For most of us, the office is a place which might be generously described as uninspired; where the only respite from drab carpets, polystyrene tiling and fluorescent strip-lighting takes the form of wilting spider plants and framed photos of other people's toothless children. It is a sorry state of affairs. Furthermore, according to Kursty Groves, an innovation consultant who works with company leaders to "unlock [the] creative potential" of their staff, dreary working environments are having an adverse effect on businesses worldwide.
For the past year, Groves has been trawling the offices of some of the most successful companies in the world. En route she's unearthed a technicolour parallel universe where workspaces consist of tree-lined boulevards, Marimekko bean bags and relaxation tanks, which she has now brought together in a new book I Wish I Worked There!. As well as showcasing some envy-inducing workplaces, the book explores the relationship between the working environment and corporate productivity.
At the London offices of the ingeniously-marketed smoothie brand Innocent, there's a room stuffed with free-hanging wicker basket chairs and sofas, as well as a floor lined with grass, where employees are encouraged to go barefoot and feel the blades run between their toes. Designers at the Oregon headquarters of Nike can let off steam by taking a spin on the onsite world-class running track or with a quick dip in the Olympic-sized swimming pool, while the leading financial website Bloomberg recommends its employees break up their day with a period of reflection in one of its meditation zones.
And in order to avoid staff boredom (heaven forbid), at Google's Zurich branch, meetings take place not in a boardroom but in colourful pods – genuine reclaimed Antarctic expedition igloos, no less. Here, stairs are deemed an unnecessary waste of time, so in an exercise in efficiency, staff slide down a fireman's pole to get to the floor below. And if it all still gets too much, the overwrought employee can "chillax" in the water lounges – darkened rooms with a choice between a free-standing bath filled with foam blocks, a chaise longue, or a massage chair, surrounded by a series of aquariums, which are designated no-phone zones.
As if that's not enough to inspire, the IT support team in the same Zurich office operate from a beach-style bar, and individual Swiss-themed ski chalets, complete with window boxes and red-chequered curtains, the place where you can make private calls and work quietly on your own. Meanwhile, their colleagues working at Google's Mountain View in California can enjoy a picnic at lunchtime on the company's extensive, picture-perfect lawns under a full-scale replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Need to have a work meeting? Step inside one of the indoor stand-alone yurts, insulated with recycled denim.
And if you were wondering about the all-important question of playtime, then you'll be pleased to hear that in the California office there are two roof-top infinity pools for staff to kick-back in. Those who work in the more confined space of the company's New York office, on the other hand, have to content themselves with a split-level loft room linked by slides, lined with a graffiti wall. And if you enjoy quad-biking, then consider working for sunglasses emporium Oakley, which has its own dedicated track.
But apart from all the fun, one might wonder what's really in it for the employees. Quite a lot actually, says Groves. At all of the 38 offices showcased in her book, the morale and productivity of the staff is in a different league to those she met working out of the more traditional, melamine-clad workstations.
Groves' book concludes that providing a stimulating environment filled with extensive leisure facilities and areas for relaxation is key to creating a more profitable business. So now you know exactly what to buy your boss for Christmas.
'I Wish I Worked There!' by Kursty Groves, published by Wiley, £39.99Reuse content