Just over 5 years ago, I decided to start on a journey to make our office an amazing place to work. The first brave step was to cancel the traditional office Christmas party, and instead allow everyone to vote on what to spend the money on instead.
Year One was table football (and a Dr Who door wrap to the store room). Getting everyone up away from their desks and doing something even remotely physical during break and lunch times increased office productivity (in terms of volumes of lines of code written) by 80%. Effectively, we almost doubled our team, without any additional salaries. Lots of noise and laughter every day. We also ditched our training room and turned it into a table-tennis room, but unfortunately that only lasted 6 months before we realised we actually needed a training room.
Year Two was coffee. No more instant coffee, instead, getting some proper Nespresso coffee machines and pods. We go through around 1000 coffee pods a month, so its not the cheapest office upgrade. In terms of staff and visitor happiness, it’s revolutionary.
Year Three – The Lego invasion (and a soft-drinks fridge). We decided to do a monthly office-wide Lego building project. The instructions sit open on a communal table, and everyone can contribute a couple of instructions every day to allow the creation to take shape. Lots of fun, and a rest for the eyes from screens. A positive step towards a fun environment. For some reason visitors to the office automatically assume that we do no work at all once they see the Lego. A strange side-effect.
Year Four – Apple TV. An unusual year this one as it definitely did not increase productivity. The addition of an Apple TV and 55″ 4K TV to our board room meant that during the Olympics, Wimbledon and other large-scale sporting events the team could sit in the boardroom working on laptops with the event on in the background.
Year Five – Gaming. A Harry Potter themed chess set, Abalone, Exploding Kittens, Cul-de-sac and numerous other games invaded the office last year. Inspired by many staff dreaming up the idea of a boardgames cafe, we decided we could run a trial one internally first, so many lunchtimes are now consumed with complex games that take over the board-room table for days on end.
All-in-all it has been an incredible journey. The difference between the office environment today compared to 5 years ago is staggering. The team who works here actively enjoys coming to the office, its an engaging and tactile place to spend time. Those who regularly work from home fill the office with laughter when working from here, and without prompting make active attempts to work from here far more often than ever before.