Architects have long suspected that office environments affect employee productivity. Working in a badly lit basement lab in Pittsburgh in the 1950s, biologist Jonas Salk found that he was unable to successfully develop a cure for polio. Then inspiration struck when he spent some time contemplating the issue in the beautiful surrounds of a medieval monastery in Assisi, Italy – and Salk went on to develop a polio vaccine.
More recently, neuroscientists have found links between mental performance and factors like the height of the ceiling, the view of the outside world, and the amount of natural light available. Design definitely matters.
What's more, modern office designers have taken notice, and powerful companies like Google are ensuring that their office spaces are filled with fun elements and inspiring designs that actively encourage creativity and co-operation. As Google AdWords coordinator Lindsay Stradley says, "The way the office is set up, it's almost impossible not to work as a team." And what could make the once dreary work environment more fun than a giant slide? Here's a look at 10 incredible office slides from around the world.
10. AWeber Communications – Philadelphia, USA
Email marketing software company AWeber Communications installed not one but two slides in its Philadelphia office. The fast-growing company opened the new office on December 5, 2012, and it certainly looks cool. The company's management stress the importance of hard work, but they remind staff to have fun as well. In fact, one of their five core values is, "Don't Take Ourselves Too Seriously; Have Fun."
AWeber's Director of Education Marketing, Justin Premick, says that the new office "really raises the bar on design, innovation, fun and everything else that makes AWeber what we are."
But that's not all. According to a study by Simon Chan, from Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Department of Management and Marketing, a fun workplace can help retain staff. Even if your company isn't turning over millions of dollars, it makes sense to try and add little design touches and entertaining perks to keep employees cheerful in the office.
9. Google – Tel Aviv, Israel
Google's Tel Aviv office opened in December 2012. Designed by Swiss architectural firm Camenzind Evolution, with input from Israeli designers Studio Yaron Tal and Setter Architects, the space is like a stylish, sophisticated playground.
The office occupies eight floors of the illustrious Electra Tower in downtown Tel Aviv, and each level was designed to represent a different facet of Israeli culture. The slide pictured above drops riders straight into a beach-themed computer lab. It's a playful touch that complements the creative feel of its surroundings.
Google's "Campus Tel Aviv" is located on one of the floors of the building. It's a free hub for entrepreneurs, developers and, ultimately, start-up companies, and it was personally opened by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
8. Corus Entertainment – Toronto, Canada
Corus Entertainment is one of the largest media companies in Canada, producing radio programs, television, children's entertainment and more. The company's new headquarters is located in the appropriately magnificent Corus Quay building in Toronto, Ontario – and guess what's turning heads? Whee!
Toronto Economic Development Corporation (TEDCO) helped fund and develop the project, which was finished in 2010. The interior was designed by renowned creative team Quadrangle Architects Limited and features this gracefully spiralling, three-story slide for employees to enjoy. The Corus Quay slide allows users to plunge down to the bottom of the building in a matter of seconds. And the office also boasts a five-story "living wall" of vegetation, which gives the building a greener, more organic feel.
7. YouTube – San Bruno, USA
YouTube's head office in San Bruno, California is definitely environmentally friendly: it's LEED Platinum-certified and features a "living roof" of vegetation. The online video-sharing giant is one of the city's top employers, and the office is home to a three-lane slide – perfect for lunchtime "who's-the-fastest-slider" challenges.
Google, YouTube's parent company, describes its office culture as "transparent and collaborative, with a go-for-it approach to innovation." This shiny slide certainly adds to the energetic feel, with employees able to whiz down between floors in the blink of an eye.
The location also boasts a climbing wall, a putting green, and a nine-hole Frisbee golf course. And such entertaining features and amenities contribute to Google's reputation for openness and creativity – not to mention the company's quirky approach to office design.
6. Ogilvy & Mather – Jakarta, Indonesia
Advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather recently merged its assorted Jakarta offices to take up two floors of the city's 28-story Sentral Senaya III building. Worldwide interior architectural company M Moser Associates fitted out the offices, aiming to create a soothing, inspiring environment for employees. In the words of M Moser Project leader Ramesh Subramanium, stepping into the reception area is like "walking into a spa in Bali." He believes that, after dealing with all the stresses of the city, employees can enter the building, relax and feel calm.
The office incorporates various kinds of creative spaces, including open environments, segregated nooks, and a multipurpose area for everything from dining to intimate discussions. The slide placed alongside the steps in the meeting area adds to the carefree feel of the environment – and allows employees to move quickly between the floors.
5. iSelect – Melbourne, Australia
The Melbourne office of iSelect, a private health insurance company, almost looks more like an oversized, adult kindergarten than a regular office space. Created by architects V Arc, the office was designed to inspire creative ideas.
Besides the slide pictured above – which drops users directly into a ball pit – the office features cosy-looking sleep pods, a quiet room, sun hammocks that look out onto the ocean, a soccer field, massage areas, and a running track. The workplace also has a few unusual meeting areas, including a circular space (somewhat ominously) known as the "interrogation room."
iSelect's website describes the office as "fun, cutting edge, maybe a little quirky, certainly original" and states that its work environment encourages a healthy career-life balance.
4. Red Bull – London, UK
This steep-looking slide is located in the Red Bull offices in Soho, London. Architects Jump Studios decked out the office and designed the slide to run alongside a floating staircase – which makes going up or down just as much fun.
A twisting carbon-fiber element runs through the building from top to bottom. This is intended to remind people of the marks and skids left by race cars, skateboards, bikes and stunt planes. And naturally this reflects Red Bull's focus on extreme sports as an essential part of its business. Director of Jump Studios Simon Jordan calls the design an "open, efficient, dynamic and connected workspace."
According to an official Jump Studios write-up, the office design was intended to generate "adrenalin and a sense of dynamic excitement, emotions associated with the Red Bull brand and its various activities."
3. The LEGO Group – Billund, Denmark
The LEGO Group's corporate headquarters in Billund, Denmark features a gracefully curved slide. Copenhagen-based studio Rosan Bosch designed the office, aiming to create a light-hearted and fun environment that would foster creativity – hence the slide. Bold colors are used throughout the building, which, of course, is scattered with LEGO toys. And using bright decor is in itself an interesting idea, as studies have shown that moving away from boring office colors can make employees more productive as well as improve their moods.
A variety of worktables – some with built in bonsai trees – together with model-construction areas and meeting spaces allow employees to work either individually or with their colleagues. The office also includes three more generously sized meeting areas for larger gatherings. Designtaxi.com describes the site as an "inspiring office that brings a child's fantasy to life" – which is bound to make it a very creative place for LEGO employees.
2. Electric Works – Sheffield, UK
Referred to as a "helter-skelter," this intimidating-looking slide is located inside the Electric Works office building in Sheffield, which opened in 2009. Currently, it's the biggest permanent indoor office slide in the UK. The 87-foot-long installation can zoom employees down three floors in a mere seven seconds – which must be more productive than taking the stairs.
Designer Toby Hyam says that the slide is "a statement about risk-taking." He also claims that the unusual feature will make meetings at the building unforgettable. The slide was built by German company Wiegandslide (which also made slides used in Carsten HÃ¶ller's Test Site Tate Modern installation, see below) and was funded by a partnership between Yorkshire Forward, the Scarborough Development Group and the Sheffield Council.
Office manager Deborah Walsh adds, "I think the helter-skelter is a brilliant idea and we will constantly have people moving in and moving out, so there will always be somebody new to try it."
1. Tate Modern – London, UK
These five incredible looking slides, collectively known as Test Site, were created by Belgian artist Carsten HÃ¶ller and were displayed at the Tate Modern art gallery in London from October 2006 to April 2007. Sponsored by Unilever, the installation really showcased the aesthetic possibilities of indoor slides, and while they're technically not in an office, we're sure they can still prove inspirational for many employees.
HÃ¶ller was especially interested in capturing the "inner spectacle" experienced by the sliders, which has been described as a combination of "delight and anxiety." (And a bit of extra delight in the workplace can only be a good thing.) Visitors could get on the slides from different floors in the building – presumably depending on what level of thrill they were seeking.
Previously, HÃ¶ller installed similar slides in other sites, such as the Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, to express the same aesthetic. His recent work includes a project called Soma, which consisted of installing a dozen live reindeer in Berlin's onetime railway station, Hamburger Bahnhof.