Pixar, Google Zurich and Rackspace have fitted out their premises in such a way as to stimulate employee creativity. Here is an introduction.
Within a company, interior architecture can have an effect not only on mood but also employee creativity. Several lessons can be learned from specific examples.
Pixar’s bathrooms located centrally
The success of the Pixar animation studies is the stuff of dreams. Since 1995, they have produced nearly fifteen computer-generated full-length films. Each film has generated revenue of over USD 350 million. This result is due in large part to the inventiveness of this company, which was created in 1979 as a division of Lucasfilm, George Lucas’ production company, to develop computerized special effects. Pixar did not actually become an independent company until 1986, with help from Steve Jobs in particular.
To stimulate employee creativity, Pixar introduced a series of innovative refurbishments of its premises, designed to encourage the sharing of ideas and interaction between employees from different departments.
First of all, everyone – IT analysts, scriptwriters and animators – works in the same building, an old fruit cocktail canning factory north of Oakland, California. Second, the central point of the building is a large airy space. This is home to employee mailboxes, meeting rooms, a cafeteria, a gift shop and the only bathrooms in the building. This is one way of encouraging chance meetings and impromptu discussions, because everyone goes to this central point at least once a day. Third, the Pixar campus has 11 bars to promote exchanges in an informal, relaxed setting.
Google Zurich’s slides
Google’s offices, located worldwide, are generally considered to provide the model interior architecture to promote creativity. Google's base in London has three open spaces with non-allocated work spaces, where engineers can come and work as they wish. Along the walls, there are more intimates spaces – small rooms closed off with a curtain, with sofas and large cushions – for group discussions. But employees can also meet in more formal meeting rooms closed off with glass panels. In the middle of the corridors, there are small white stools for impromptu conversations.
In Zurich, where Google has its second largest research center after the one in the US, the atmosphere is similar. Colleagues who want to clear their heads – several scientific studies suggest that breaks help stimulate creativity – have access to video game consoles, pool tables, a gym, a massage area or a garden. They are also allowed to spend 20% of their working hours on a personal project.
The decor of a new building opened in 2011 is particularly bold: a reproduction of the Saint-Gothard railway tunnel, a jungle, igloos, old telephone kiosks and slides between floors. It's plenty to stimulate employee imagination and perhaps encourage them to spend more time at work.
There are white-boards on the walls everywhere, to be used for improvised ideas. Employees are not lacking in space to relax either: each work station is no more than 33 meters from a cafeteria. All food is free.
Rackspace’s home away from home
Other companies have chosen to make their premises look like home. The divide between home and work is blurred, with the aim of giving employees a feeling of comfort and well-being stimulating their creativity.
Rackspace, an American cloud computing company, recently opened an office in London where each floor recreates a particular room. The ground floor is the garage and features a Mini and brick walls. Another floor is decorated like a living room, with leather sofas and a fireplace. There is also a garden level, with artificial grass and swings.
Along the same lines, the British company Innocent Drinks, which sells fruit juices, allows its employees to wear shorts and go barefoot at work. Its offices have artificial grass and are filled with plants.