Friday, April 11, 2014

How We Created Our Own Google-Like Workspace

San Diego Picnic People Employee Event Vistage
Everyone wants to work at Google right?  They have the coolest work environment around.  So how do you create a Google-like workplace?

And how do you incorporate it in a way that actually changes and enhances your employee culture in a positive way?

Well, we set out to do just that.  The planning took a total of 5 months but the culmination and results have been almost instant and amazing.

Here's our story:

1.  Plan - We are very lucky that it was actually our CEO who wanted to do this and really championed this project.  He gave us (a select few - 3 people) ownership and freedom to make decisions within a set budget, and we planned every last detail.  I originally got quotes from some professional designers, but in the end, we decided that we could save a lot of money and do it ourselves.

2.  My Happiness Project - We wanted the space to truly reflect our employees and make it feel like it was theirs instantly.  I had to do this in a way that would not ruin the ultimate surprise, so I came up with My Happiness Project.  I started a discussion on our intranet.  I did not make it complicated.  I just stated that I was looking for inspiration and knew that many of our employees did wonderful things outside our company walls AND I wanted to hear about all those great passions and hobbies.  So I asked them to share with me what makes them happy and encouraged them to post pictures on my discussion thread.  I let them know that my goal was to collect 50 project pieces by the end of the month.  And it worked.  The request really resonated with people and reading about what makes them happy did, in fact, make me really happy :)  Plus, I received a ton of pictures that I was able to go get printed and some even blown up to be put on canvas.  This was a really nice touch that we received a lot of compliments on later.  The employees loved seeing photos of themselves on the wall.  It made it really special.

3.  Integrating It With Our Culture -  We had to make sure that the space was going to be used and that the managers would actually support their employees' usage of it.  It would do no good to change the space and not the culture.  So we planned a surprise event for the grand unveiling.  No one but the CEO, HR and a couple others knew about the whole thing.  Three of us spent the weekend transforming the space.  Even our CEO stopped by, bought us lunch, and put himself to work for 3-4 hours.  On Monday morning, I sent out a meeting request to headquarters for a "Record Year Celebration in Williams' Hall."  We had blocked off the entire area so no one could see it.  We had also hired Picnic People to help us transform the space even further.  We had carnival games with raffle tickets for prizes, a caricaturist, a tarot card reader, two massage therapists, cotton candy, popcorn machine, cookie decorating, a lunch buffet, AND of course, the AMAZING NEW SPACE which included a flat screen TV, couch, giant bean bag, framed photos, a board of employee pictures (from the Happiness project), ping pong table, foosball table, Xbox, and the Wii among other fun items.  The icing on the cake came when our CEO announced that everyone was also going to receive 2 Disneyland tickets for having such a great fiscal year!  Who does this?!  It was amazing, and for our remote employees, we sent them carnival-themed baskets of gourmet treats, as well as a $200 American Express Gift Card to spend on something fun.  We wanted them to feel included so we brought a mini-celebration to them.

Fast-forward less than a week, and it is almost like a dream come true.  I walk by there at least a couple times a day, and every time there is at least one or two people using the space.  It always makes me feel good inside to see that the space is being used.  The executives are leading by example and challenging employees to ping pong tournaments and having their team meetings in the space.  People are bringing up their laptops and just chilling while getting work done.  It is truly wonderful and so rewarding to see.

Do you wish you had a Google-like workspace?  How do you make your employee culture fun?  I know not everyone can do this on such a large scale, but you can always make someone feel special.  And even with the just the happiness project, I received a lot of compliments.  Anybody can start one of those.  Why not you?  I challenge you to go out and make someone smile today and everyday that you can :)

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