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Why a lame and ugly office is a good thing

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Look around your office, what do you see?

From my desk, I see a big pantry, our inspirational design wall, our ‘Sales Legend of the Month’ achievement wall and a number of whiteboards covered in numbers and ideas.

It’s nothing like some of the offices we feature in our Spacial Awareness column, nor is it like some of the perk-tastic start-ups we see around the world, complete with pool tables, games rooms, fully-stocked fridges or nap rooms – but it’s a great office. And, more importantly, the culture works.

The idea of having a perk-driven office might be headed out the door, if this article from Fast Company is anything to go by.

In it, Emmanuel Schalit, CEO of Dashlane in the US reveals his “lame” office, which has carpets with coffee stains, curtains made out of cardboard boxes and no sink.

Some people will be appalled by this, but Schalit remains firm that companies today are focusing too much on the aesthetic and catering to employees’ every whim and need when it comes to perks.

So, instead of spending resources on a ping-pong table, he believes he can attract people with the values and desire to work at a company and create a product people care about.

“Ideally, we are all super proud of what we’re trying to achieve and there’s no bigger perk,” he told Fast Company.

But no typical perks doesn’t mean they are tech adverse (they use a few pretty cool systems to get work done), but it does raise a couple of questions.

By providing too many ‘expected’ perks, could you be attracting the wrong sorts of people to your company? And by providing minimal perks, are you more likely to attract the sorts of people who identify with your organisation’s overall goals and mission?

I think Schalit might be onto something. Sure, perks are nice (there are days when a nap room certainly wouldn’t go amiss…) but I have always managed to remain happy, productive and engaged in offices that have a basic but comfortable set-up.

To me, what’s more important is the culture and what management is able to achieve without all the bells as whistles. Maybe it’s a little bit of flexibility to work from home from time-to-time, or maybe it’s just providing pizza on days when things are really, really s***.

Perhaps instead of it being a top-down culture, the staff are encouraged to provide the perks (shout out to Sabrina for organising the first of many games nights recently!)

In our upcoming Spacial Awareness column (out soon in our November issue) Michael Lee, regional director for candy company Storck Asia Pacific, says creating an office that is more than just a workplace starts with looking beyond the physical aspect of it.

“The office and the furniture are the hardware. When you design an office, also think of the software, and by that I mean thinking about how you plan on utilising the space, what sort of activities or functions will you build around the space, and factoring that into the blueprint,” he told us.

“Once you have that, you will be able to see more synergy among the people in the future.”

What do you think? Are office perks overrated? Do they attract people with the wrong values?

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