’s the thing: employees need a work space that is separate from home to maintain that all important work/life balance, but that doesn’t mean work can’t be cozy and homelike. Just check out Redbull Cape Town’s office above. It has a shag carpet, a bar, couches and plenty of open lighting. It’s a cocoon of creativity.

3. Embrace Downtime

Legos in Google OfficeThis picture did the rounds for a while. It was taken by someone at one of Google’s offices, where slides, Legos, beanbags, and video games are the norm. Sure, it’s a web services and software company, and sure, there are weeks when employees won’t see their children, but Google’s campuses are legendary for making all those extra hours as bearable as possible.

If you can’t afford a slide in the cafeteria, keep it simple. Put a video game console in the break room or an old pinball machine in the lobby. Schedule theme days. Have fun with it!

4. Hire a Cutting Edge Architect

CorusQuay

Architecture is on full display in many of the world’s biggest and most impressive new offices. From Mountain View to New York to Denmark, there are some incredible offices out there. This one, from Corus Quay, is loaded with unique characteristics.

Squeezing a three-story slide into your lobby may be unlikely, but even a few quirky adjustments to the seating arrangement, furniture and lighting can make the work-space feel cool and unique in a way that excites employees to come in each day.

5. Open the Seating Plan

CitizenSpace_CoworkingLet’s strip things down a bit and talk about “coworking.”

While the world’s biggest tech and marketing firms are showing off all the cool things they do for their employees, there are start-ups and small businesses finding their own way to bust out of the mold.

Coworking brings an open seating plan and office structure that encourages cross-pollination of ideas, employees, and events in larger buildings. Instead of the same 5 employees seeing each other every day, coworking spaces allow them to mingle with 10 other 5-employee companies, often with shared resources like gyms, cafeterias, and conference rooms that none of those companies could afford alone.

6. Give Them Play Rooms

LegoAnd the “I hope so” award goes to Lego Denmark, where playrooms are a normal part of the day for marketers, engineers and salespeople alike.

You don’t have to sell children’s toys to have a fun, relaxing place to go and relax midday though–turn an unused office or conference room into a playroom where employees can relax for a few minutes when the daily grind gets to be too much.

7. More Oxygen!

ZapposSpecial event or not, Zappos has put together a heck of an office environment. Trees, plants, and all things green not only bring some much needed vibrancy to normally bland, dull cubicles, but they bridge that gap between indoor and outdoor that is often nearly impossible for a professional desk jockey.

8. Foster Creativity

PixarThis should come as no surprise. Pixar’s offices are a temple to creative thinking and freedom of expression.

This is just look at some of the dozens of cool things Pixar’s animators, designers, and writers experience every day at work. From homey offices to lounge lighting, and themed offices from their movies, there’s nothing “normal” about working for Pixar.

Part of this is about giving freedom to employees to customize their work environment to suit their needs, but another part is enabling them to do so. Offer resources, incentives, and encouragement to be creative in new and exciting ways.

9. Mix Things Up

AnthonyOfficeThis is my office. It’s cozy, it’s small and it’s in my attic. It’s also one of my favorite places to work.

While not everyone has the freedom to work at home, everyone should be given the opportunity, at least on occasion. The relaxation and freedom it offers is perfect for some people.

10. Party!

FB OfficeFinally, learn when to unwind and have a good time!

Parties, after work hours, and easy opportunities to relax and unwind are important when fostering a creative, inclusive environment. Facebook is one of the best when it comes to this, with fully stocked bars in the building, parties on a weekly basis and more.

The bottom line when it comes to an office is that it should make everyone feel comfortable. Part of this is your company’s culture and making sure the people you hire fit that culture. Another part, though, is listening to those people to hear what they want and need out of their work space.

Do that like these eight companies have done and your office will become one of the best around to work in.

How to enjoy your work more? Happiness at Work – 12 Simple Ways to Make it Happen!

Featured photo credit: Businesspeople throwing basketball in the office via Shutterstock

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