Some companies think that their employees want to work in a place that resembles an indoor playground. They build large open-plan offices that are filled with fun stuff. But fun and work do not always mix. And the constant distractions in these offices are killing focus and productivity. I believe we should be building more nature-inspired offices. Because nature makes us relax and allows us to focus.
A few years ago I visited the new headquarters of a very successful tech company. When I was there they gave me the ‘grand tour’ and proudly showed me all the fun spaces they had created.
The office itself was a giant open-plan office with some glass dividers. In the hallways were all sorts of old arcade machines the employees could – and did – play. The meeting rooms all had different themes like: Computer Games, The Zoo and The Seventies. In another room I saw a ball pit filled with colorful balls and a giant slide. Throughout the building were several pingpong- and fussball tables that were all being played frantically.
During the tour they told me that each Friday afternoon the employees would visit the in-house bar where they could fill up on free beer.
Some companies are convinced that talented people only want to work in a place that resembles a kids playground. Or a local pub. That is why they build all these large open-plan offices filled with fun stuff like arcade machines, table tennis tables, small movie theaters and pubs. But what they are building are in fact: enormous distraction traps.
fun and work are two completely different things
They even brag about it in the job descriptions: ‘work here and you will have a lot of fun!’ Don’t get me wrong but for me fun and work are two completely different things. Work can (should?) be very enjoyable and challenging. But it can also be tedious and hard. And that’s okay. Because to really achieve something you often need to focus, work hard and also do repetitive stuff. You also need to do things that are not necessarily fun. And when you achieve something great after all that hard work you feel proud and happy.
fun offices quickly become childish offices
These offices are filled with distractions
The first problem is that some of these fun offices are filled with people that want only to work in a playful environment. They specifically chose to work in that fun environment. Those places are usually not filled with people that chose to work there to contribute to the specific services or products the company has to offer.
Second: the fun effect will start to wear off and fun offices quickly become childish offices.
Last but not least: these fun offices are filled with distractions. How can we focus in a place like that? We need to facilitate the natural ability of people to concentrate and do focused work when they have to. And that doesn’t have to be an old school office with boring hallways and many small offices with doors.
I believe that we need to build more nature-inspired offices
Think about it: what is the one place where you always feel relaxed? A place that makes your mind quiet and focused? Nature! That is why I believe that we need to build more offices that are inspired by nature: nature-inspired offices. Using daylight and a lot of of natural materials like wood and stone. Also with things like plants, trees, grass and maybe even water. A nature-inspired office may have places where people can get together whenever they want to. But it should also have quiet places where they can retreat to do focused work for a longer period of time.
Nature sounds for focusing
I believe that sound is also be very important for focusing at work. So why not create specific places in that office with sounds like: chirping birds, falling rain or waves crashing on the beach? I am positive these nature-inspired offices already exist. And I would definitely like to get the ‘grand tour’ of one of those one day!