Techcrunch has recently launched an excellent new feature on its website in which they check out the offices of some of the web’s most notable start-ups.
Modeled on the MTV feature of the same name in which, rather than tech offices, cameras explored celebrities’ houses, Techcrunch Cribs provides a great insight into the workplace culture of the successful web 2.0 start-up.
Here are a selection of some of the most interesting office tours as well as some observations about general web 2.0 office culture that they reveal:
Housed in a former women’s shoe shop, the office is resolutely open plan with a layout designed to be fluid and adaptable to the working needs of various projects. There is a strong emphasis on encouraging creativity in the environment with lots of hand-craft tools and gadgets lying around to be used during regular ‘make-a-thons’ (like a hackathon but people make things with their hands instead rather than using code).
Another interesting feature is that there are plenty of furnishings brought in from employees’ own homes – something which you’d imagine works to establish the office as an environment in which the employees feel really comfortable and happy to spend time in. Meeting rooms are names after particularly popular Pinterest trends and shelves are devoted to exhibiting cool objects that people collect (reflecting the interest Pinterest users often have for items they are passionate about).
The Berlin Soundcloud office is another with a great emphasis on creativity, featuring music-themed art exhibitions and lots of interactive features that employees are encouraged to play with (a Soundcloud sign features letters that can be re-arranged into playful anagrams for example).
Other curiosities include the highly caffeinated drinks which fill the canteen fridge and the fact that the entire office seems to overflow with employees’ bicycles (which either says something about Soundcloud, Berlin, or both). There’s also an in-house German language tutor for employees arriving from abroad, which is a nice touch for easing integration into a new country.
The professional social network is now onto its 5th office – featuring adornments including Lego versions of the ‘In’ logo, lots of recreational facilities (ping pong tables, Foosball, a gym, yoga rooms). There’s also an extensive array of daily catering and a variety of frozen Yoghurt machines, a practice room for the in-house band to play in.
Flags are draped from the ceilings reflecting how staff identify themselves (plenty of national flags but also many which are more unusual and unexpected) and generally the atmosphere seems to be of a place in which employees would want to spend plenty of time – rather than somewhere they want to flee from at 5pm or dread going to on a Monday morning.
The travel accommodation website has enjoyed impressive growth in the past year and is soon due to move into a new office. Their current one is not so bad however, featuring recreations of many of the site’s most popular accommodation (e.g. meeting rooms that are modeled on the living room of popular properties).
Then there’s also daily organic food, fairground games, employees’ dogs roaming the office and even giant cereal boxes lying around which represent an earlier diversification attempt (focusing more on the ‘breakfast’ than the ‘bed’ side of things).
All in all, as well as being a fun way to spend a few minutes looking into some fairly unusual but novel workplaces, Techcrunch cribs does also reveal a couple of valuable insights. First of all, successful start-ups emphasize and encourage creativity throughout their workplace – not just verbally but also physically through the way that these spaces are designed and furnished/decorated.
Not only this but also, often this creativity is channeled into creating physical reminders of how these online products connect with people’s offline lives. Airbnb has rooms modeled on its most popular properties while Pinterest names meeting rooms after its most popular trends and categories for example. This is a vital way of keeping employees focused on the ultimate product they are working on, behind all the day-to-day tasks – which helps them make better decisions about how it needs to be developed and what is likely to be successful in the future.
This is a vital way of keeping employees focused on the ultimate product they are working on, behind all the day-to-day tasks – which helps them make better decisions about how it needs to be developed and what is likely to be successful in the future.
A second crucial feature which is very much evident is that these are workplaces for a new generation of worker, who prefers a less formal, healthier and more enjoyable environment in which to work. Furthermore, they are offices in which people would happily work late if they needed to (since they can also eat well, exercise and relax there as well if they wish to do so). They also seem to be offices which can flexibly cater for the various needs of employees and seek to take away all the obstacles to having staff at a high level of satisfaction, creativity, and therefore
They also seem to be offices which can flexibly cater for the various needs of employees and seek to take away all the obstacles to having staff at a high level of satisfaction, creativity, and therefore quality of output.