Office Spaces, Office Dreams

Logan: You went on a field trip to visit a well-known internet company. How were their offices?

Mike: Huge. You could easily get lost. Some people used scooters to get around because sometimes walking took a very long time. It was a lunch meeting, so I was taken to (one) of their cafeterias. The food was very good. And free for employees and guests.

Logan: Like, K&W cafeteria good? Like school cafeteria good? What are we talking about here. What did you eat. What could you have eaten.

Mike: I guess good like I would be perfectly fine eating there every day. There were a lot of prepared food stations, fresh fruit and vegetables, and also stations where chefs made you specific dishes. I didn’t really want to wait in those lines, so I made myself a salad with spinach/mixed greens, beets, gorgonzola, tofu—um there are a lot more ingredients and it might be too boring to list them here. I also got this spicy broccoli dish, and a lentils dish. But dessert: I got frozen yogurt with honey dew, a strawberry bread pudding, and a cranberry chocolate chip cookie. They also had every drink imaginable. After I had dessert, I was taken to a cafe where I got a cappuccino. I mean, they basically had everything you wanted and it was just there for free. There was also a snack room and they were like, “Take as many snacks as you want!” But I didn’t take anything.

Logan: OMG Mike I’m so glad to hear you had three desserts. I feel like usually you’re like, a dessert eschewer! Like when you buy people cakes for their birthdays, which is something you do, I always have 5 pieces and you always have 1 piece. Eschew! The frozen yogurt sounds great. If I worked in that office I would gain a lot of weight and I would probably also go crazy, because I would be thinking about frozen yogurt all the time, and how it was so close, and free, and close, and free. Good thing I don’t work there! And who wants their huge salaries either, not me!

Mike: Yeah, they actually said the “Freshman 25″ is not an uncommon thing to get when you start working there. As in 25 pounds, yes—but hopefully all that walking around just to get from one room to another helps deter that. I mean, I like the idea that you don’t really have to think about lunch (and paying for it)—you can just grab whatever you want and then get back to work. There was also a game room. And a room full of LEGOs.

Logan: Did free childcare come with the LEGOs?

Mike: I didn’t ask, but I’m sure that’s a thing there. The truth is that if I did work there every day, I probably wouldn’t use most of those perks! I wasn’t there for work, so I had the time to walk around, but the people who did work there looked super busy and were mostly in their offices/at their desks. But, yeah, it was a moment of: Oh, places like this exist. What is your ideal office space?

Logan: Um, basically it would be like in Star Trek where you could conjure up whatever space you wanted at a specific time. But if we want to talk REAL TALK: good lighting, high ceilings, a variety of seating options (desk area! standing desk area! couches! floor pillows!) and a fridge/kitchen area with only healthy things and maybe also some secret chocolate. And good airflow. And sometimes it’s quiet and sometimes it’s a low murmer like the lobby of the library in college. And sometimes there’s music playing and everyone is laughing and sometimes I’m the only one there.

Mike: I do like having a kitchen area. And good lighting is so key. So the funny thing is I’ve worked for a few startups, and at one of them there were high ceilings and big windows with good lighting. There was a kitchen area with a fridge with healthy snacks (I helped order the groceries every week). There was a ping pong table. The conference room had a big TV and an Xbox and sometimes we would play a quick game whenever we wanted to take a break. But: I wouldn’t trade our job working at our scrappy little site for that. The thing is: Your actual job is so much more important than that. Those perks are nice, but I don’t really think about them anymore, and I didn’t really even think about it when I had them.

Logan: Oh right, of course. I mean, those perks are there to distract from, or make you feel better about, the fact that you’re in the office like, a zillion hours a week, right? I forgot to mention some more requirements for my dream office: lots plants, so many plants. Walkable from my house but not so close that I’d be tempted to go home to take a nap. Lots of funny people would be there. And there would be a dog. Or two. Two dogs. Oh and health insurance for everyone. Dream office. That’s the office I’d make if I had a company and lots of money (??WHEN?? I have a company and lots of money.) For now my dream office is the office that no one requires me to go to, which is what we’ve got, and that’s just swell.

Mike: Haha, yes, plants and health insurance. And paid interns—which, by the way, we’ve decided not to have. I mean, any interns at all at the moment. But we will one day. And it will be well-thought out, and hopefully we’ll be good mentors and can do some kind of stipend.

Logan: I got really close to almost taking one on and then I decided that getting someone to transcribe my interviews would actually involve getting someone to listen to my interviews, and … nope! Gonna keep my interrogation skills secret until I decide to start a podcast or whatever it is I should be doing. Google hangouts. Open Skype sesh. Party lines.


Photo: Matt Brown


24 Comments / Post A Comment

Bill Fostex (#573)

Mike, if you could elaborate on the salad bar, that’d be great.

Fig. 1 (#632)

@Bill Fostex “Mike’s Last 100 Pounds: Salad Bar”

I was a little underwhelmed by Google’s DC offices, though they did have some stuff hidden under mad scientist-style cloth tarps, so maybe that’s where all the neat perks were. The refreshments were pretty lame (lobbying rules are to blame I think) and also they had major technical issues trying to do a Hangout with someone in New York, which was amusing. Whenever PowerPoint fucks up at a work event now I’m like “Guys don’t worry, it even happens to Google!”

Blondsak (#2,299)

@stuffisthings Your anecdote about the Hangout makes me feel a lot better about my own technological none-how.

@Blondsak And it was with the President of Estonia too!

joyballz (#2,000)

I’d want windows that open, flexible seating options like Logan suggested, and a rooftop patio with wi-fi for breaks or for working.

Dancercise (#94)

I’ve been at a new job for 3 months now, and the windows are almost always open. At my last job the windows didn’t open. It has been a dream I never knew I had come true.

joyballz (#2,000)

@Dancercise oh so jealous.

echolikebells (#3,272)

My dream office space is a king size bed with gazillion thread count sheets, a fluffy comforter, and a bunch of pillows of varying softness. In the corner, thrown on the ground, is proof showing that I’m a billionaire and no longer have to work. There are lots of plants. Also two dogs. And a freezer with every variety of ice cream I’ve ever liked.

But really– good lighting, windows that open, picnic tables outside, a variety of seating, plants, and a radio or speaker system of some sort. And shiny, beautiful non-PC computers. Mandatory early leave time on Fridays. A kitchen with a Keurig coffee maker, a toaster oven, and a fridge, with a bowl of fruit on the counter!!!

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@echolikebells So seriously: my current place has okay lighting, windows that open (onto lovely 51st St in Midtown?) and shiny beautiful Macs everywhere. And apparently we will probably institute summer Fridays at some point later, which means everyone leaves early on Friday through the summer? And we have a Keurig and a big-ass fridge. No toaster oven. Microwave?

But it is, all things considered, a pretty decent office space.

echolikebells (#3,272)

@RachelG8489 This sounds wonderful and I’m more than a little jealous.

RachelG8489 (#1,297)

@echolikebells It is a DREAM compared to my last job, where I had only one cubicle wall and the rest was open, and the offices got all the windows- us cube drones couldn’t see daylight at all. And the free coffee was crap and it was a university where the free coffee was only available when students were on campus. Which is not that often compared to the staff.

Between windows, a Mac, and the Keurig I spent my first week or so here in a daze of happiness.

@RachelG8489 My office is pretty standard grim fluorescent cubicle-land, but my office has a door, we have free (shitty) Keurig coffee, and we get 50% off at the bar of the swanky hotel our office building is attached to. Good enough for me.

echolikebells (#3,272)

@stuffisthings My office isn’t TERRIBLE. There is a fridge, and a weird microwave. No fruit or free coffee. Windows, but they can’t be opened. I have a door/office instead of a cubicle. We have terrible, terrible, slow, ugly PCs. Such bad lighting that everyone brings in their own desk and floor lamps to compensate. I only have one plant. :(

limenotapple (#1,748)

My dream office is one I could walk to. Or bike. I live hella far from my work right now.

loren smith (#2,300)

My office is pretty sweet – today we had pizza lunch and played frisbee in the park, so basically it’s elementary school.

Crabtree (#774)

My dream office involves me having an actual desk or if not a desk an actual storage organizer in one of the buildings I work in. It really makes me feel super unorganized to either carry around all of my paperwork in my laptop bag, or bring it home, which means that I won’t have it when I need it.

Last year I worked in an office with cinderblock walls and no windows. The plumbing was awful (a toilet exploded while I was there). There were no kitchen facilities (people washed their dishes in the bathroom sinks, gross). There was a cafeteria with not-awful prices, and… my phone service was pretty good? That was the extent of the perks.

This year I work in an office with a real kitchen and huge south-facing windows and shiny elevators and the landlord gives us free ice cream sundaes once a year. It’s basically heaven, at least as government offices go.

HOWEVER. I’m going back to the crappy office in August and I couldn’t be happier about it. The management and coworkers and actual job that I’ll do at the crappy building is a million times better than where I am now. Everything else I can deal with!

Beans (#1,111)

the best workplace perk of all? getting to leave at 5 every day.

jessjess (#3,543)

@Beans Agreed. Or really 4:30 (4:15 who am I kidding) in the summer because it’s slow and we’re salaried.

dysgrace (#4,214)

So that’s what they do with the tax evasion money.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

I work in a typical cubicle-filled officeBut my cube is huge! I’m in insurance and when we were all paper apparently you needed three desks to put everything together, so I have a little enclosure and some privacy because I also have a very tall bookcase to block me out and a guest chair for anyone I have to train/chat/bs with.

We get some ok perks – get to leave an hour early before major holidays, free lunch and events at least twice a month where we also do a lot of 50/50s and other raffles, free coffee, discounted lunch in the cafeteria, a gym.

My last job was at a start up e-comm in a freezing-cold-in-the-winter/hot-as-balls-in-the-summer-bc-we-don’t-want-to-run-the-ac warehouse office with the owners of the company who were brothers and would fight CONSTANTLY like brothers and I sat like five feet away from them. awkward. I did get my weight in tea and got to go to some trade shows (that I miss the most), but crap health insurance, expected to work 10 hour days every day, work on the weekends, the pay was ok at best, and oh, the arguing!

So I’d been thinking about a career change because I need more money BUT I have a really nice work environment. I have maybe the biggest office in the suite, with a wall of windows full of plants I’m babysitting while colleagues are out of the country, and we have a full size fridge and we’re about to buy a new microwave & toaster oven & Keurig, and I can bring my dog to work and I get to leave early in the summer, and there’s a courtyard that I never go sit in right outside our building…so basically if you want a dream office, try working for a private university?

omgGoT (#4,268)

I have to say that really the most important thing is the job. I was in one of those lovely northern california office environments where an ergonomist arranged my desk, the food was basically free and plentiful, there was a pool, basketball court, gym etc, but because of the crazy hours and how many people I supported, I was unable to use anything. The job wasn’t fulfilling and seeing that the idea of perks was just to make me feel less bad about my hours made everything feel just a bit worse. I am at a new job now with fewer perks (but yay summer hours!) and being able to leave at a reasonable time really does make this my dream office!

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