What is it with tech companies and snazzy digs?
Having lived through the dot-com bust in Seattle, I can tell you that then, you couldn't give office furniture way. At a school cleanup day, one dad, who owned a rapidly growing chain of muffler-repair shops, told us he still used the same beat-up desk he started with, but once tech companies had a little success, they bought upscale furniture. We saw what happened with that.
Fast-forward more than a dozen years and startups are looking at innovative office designs as a recruiting tool, according to Bloomberg. It says vacation-rental startup Airbnb has incorporated a tree house into its San Francisco headquarters, as well the side of a plane fuselage and conference rooms that replicate apartments in New York, Hong Kong and Berlin. Online storage startup Dropbox favors copper surfaces and installed a mural composed of 23,000 Ping-Pong balls.
It's not enough to have a great office to entice people for great hiring, you actually have to have a great office just to entice them to come into the office. If they see no difference between working from the living room or working from the office, they'll just work from the living room and you'll lose some collaboration potential.
Indeed, one of CEO Meg Whitman's strategies to improve collaboration at HP is to move top execs out of their swanky offices and sit them side-by-side in cubicles. Dave Donatelli, head of the newly created Enterprise Group, in an interview at All Things Digital, danced around a question about that, saying, "Anything that promotes more communication is a good thing."
But if you are on Glassdoor.com, you'll find some folks complaining about having to work in the open floorplans that startups tend to favor. And my colleague Ann All a while back quoted Dan Keldsen, chief innovation officer at Information Architected Inc.,saying:
There's no single workspace design that fits everyone's needs. Not in the physical world, not in the virtual world. Collaboration needs/wants can change hundreds of times a day, so don't expect open office spaces to be the solution any more than you'd expect corner offices and cubicles to be.
I have a hard time imagining that office decor would be a big factor in a job candidate's decision to accept or reject an offer. Yet lavish spending on decor can prevent companies from being able to hire the people they need to be successful.
And lavish plans can take on a life of their own. Just ask Salesforce.com, which earlier this year dropped plans for an opulent campus in San Francisco after the projected price tag topped $2 billion, according to Reuters. Even so, the company is expected to operate in the red this year and next.
What do you think? Would spiffy decor influence your decision to take a job?