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The debate surrounding basketball courts, game rooms, ice-cream machines, and “chief fun officers” has nothing to do with your child’s summer camp. We’re talking about 21st century so-called workplaces.At the outset, fun workplaces seemed like a great idea. Many managers and CEOs will tell you that a positive office environment is crucial to their particular company’s success. Happy employees do better work, are more creative, and make your company attractive to prospective hires and customers alike.
Good pay, top-notch benefits, and understanding managers are one thing, but in the last decade, Silicon Valley has started a trend towards a different kind of happy workplace. The kind of fun that makes kids happy.
Take a look at the 25 Best Tech Companies to Work For feature we posted this summer: boasts of video games, gourmet food, and outdoor recreation areas are sprinkled along with autonomy from upper management and good pay in anonymous employee comments.
And the fun is spreading east, too. Red Bull installed a slide in its London office. Even traditional companies are catching up with this trend. In a recent Schumpeter column, The Economist notes that TD Bank has a “‘Wow!’ department that dispatches costume-clad teams to ‘surprise and delight’ successful workers.”
They write that the fun trend is a popular management fad aiming to empower, engage and evoke creativity among employees. Surveys have shown that only 20% of workers are “fully engaged with their job,” and even fewer are creative. Managers are hoping fun will be the cure.
The Economist is sceptical.
The problem is that as soon as fun becomes part of a corporate strategy it ceases to be fun and becomes its opposite—at best an empty shell and at worst a tiresome imposition.
So perhaps your office doesn’t need those Silicon Valley perks. But consider this: while The Economist columnist concludes by pining for the past, Valley companies are considered among the most forward thinking and cutting edge in the world. They’re busy innovating, not longing for the Mad Men era, where the chief form of office recreation was a lunchtime scotch and a cigar.