A common refrain from startups is that they are operating in the “pre-revenue” phase. While this is a well-understood starting point in Silicon Valley, what it ultimately means is that the company’s business model is currently unsustainable.
This means they often must rely on equity-based compensation packages, with even those taking a salary not getting sky-high rates. There is an expectation that workers are all part of a shared struggle that will later pay off when the startup hits a critical mass, receives seed funding or is bought out by a major company.
At the same time, a good business idea alone isn’t always enough to earn the buy-in of employees. This is a key reason why startups specialize in offering fun perks and generally making the startup office a place where people want to spend their time. Given the competition for talent out there today, curating an appealing environment is mandatory. The following represent some of the key ways to design an startup office where people will want to work.
Rule one: Never skimp on desk chairs. Workers who have back pain will not perform at their best, and the related long-term productivity losses will far outweigh any meager savings on cheap seats and desks. Worst of all would be setting someone up to develop carpal tunnel syndrome or other musculoskeletal issues.
Beyond this obvious point, you should also equip the startup office with some common areas that have comfortable seating. You don’t have to go overboard with colossal bean bag chairs or a ball pit. But have some nice, comfy chairs and sofas so that people can put their feet up and relax when they take their breaks. While serenity should be the driving force, it can be a good idea to allow some music to be played in this area. Additionally, if space permits, you can also set up a secondary downtime location with a television that shows big sporting events or has a video game system. This way employees have a place to simply relax and somewhere more active to blow off a little steam.
Startups are famous, and often mocked, for having pool tables, kegerators, video game stations and other downtime entertainment options. While these are not necessarily bad, be sure to offer the basics first. Because people will likely not be earning huge sums, this should start with a fully outfitted kitchen. Have a nice, safe setup for cooking with good cookware and utensils to use.
If someone is staying until 10 p.m., they should feel empowered to make a nice, healthy meal rather than ordering out — which also means you want to provide tons of fridge space so that people can store groceries. And if it’s possible, include amenities that promote good eating habits, such as a juicer, free fruit and various varieties of yogurt.
Every employee wants to feel safe. This is doubly true if they will be expected to work long hours and might be leaving the startup office after dark. This means you must have secure doors, windows and even places inside the office where belongings can be stored for days at a time if necessary.
The neighbourhood is very important to cultivate a sense of safety as well, and even if the surroundings are tranquil, it is a good idea to have reliable security surveillance cameras. The key is to heighten security through video monitoring while not making workers feel like they are trapped in an episode of Big Brother.
Designing for Success
Ultimately, there is no limit to the things you can use to improve the ambience of an office. If there are regional cultural considerations — like an outdoor BBQ area in the South or an outdoor basketball hoop in Indiana — these are always a good idea.
But before you start adding nice-to-haves but nonessentials, make sure you nail the basics. More than anything, people want to work somewhere that is pleasant, comfortable, allows for a healthy lifestyle and is secure.
If you get these right, you will be well on your way to creating a place where employees will want to work. And if people want to be there, your company has a much greater chance of growing beyond that pre-revenue stage to become a true success.