There has been a shift in how companies think about both physical workspaces and company culture. Creating the right mix of a productive and collaborative workplace with a culture that harmoniously fits the needs of the company goals and its employees can be a challenge. Generally, corporate offices are not labor-intensive mills, but rather collaboration centers where individuals and groups can develop their best ideas and then action on them at scale. When companies are looking to build-out an office, that effort requires a whole new approach extending beyond the four walls. Office-based amenities can help attract and retain talented candidates, but people are also attracted to the culture of the office, which should foster collaborative efforts and shift the paradigm of work being a laborious task to something that mixes and creates a workplace where fun and professionalism meet.

The ideal office environment should combine technology with culture so people can work productively and proactively while escaping the outdated 'cube mentality'. In today's ever-changing corporate landscape, what defines a work place is less about the physical location of where work takes place and more about how the work gets done.

Playing to a New Generation

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The layout and floor plan of an office is just a piece of the puzzle. The expectations associated with the office are more important. That old school office mentality of clocking in at 9 and punching out at 5 has become a thing of the past. Gone are the days where people want to spend 8+ hour work days with their heads down at a cubicle going in-and-out of mundane meetings about meetings. Over the past decade, the office matrix has changed immensely. The modern office manager understands that allowing employees and teams a healthy mix of remote work capabilities is essential to getting the most out of in-office time, which remains extremely valuable for many companies. One lasting obstacle for companies to overcome is the expectations of a new generation of the workforce. The current generation, composed largely of Millenials are uniquely trained to be tech-savvy, which allows them to automatically multi-task, delegate, and collaborate.

However, there's a catch -- whereas Millenials are conditioned to collaborate, there's a large segment of workers who opt for a more maverick approach to work and instead take an independent route to completing work. That being said, trends continue to reinforce the notion that Millennials enjoy and depend on collaboration, team-based work projects, and an unstructured flow of information at all levels.(Gartner Research

Naturally, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers prioritize job security and consistency in their work structure, while Millennials strive for employability and flexibility by expressing a desire to always add to their skill-sets and apply learned skills in meaningful and impactful ways. The modern employee understands there's more to work than the paycheck. Personal and professional growth along with the flexibility to work from anywhere are priorities. In fact, a recent Mercer study (in Nekuda, 2015) found that the top three career priorities for Millennials were compensation (most Millennials graduate from college with an average of $40,000 in debt), flexible work schedules, and the opportunity to collaborate with others to make a viable difference.

Game On

One approach that companies are taking to increase productivity and foster collaboration in the workplace is through gaming. In new building layouts, it's quite common to see a game room or recreation space on the blueprint. According to How Playing Games Increases Workplace Productivity, which discusses the benefits of game-play in the office, TechnologyAdvice.com "compiled research on how games impact the brain, and it looks like the easiest way to increase productivity is not providing more vacation, bigger paychecks, or improved benefits. Instead, you should encourage your employees to play more games!"

It has been found that games impact and affect the brain to boost motivation, help improve memory and time-management, and build collaborative skills between individuals and teams.

Culture Clash

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When CenturyLink acquired Tier 3, an eclectic clash of an old school TELCO mentality mashed with a hip start-up culture. The outcome? Three newly-modeled offices that foster collaboration, productivity, and gaming! The culture shift took the company towards the future in both innovation and culture. All day meetings, PowerPoint presentations, and impersonal email threads dwindled as a more Agile-centric workflow emerged. Now, employees collaborate over lunch, a game of Pinball, or via Slack in their team room or on their mobile device to complete work. All of this allows for the teams to build and deliver products and services at scale.

It's quite common to walk down the halls of the CenturyLink Development Center and have a team member whiz by on a scooter, or witness an intensive dart game between members of a software development team. What may seem, at first glance, to be an adult playground, is actually an infrastructure for productivity to escape the cube. If you listen to the conversations around the old-school arcade game, you'll often hear a team walking through a brain-storming activity or exchanging ideas about how to navigate a road block on a project. In essence, the game room is the new conference room. The best part -- the collaboration is not forced. No one is staring at the clock on the wall. Organic and authentic conversations between colleagues and teams carryover to the team rooms where employees are revitalized and inspired by the gaming/collaboration break and are ready get back to attacking the code block. Walking down the hallways, you'll see white boards that aren't so white -- they're filled with ideas and written content geared to educate and inform.

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