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Are Company Workspaces Trying Too Hard?

From tube slides in the middle of the office to using capsized boats as sofas, innovative companies are trying to make their workplaces more fun and "playful." But scanning the photos begs the question: are companies trying just a little bit too hard?

A article tells us how innovative employers are creating "fantasylands" for their employees that are sort of like small versions of Disneyland. Companies from LEGO to Zynga to Google are taking the concept of the "playful workplace" to the extreme. And by playful, think being a kid again with ball-shaped pillows, swings, jungle gyms, blank canvases for finger painting -- you name it. Juice boxes and fruit roll-ups are not included. Or maybe they are? I don't know. I just hope there's Ibuprofen, because the glow tunnel would give me a headache.

These "playful workplace" designs are meant to spur employee creativity and innovation, of course. Maybe I'm getting old, but using a tube slide to get to the accounting department to turn in my overtime hours isn't my idea of a good time. Call me old-fashioned, but I'll take the stairs instead. Hey, I'm all for fun, attractive work environments (give me a Foosball table any day and some whimsical artwork in vibrant, primary colors!) but as a parent of young kids, I already get enough "park time" as it is, standing at the bottom of the tube slide telling my kids that slides are supposed to be for sliding down, not climbing up. And where are your shoes!?

No, I want an office to look decidedly office-y, like it's strictly for grown-ups doing grown-up, creative things. I can skip the glow tunnels and finger painting, thank you -- and I like to think I'm a fairly creative person working in a fairly creative field. It seems like it's just gotten way too easy for companies to go over the top with office design, not unlike creating a sense of forced frivolity through planned employee activities or wearing Wedding Uggs. There can be a fine line, office design-wise, between coming off as Audrey Hepburn vs. Lady Gaga. One catches the eye with an understated sense of fun and sophistication, while the other smacks of trying just a little bit too hard to grab our attention.

I'm not totally convinced these "playful workplaces" actually lead to greater creativity and innovation, either. (If you have hard numbers, I'd love to see them.)

But maybe the finger painting is on the wall, because USA Today tells us today how the office is shrinking thanks to (who else?) the Millennials who think they don't need desks anymore. But they sure do want the corner office, don't they? Ugh.


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