Hack To The Future: Amping Up The Traditional Office

While not every facilities team can implement these five office hacks to jazz up their spaces, take them as inspiration.

By Larry Gadea

Your office doesn’t have to be boring, but it probably is. As soon as someone walks into your facility they get a first impression of your company. They might be thinking it’s modern, innovative, and cutting-edge. Or, more likely, they are thinking, “I’m prepared to be bored.” But, this isn’t true everywhere. In fact, some places build fun and innovation into all kinds of things that used to be dull and traditional. Through these office hacks, facilities can foster productivity and amp up the fun factor.

I have been an engineer for most of my life, and have worked for Google and then Twitter in this capacity. I — like most engineers — envision myself as a catalyst for change. This drive led me to develop Envoy, and to connect with other people in the world unwilling to accept the dull, inefficiency of the traditional office life. These are the people behind the hundreds of office hacks being used today.

As a provider of an iPad-based visitor registration system for workplaces, our company takes notice of innovations in the workplace. Here are several office hacks that some firms have put in place in their facilities.

Weebly Secret Room

If you’re like most of us you dreamed as a kid of finding a secret room. Through its office hack, Weebly, an e-commerce company, has brought this childhood dream to life. Weebly has a super cool headquarters fitted to make anyone working there happy. It’s clear when you walk through the door. What’s not as clear is that on a bookshelf just down the hall there is a book, which if you pull it off the shelf opens up a secret room. The look of the inner room is Prohibition meets steam punk, with comfortable, dark leather furniture and a stylish table set-up for chess matches. The team at Weebly uses the room for meetings and they also sometimes sneak peek it to a job candidate they want to woo. It’s straight out of your imagination.

office hacks
At Mozilla’s offices, the Raspberry Pi HiFi

Mozilla’s Raspberry Pi HiFi

Sometimes a bit of nostalgia can be quite entertaining in the office. Especially if that comes in the form of a record player that streams real cracks, pops, and hisses live over the internet. That’s exactly what one entrepreneuring engineer built over at Mozilla (you know, the Firefox guys). They took a record player, hooked it up to a Raspberry Pi, installed some internet radio streaming software, and published a link for everyone in the office to listen to some old-school vinyl you just can’t find in the cloud. It’s a great example of how a bit of tinkering, inspiration, and initiative can really help lighten the mood around the office.

PlayStudio’s Parking Hack

At the end of a long day at work, you’re ready to get on the road and get home to relax and recharge. The last thing you want to find when you arrive at your car is that some j*ck*ss has blocked your car in. Unfortunately, that was a common problem at PlayStudio, developer of free to play casino games. Everyone in the company was sharing a small roof top lot and mails were coming like, “My wife’s giving birth! Whose Toyota Camry is this?!” Not a good situation, but one hackathon changed everything. They built an app, myParking, that notifies drivers real-time and one on one when their car is blocking someone. No more mass emails and no more missing your child being born.

Slack’s Washroom Hack

We’ve all faced it, we are human. We all use the bathroom. And, at work using the bathroom can get awkward. I probably don’t need to go into a ton of detail here, because well…we do all use the bathroom. What I can say though is Slack, who bring us great real-time messaging, have really thought this issue through. Not only that, they have found a cool solution to the problem of sound privacy for people sharing the bathroom. Cover bathroom noises with cool music! So that’s just what they did, but it wasn’t as straightforward as one might think to pipe that music in without letting it leak out and distract people working just outside the door. So they built a separate digital radio stream just for the bathroom. Ingenious. And, this hack left people humming happy tunes.

office hacks
PubNub’s Connected Coffeemaker

PubNub’s Connected Coffeemaker

How many times has this happened? You’re in full-on zombie-mode at work, you’re looking for a hit of coffee, you walk up to the coffee dispenser and… uh oh, it’s out. An engineer at PubNub found a way to avoid that rude awakening (or lack of awakening). They hooked the coffee dispenser to a scale, which is connected to a Raspberry Pi device.

office hacks
A happy PubNub employee

The result? People are notified when the coffee is close to needing replenishment. Way more efficient, convenient and practical — and a more productive and motivated workforce!

Small innovations like these are having a ripple effect as companies slowly but surely hack their way to a new future. One where playful inventiveness and creative thinking transform the workplace into a fun place where we can all enjoy the benefits of new thinking.office hacks

Gadea is the founder and CEO of Envoy, the iPad-based visitor registration system that’s changing how people are greeted in workplaces around the world. The office hacks shared in this article have been featured in Envoy’s Office Hacks podcast series to celebrate that spirit of inventiveness and share some of the best office hacks.