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‘Instagrammable office’ trend prompts ridicule from workers

‘Y’all will do anything but pay people more,’ one person writes

Olivia Hebert
Los Angeles
Wednesday 29 November 2023 02:58 GMT
Facebook unveils Horizon Workrooms for VR remote co-working

Companies are reportedly trying to draw employees back to work in person with “Instagrammable offices.”

In an article from the New York Times, cereal company Magic Spoon spoke to the outlet about giving their office space a trendy update to try to woo workers with “envy spaces.”

Magic Spoon – introduced in 2019 – recently asked its estimated 50 employees to return in-person to their SoHo office space, requiring workers to come in at least twice a week. For the move back to the office, the company had its conference rooms designed to look and feel like cereal boxes.

“One of our core company values is, ‘Be a Froot Loop in a world of Cheerios,’” Magic Spoon co-founder Greg Sewitz told the outlet. “We wanted the office to underline that.”

The company is among many across multiple industries that have opted to lure workers with office spaces decorated with colourful walls, trendy furniture, and hip artwork – curating an office space with “plenty of opportunities to fill their social feeds with photos taken at the workplace,” according to the outlet.

Jordan Goldstein – a co-managing principal at Gensler, a world-renowned architecture firm – explained to the outlet that companies are “taking cues from home, from hospitality, from Pinterest” to make office spaces social media friendly. He noted that Gensler recently redesigned the new headquarters for Marriott to include cozy additions like banquettes, library nooks, and a tree growing through the middle of the lobby. Other projects for Barclays, LinkedIn, and Pinterest followed similar trends.

According to a Gensler survey of some 14,000 workers worldwide conducted last year, nearly 40 per cent reported that their employers redesigned their offices during the pandemic.

The interior designers behind Magic Spoon’s update are Laetitia Gorra, 41, and Sarah Needleman, 33, who work with companies via their design firm Roarke to help them figure out how to entice workers back into the office amid a growing remote work culture.

“Our pitch is very much about employee retention,” Gorra told the outlet. “We came from working on our sofas in yoga pants — what can we do to make your employees want to come back to the office?”

With a global pandemic turning everyone’s world upside down, getting things back to the way they were before is an uphill battle, but many managers and bosses have turned to investing in social media-friendly spaces to market their offices.

By pulling stunts like Google’s Lizzo concert for their workers, or even offering trendy drinks like cold brews, associate professor of communication at Cornell University, Brooke Erinn Duffy, argues to the outlet that executives believe they can retain “employees by hyping this fun, enjoyable, hyper-social workplace.”

With many social media users romanticising office life, it makes sense that employers would strive to create spaces that would spark envy rather than the existential dread of the cubicle culture of the 20th century.

But in the comment section of the New York Times Instagram post of the article, many called companies ridiculous for investing more on “Instagrammable” office spaces rather than investing in their workers.

“This is just a pizza for the new generation,” one person wrote. “Pay a liveable wage and treat people with respect and provide equity and people will want to work for you. Imagine that…”

“We just want to be able to afford a house and healthcare,” another added, while someone else commented: “Y’all will do anything but pay people more.”

One person noted that they preferred remote work because they didn’t have to deal with long commutes, writing: “What’s Instagrammable are all of the things people can do when they’re not spending 8 hours each week commuting for no reason.” Another added, “We just want to work from home, this is cringe.”

The snarky comment section is largely reflective of how many employees feel about return-to-office policies, according to a study from NORC at the University of Chicago. The study reportedly found that 55 per cent of hybrid employees reported that they would feel more incentivised to work in-person if they were paid more.

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