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Cool to be kind

If your career’s on the slide that’s a bad thing – unless you work in Google’s 'with it' offices in Canada and Dublin, where children’s playground equipment has been incorporated into the design and build to make the working day fun and inspirational.

Instead of taking stairs or a lift, ‘Googlers’ as they are known, can drop down a floor by sliding down a big orange chute or, alternatively, use a fully-functioning fireman’s pole. For a ground-breaking firm like Google it is one way in which they can get the creative juices flowing – literally.

A climbing wall between floors and a running track on the roof were even considered when plans were being discussed for the internet giant’s UK headquarters. So, what next…lunch break games of ‘Hide & Seek’? For a search engine firm that’s not such a totally ridiculous idea.

Such ‘out there’ features are wholly inappropriate for most firms, so what makes a cool office in the 'real world'? Well, for a start, it takes a lot more thought than a few potted plants, a job lot of Ikea desks and chairs and a water cooler.

Over the last few years a back to basics approach has been in vogue, with fixtures and fittings stripped back to give a ‘rough and ready’ feel: think bare walls and wide-plank floors. Often the look reflects not only the nature of the current business but also a nod to the past. The aforementioned Google office in North America used to be a tannery and, believe it or not, one of the walkways is a real-life cattle grid.

But the coolest offices are not necessarily those that have the best gadgets or sweeping views, but those that have spent the time to understand what their employees really want. With the increase in Wi-Fi-based activity, employees don’t necessarily need to be tethered to one work station. Break-out areas, which encourage informal meetings, are one way of achieving this throughput of work.

Dispensing with the need for wires and filing cabinets, two staples of the old-school office, has opened up a whole new world where uncluttered corridors and open-plan living has become the norm. These space invaders have had their day.

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