If you’ve ever worked in a dreary office, you know the feeling of being uninspired. The route from the front door to your desk feels sterile and rehearsed. The carpet looks the same. Your cubicle looks the same. Your neighboring co-worker has a new pair of shoes, maybe a new screensaver, but otherwise little has changed. Tuesday is a lot like Monday. Wednesday is a lot like Tuesday. Suffice to say, this kind of workplace does not inspire the “go-for it” approach to innovation modern companies are striving to foster among their employees.
With more and more studies linking play and performance, executives at companies like Box, Ogilvy and Mather, Red Bull, and Google are banking on indoor slides to boost employee creativity and productivity and create opportunities for socialization. It turns out the same sort of risk-taking and independence slides foster in children can promote these tendencies in adults. That’s part of the reason the Norwalk-based cybersecurity and data back-up firm Datto recently added two, two-story, spiraling steel tube slides to their Rochester office, joining a growing number of tech firms, design studios, media companies who have refreshed their offices with similar gestures.
Tricia Bailey, senior project director at Connecticut-based CPG Architects, who was closely involved with the slide’s design and installation, says corporations are also looking to slides as an antidote to digital fatigue. “On a human level, as we grow more and more dependent on technology, we’re going to need to create some balance to do something other than working on computers. Having these features that require creative thinking and hands-on engagement is becoming more popular and companies and people are seeing the benefits.”
The stainless steel slides are part of a large, multi-story interior build out completed in September 2018. Rigid, durable, and able to withstand long-term use by adults, they complement the vibrant contemporary look of a refurbished office interior that includes a reception area, conference rooms, and amenity space with a café and video game room. An illuminated wall in the café modeled after the children’s peg game, Lite Bright, allows employees create neon-lit words and shapes. Each of these features, Bailey says, is designed to help employees decompress and refocus their attention.
Andris Silins, operations manager at Datto, says employees whisk down the slides daily, but it’s even more of draw for visiting clients. “No one expects to walk into an office and see a slide. It’s intriguing for visiting guests, especially for a global business that sees visitors from around the world.”
Datto’s slides were designed to site specifications and custom built in Germany before being transported to the United States. “We worked with Goric extensively on the diameter of the opening, the height of corkscrew twists, and entry and exit points,” Bailey says. “We were mindful that it wasn’t for young kids; it was for an adult-sized human. We wanted to make sure we could get as generous as we could with the space available.”
Installed near a stairwell and structural support beam, the two slides, with entrances at floors 14 and 13, each wind to an exit landing on the floor beneath them. A blue-paneled screen based on Datto’s brand color concept cleanly separates the slides from the staircase.
Office slides, of course, are not created equally. Business Insider recently ranked Google’s top ten slides, illustrating how design intent, size, and materials make a big difference in employee perception and use. While Datto’s slide is visually stunning and well-integrated into the workspace, other examples are less successful—more for show than substance. Plastic slides, though popular, offer limited shape and size flexibility. They also create static and interfere with cochlear implants. And there are certainly times when it is not a good idea to ride a slide during the business day—for instance, when travelling to a meeting with a laptop.
But, for Silins, having slides in the office has served as a powerful expression of Datto’s playful, enthusiastic work culture. Prospective job candidates view them as a signal the company is invested in the well-being of its employees. And for those on staff and their little ones, it lightens the mood. “My kids love going down it when I bring them to work. They want to do it again and again,” Silins says.