Monday, July 29, 2013
Coming to a business like Shoes of Prey as a Marketing Intern is not the same as interning at a larger but more lethargic company where one could end up making tea for the guy that gets the coffee. You're thrown into the deep end and told to swim and as such it's a daunting, as well as exhilarating, experience. Enter the ping pong table. Without the office table tennis table, a forum over which I have gotten to know and love the team at Shoes of Prey, it would've been a very steep learning curve indeed and I might not be here now as a full employee. We play ping pong after lunch and when we're working late or on weekends, and log the results on racquet.io (checkout Shoes of Prey's leaderboard here). It helps you clear your head and get to know people in the same way that anyone who has played team sport in the past would recognise. As the Shoes of Prey team has grown from the three founders to a team of nearly 50, the risk of losing that shared excitement and intimacy has grown too. The table tennis table acts as an antidote to the humdrum experienced by many working for monolithic corporations and helps maintain the passion felt for the company.
In a more general sense the introduction of things such as table tennis tables and other entertainment based office instalments form part of a bigger trend in the business community. The incorporation of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep Pods at Google, Ship-It Days at Atlassian and the 'pong table' at Shoes of Prey are actually symptoms of a recently prevailing willingness to give employees flexibility and happiness in the workplace. Research by John Helliwell at the University of British Columbia suggests that employees value interesting work and autonomy over income and the opportunity of promotion. Similarly, Sam Glucksberg proved using a variation of the 'Candle Problem' experiment that greater scope for creativity in a working actually produces better lateral thinking and productivity than monetary incentives. Dan Pink put it during his TED talk that traditional management works to achieve compliance. Yet in a firm like Shoes of Prey and indeed in the wider 21st century business landscape success is less about compliance, due to the introduction of automation and technology, and more about ingenuity. Obviously the presence of a ping pong table itself does not change creativity or productivity, but it is symptomatic of an approach to management that is based on autonomy and happiness. An approach that economists now consider to be good business as well as good fun.
At Shoes of Prey the first question on the 360 feedback form is “How well does this employee passionately create happiness around the office?”. In line with this, the table tennis table is a great way to promote a happy office environment. A successful start-up team needs cohesion and morale even more than a normal corporation due to the high stakes involved in the start-up industry. As a result, mediums for raising the enjoyment of a workplace like the ping pong table and team building exercises like dragon boat racing (which we also participated in at the 2013 NSW Corporate Games) are great ways of inspiring passion in a working environment. In terms of employee attendance there is no doubt that the majority of companies are able to coax their employees to work. However, the method by which a company does this is just as important as the mere fact that they can, because if people are at work because they're passionate then they will deliver exponentially more than because they are there just to draw a pay-check.
Posted by Patrick McKeon at 5:31 PM