Paid to Play

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who are willing to change and those who are not. People who are not willing to change do business the old-fashioned way, on old-fashioned hours and with old-fashioned rules. No going on Reddit or playing Flash games during work, keep your work and your hobbies separate, do your job the way we tell you to do it.

Those people are what I like to call stupid.

If you're alive and have once talked to another human being, you've heard the term "Facebook me" or "Google it", and that's not a coincidence. Both of those sites are massive money-machines, run by extremely smart people providing extremely smart services. Google is on top of the world (literally, it fought the Chinese government once), and Facebook is fast approaching. Two direct competitors, each forcing the other to innovate and pave the way for the future. What do they have in common though? Awesome work structure.

If you've ever been inside the Facebook offices, seen a video of what goes on in there or even if you've seen The Social Network, you'll know that the Facebook offices are not full of rules and regulations restricting you to your workspace and only allowing you outside during lunch hours. It looks like a really spacious college dorm room more than anything else, and that kind of comfortable atmosphere is proven to lead to higher productivity. After all, if you love your job, you want it to do well.

Google has the same thing going on. Here's a link with photos from both offices, and you can see that both of the offices are not what comes to mind when you think 'professional'. Google has a goddamn slide in their office. People are riding bikes around, or just sitting and talking, and someone's in what looks like a massive sound room just hanging out. Despite these places not looking like the epitome of usefulness, these are arguably the two most well-known companies of our day.

So, seeing that, why aren't all companies that deal in technology going for relaxing atmospheres like that? Obviously, most companies can't afford such massive, spacious offices, but that's not what it takes to create a relaxed atmosphere. Each day, Google has each engineer work 20% of their time developing their own ideas.  That's a fifth of their working time that they are allowed to take a break and develop something personally (which has led to the creation of several other Google-owned services, like G-mail). It seems simple, really: do things to make people like their job.

Dyn Inc., in Manchester, New Hampshire has taken this in and decided to do something about it. Being a software company that supplies Twitter, Twitpic and Wikia, their employees have to know computers. And if you know computers, guess what? You probably like games. After seeing that their attendance plummets yearly when a blockbuster game is released, they decided to add an extra day of paid time off so you can indulge in your videogaming.

Yeah, I know, right? How great is that?

Small steps like these can go a long way to showing your employees that you care about them and their hobbies. Allowing people free time to pursue what they personally want is a simple way to revitalize and refocus a person, and a lot of old-fashioned businesspeople could learn from these Google, Facebook and Dyn, Inc.    

12 Comments
13 Comments
Posted by The_Nubster

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who are willing to change and those who are not. People who are not willing to change do business the old-fashioned way, on old-fashioned hours and with old-fashioned rules. No going on Reddit or playing Flash games during work, keep your work and your hobbies separate, do your job the way we tell you to do it.

Those people are what I like to call stupid.

If you're alive and have once talked to another human being, you've heard the term "Facebook me" or "Google it", and that's not a coincidence. Both of those sites are massive money-machines, run by extremely smart people providing extremely smart services. Google is on top of the world (literally, it fought the Chinese government once), and Facebook is fast approaching. Two direct competitors, each forcing the other to innovate and pave the way for the future. What do they have in common though? Awesome work structure.

If you've ever been inside the Facebook offices, seen a video of what goes on in there or even if you've seen The Social Network, you'll know that the Facebook offices are not full of rules and regulations restricting you to your workspace and only allowing you outside during lunch hours. It looks like a really spacious college dorm room more than anything else, and that kind of comfortable atmosphere is proven to lead to higher productivity. After all, if you love your job, you want it to do well.

Google has the same thing going on. Here's a link with photos from both offices, and you can see that both of the offices are not what comes to mind when you think 'professional'. Google has a goddamn slide in their office. People are riding bikes around, or just sitting and talking, and someone's in what looks like a massive sound room just hanging out. Despite these places not looking like the epitome of usefulness, these are arguably the two most well-known companies of our day.

So, seeing that, why aren't all companies that deal in technology going for relaxing atmospheres like that? Obviously, most companies can't afford such massive, spacious offices, but that's not what it takes to create a relaxed atmosphere. Each day, Google has each engineer work 20% of their time developing their own ideas.  That's a fifth of their working time that they are allowed to take a break and develop something personally (which has led to the creation of several other Google-owned services, like G-mail). It seems simple, really: do things to make people like their job.

Dyn Inc., in Manchester, New Hampshire has taken this in and decided to do something about it. Being a software company that supplies Twitter, Twitpic and Wikia, their employees have to know computers. And if you know computers, guess what? You probably like games. After seeing that their attendance plummets yearly when a blockbuster game is released, they decided to add an extra day of paid time off so you can indulge in your videogaming.

Yeah, I know, right? How great is that?

Small steps like these can go a long way to showing your employees that you care about them and their hobbies. Allowing people free time to pursue what they personally want is a simple way to revitalize and refocus a person, and a lot of old-fashioned businesspeople could learn from these Google, Facebook and Dyn, Inc.    

Posted by MajesticOverlord

That was a nice read. I've always dreamed about an office space like these two but I doubt I'd get a lot of word done, mostly spend my time on the slide or the arcade machines. 

Posted by dudeglove
@The_Nubster
Nice try, OP, but no dice. Watch this video for reference.

  
  
Well Valve's snack bar sure is something, but can you see the problem with this? No? Listen to the  the most telling/damning quote from Laidlaw late in the video: 


"..[Because] of the snack room I hardly ever have to leave my desk and stop working." 



This has a lot in common with different stripes of high powered businesses. You'll find that hedge funds and other big-ass companies have even more extravagant lunch facilities. 

Yes, as you say, OP, it's a wonderful amenity and is good for the staff (brings to mind the often-repeated phrase "an army marches on its stomach") - but on the other the company is juicing its employees for every ounce of work. Stay there in the cradle of development, never venture out unless absolutely required. Don't have a life and obligations beyond.

I'm pretty sure Google has sleeping facilities installed on site, and that's even worse. Why? Because it means they  get 100% control on the associations created by employees and therefore prevent them from being able to bargain collectively or challenge current leadership (i.e. it rules unions completely obsolete). 

So Facebook et al - they're a utopia, yes, but that's only if you don't want a social life outside the goddamn workplace. That's an atmosphere I could never work in.
Edited by Tebbit

If Google ever goes bust, people of the future will look to those photos and realise why.

Posted by floodiastus
@The_Nubster said:
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who are willing to change and those who are not. People who are not willing to change do business the old-fashioned way, on old-fashioned hours and with old-fashioned rules. No going on Reddit or playing Flash games during work, keep your work and your hobbies separate, do your job the way we tell you to do it.

Those people are what I like to call stupid.

If you're alive and have once talked to another human being, you've heard the term "Facebook me" or "Google it", and that's not a coincidence. Both of those sites are massive money-machines, run by extremely smart people providing extremely smart services. Google is on top of the world (literally, it fought the Chinese government once), and Facebook is fast approaching. Two direct competitors, each forcing the other to innovate and pave the way for the future. What do they have in common though? Awesome work structure.

If you've ever been inside the Facebook offices, seen a video of what goes on in there or even if you've seen The Social Network, you'll know that the Facebook offices are not full of rules and regulations restricting you to your workspace and only allowing you outside during lunch hours. It looks like a really spacious college dorm room more than anything else, and that kind of comfortable atmosphere is proven to lead to higher productivity. After all, if you love your job, you want it to do well.

Google has the same thing going on. Here's a link with photos from both offices, and you can see that both of the offices are not what comes to mind when you think 'professional'. Google has a goddamn slide in their office. People are riding bikes around, or just sitting and talking, and someone's in what looks like a massive sound room just hanging out. Despite these places not looking like the epitome of usefulness, these are arguably the two most well-known companies of our day.

So, seeing that, why aren't all companies that deal in technology going for relaxing atmospheres like that? Obviously, most companies can't afford such massive, spacious offices, but that's not what it takes to create a relaxed atmosphere. Each day, Google has each engineer work 20% of their time developing their own ideas.  That's a fifth of their working time that they are allowed to take a break and develop something personally (which has led to the creation of several other Google-owned services, like G-mail). It seems simple, really: do things to make people like their job.

Dyn Inc., in Manchester, New Hampshire has taken this in and decided to do something about it. Being a software company that supplies Twitter, Twitpic and Wikia, their employees have to know computers. And if you know computers, guess what? You probably like games. After seeing that their attendance plummets yearly when a blockbuster game is released, they decided to add an extra day of paid time off so you can indulge in your videogaming.Yeah, I know, right? How great is that?Small steps like these can go a long way to showing your employees that you care about them and their hobbies. Allowing people free time to pursue what they personally want is a simple way to revitalize and refocus a person, and a lot of old-fashioned businesspeople could learn from these Google, Facebook and Dyn, Inc.    
you are forgetting one thing, google and facebook are inventors of software. 

You expect a garbage man to be creative when picking up garbage? Or some creative dishwashing?
Posted by The_Nubster
@dudeglove: And listen to what he says moments before. In fact, it's the first bit of that sentence.

"The snack room has made me a more dedicated employee. I hardly ever have to leave the office or leave my desk."

Tell me, is that not what a company wants? Obviously, the folks who work at Valve are fully aware that the snack room is a way to keep people inside and working. After all, who wouldn't want access to a bowl of full-sized Snicker bars? On the other hand, "dedicated employees" make better products, which is exactly what companies are going for. If you can make an employee do their work and do it well, make them happy. Facebook and Google allow leisure time, Valve has a kickass snacks room, Dyn Inc. pays you to play big releases. How is that no dice? All you've done is prove that happy employees do their work better.

And on the point of no outside life, Google, Facebook, Valve, these companies don't lock you up and disallow you to have friends or a family or anything like that. You're telling me you couldn't work at Google because they have optional sleeping facilities? Or at Facebook because the atmosphere is too inviting? I don't see what you're saying.

@floodiastus: Yeah, you do make a point. Not every job allows for the kind of flexibility or creativity that an employee would want, and that's a shame, really. But something can always be done to make your employees happier, although I can't exactly say what, in that case.
Posted by dudeglove
@The_Nubster said:

Tell me, is that not what a company wants? Obviously, the folks who work at Valve are fully aware that the snack room is a way to keep people inside and working.

Yes, that's what the company wants, not the employee. But let's take a couple of steps back: who exactly are you supporting here? The company i.e. facebook/Dyn/Google/whatever, or the employee?

Are you telling us in your original post that you are delighted to see companies make their employees spend more time than they should in the workplace? Are you trying to convince the rest of us that all such employees are genuinely happy, and that the company is somehow wonderfully altruistic and less focused on making money (snigger), and more concerned with the happiness of their workforce? Out of those two articles you've posted, I've not seen one comment from a "happy" or "dedicated" employee to back up the latter point (in fact, the only person who has brought any living, breathing primary sources to this discussion is yours truly via the snack room video, but even then I concede that it has to be treated with scrutiny). All I've seen on that infantile chilloutpoint site is a bunch of stock photography - most likely vetted by the respective companies - coupled with a regurgitation of Wikipedia entries and conjecture. As for Edward Bender of Dyn Inc. in the Escapist article (Jesus Christ, seriously?! The Escapist? Fine, I'll entertain you just this once), he isn't some blue-collar Joe Bloggs, he's on the executive board and is involved in some sort of bullshit marketing called "Special Ops". Should I also point out that the escapist article is nigh on exactly the same thing as what Dyn posted on their own site? The only thing the Escapist seemingly added was the Doug Lombardi quote who, incidentally, is VP of Marketing at Valve (you know what marketing is, right?), and you can bet your ass he's only too happy to hear that another major company has given them free advertising.


After all, who wouldn't want access to a bowl of full-sized Snicker bars?

Me, for a start. That sounds absolutely fucking revolting.

On the other hand, "dedicated employees" make better products, which is exactly what companies are going for. If you can make an employee do their work and do it well, make them happy. Facebook and Google allow leisure time, Valve has a kickass snacks room, Dyn Inc. pays you to play big releases. How is that no dice? All you've done is prove that happy employees do their work better.

If you'd bothered to actually read my initial reply, what I was saying is that - despite an employee being "allowed" leisure time (as all companies should - otherwise it's slave labour) - what those companies have done/are doing is craft an environment to stop the employee from ever wanting to leave the office and continue their "dedication". But if they're happy to live like that, so be it. My own personal vision of hell is sharing more time than is necessary with the majority of my coworkers. (Also, if you have actually read this far into the post, please prove so by typing the word "bananas" somewhere in your reply, if you indeed make one)

I'd also like a chat with Dyn Inc.'s HR department as well to see what exactly the conditions are concerning that day of paid time off. Do I have to submit a special form detailing what game I'll be playing? Will I have to produce evidence to them that I am, in fact, playing Portal 2, and not Dead Or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball?

And on the point of no outside life, Google, Facebook, Valve, these companies don't lock you up and disallow you to have friends or a family or anything like that. You're telling me you couldn't work at Google because they have optional sleeping facilities? Or at Facebook because the atmosphere is too inviting? I don't see what you're saying.


I never said they did lock you up - what I'm telling you is what Google and various other companies are doing is making their employees have less of a compulsion to go home, or at least leave the office temporarily (for, say, lunch).

It's a cycle: e.g. canteen suddenly gets better at work, less staff leave the building for lunch, profits go up, higher-ups suddenly realize good food = profit, food gets even better, repeat.


As a final point, do you seriously think the staff of such a major global company like Facebook or Google all just "hang out" and dick around on the sofa scratching themselves or ride around their office on scooters? Don't be delusional.

Incidentally, forgive the stalkerish nature of me taking the liberty of looking at your GB gallery of images, but have you ever worked a day in your life, or are you just blessed with eternal youth? Nice pug dog, by the way.
Posted by Renahzor
@dudeglove

This just goes to show, as an employer, that some people will NEVER be happy no matter what you give them.  You're very openly saying that improving your work environment is all in the name of corporate greed, and that you're somehow entirely against the idea.  I don't understand why it can't be at least a symbiotic relationship.  Companies want to hire better, happier employees but more to the point they want more productive employees that stay with the company longer and produce better/more work.  Employees want better working environments and places they're happy to come and work where it doesn't feel like such a slog through the day.  When they get more pleasant environments they feel more creative, do more work, and put out higher quality work.  Both parties benefit.

Instead of being all "FUCK THE MAN" why can't we at least admit that the work environments look intriguing, and employees seem to think its an enjoyable place to work.  Thats more than I can say for many of the jobs I've held.  Whats your perfect work environment?  I imagine its the typical 4x4 cube with white walls that you just cant wait to leave while you toil away not really caring about your work?  Do you throw a tantrum every time you get a raise or promotion?  They're expecting more work or at least to maintain quality work when they do that you know.  

Was it bananas(see what I did there) when companies started offering health/other benefits?  I mean, fuck benefits, they're trying to make people happy, healthy and less inclined to leave for other employers.  Obviously thats all in the name of lining the companies pockets, because it attracts people who will work harder and allows them to expect better work from their employees for better compensation.  Every unforced luxury in a workplace is for that reason, they're trying to attract better employees that put out better and more work.  But by doing so they also improve the overall satisfaction of working for that company.  
Edited by The_Nubster
@Renahzor: You put it into words much better than I could have. 
@dudeglove: Bananas. 

Edit: And yes, I have worked a day in my life. I'm seventeen years old and I have a job. I help pay the bills and I pay for all of my own games, consoles, etc. If you're going to disagree with what I say, you have absolutely every right to. If you're going to, though, keep it civil. Don't be condescending and take stabs at me based on pictures. 
Posted by Example1013
@Renahzor: Employees will never be happy. Employers will never be happy either. If either one got complacent, the other would take advantage. It's the way the system works.
Posted by beej
@Renahzor: No, dudeglove isn't arguing that we ought to "fuck the man" he's arguing that a trend that asserts the workplace as a greater entity in our lives is concerning, and that's precisely what this is doing. You think that when crunch time hits these companies aren't encouraging employees to stay there day after day? The fact that social networks are founded around the company means that people are unlikely/unwilling to flaunt them in order to take care of their daily lives during these crisis periods. Your argument concerning raises or ideal working conditions is disingenuous, he's concerned about programs that aim to keep employees in the workplace for as long as possible, not about programs aimed to increase productivity. His 'ideal workspace' as it were, isn't even at question here, since he's talking about what you do when you're off work/out of the building.
Posted by Vodun
@The_Nubster: On the one hand I find the idea of what these companies do appealing, but on the other to try to systemize creativity and relaxation feels so wrong; "Here, you have 1 hour to think up a cool idea and be relaxed...GO!".

I much more prefer when activities such as this appear spontaneously, because I wanted it to...I go into a side room and just chill for a sec, not because my schedule told me to but because I felt like it.

The only thing I want from my employer is that my work is judged by my actual contributions to the company...not the hours I spend in the office. If they want to put a fruit bowl in the office kitchen that's fine, but it doesn't really change anything.
Posted by Doctorchimp
@The_Nubster: dudeglove is talking about corporatism and how it is ever increasing

It's one thing to say "GOD I LOVE MY JOB!!!!!"

And a completely different statement to say "well why should I leave right now?"

Which later on becomes..."what can I tell my boss as an excuse?"