Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

In the hippest workplaces, no one is tied to their desk

Trade Me staff members (from left) Pete Soldini, Hannah Martin and Kitty Song on the slide between the first and ground floors of their Wellington office. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Trade Me staff members (from left) Pete Soldini, Hannah Martin and Kitty Song on the slide between the first and ground floors of their Wellington office. Photo / Mark Mitchell

From his desk at the offices of online auction site Trade Me, Daniel Bridges can see a slide, a pool table and two scooters.

He reckons playing pool a couple of times a day helps him stay in the office and focused on his job.

"I love work," he says.

Trade Me is among a growing number of New Zealand companies taking on board the philosophy that a fun workplace equals happy workers and higher productivity.

Trade Me's chief executive Jon Macdonald said he tried to provide a place that staff enjoyed coming to.

"We're providing a unique culture where everyone is very approachable, it's easy to talk to people, it's easy to make sure things get done rather than things getting mired in bureaucracy."

Rod Drury, who is the chief executive of the online accounting software company Xero, said having a creative and relaxed workspace was becoming more prevalent in "techy" companies.

"That's what people expect - they expect to have a nice kitchen and a place to play a bit of table tennis and good surroundings."

GrabOne chief executive Vaughan Magnusson said the staff were given latitude, but were expected to work hard and produce quality results.

"The average person here would say it was a good place to work and a fun place to work."

The average age of staff working at the company is 32 and Mr Magnusson said young people expected a bit more from their workplaces.

Research from Google and Deloittes has found flexible IT policies, such as allowing staff to bring their own devices to work, to work from home, and to use social media, are key to employee satisfaction.

People who were happy with their workplace IT were a third less likely to leave their company than those who were unhappy, the study found.

Google is famous for its stimulating work environment and the internet giant's Australian operation is a showcase of fun where employees can take naps, play games, use social media and work from home.

Registered psychologist Sara Chatwin, of MindWorks, said that in order for a relaxed environment to work, there had to be the right team.

"The big issue is finding the things that make employees feel good about themselves so they can be relaxed, so they can produce the goods and work well and efficiently within that environment."

Flexible IT solutions and allowing people to work from home was a great policy, especially for people with families, Ms Chatwin said.

But she said measures needed to be put in place to ensure employees were "working and not shirking".

Auckland recruitment consultant at OCG Carol Delamore said relaxed workplaces seemed to be more prevalent in the technical industry.

"It depends where they spend their money, I suppose, so if you are a manufacturing company, you put all your money into the manufacturing plant and probably a good cafe for your staff."

But Richard Motet, a consultant for Business Psychology, said the practice of providing games and toys in the work environment was "a lot of rubbish".

"The idea of turning a workplace into a playground is 20th century mentality." New Zealand was a small country that needed to operate globally and staff needed to focus on their jobs, he said.


Workplace toys

Xero
• Internal social networking site
• Table tennis
• Staff barista
• Foosball table
Guitar Hero game

Trade Me
• Slide
• Space invader machines
• Scooters
• Foosball table
• Pool table

Grab One
• Golf set
• Games machines

Google
• Sleep pods
• Cocoon-like work pods
• Pool tables
• Table tennis
• Guitar

(GrabOne is owned by APN, which publishes the Weekend Herald)

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 13 Jul 2014 17:36:14 Processing Time: 977ms