10 seeeeeriously cool workplaces

office

Physical space matters. It’s easier to be productive, creative and happy at work in a colourful, organic, playful environment than in a grey, linear, boring one.

And I’m not talking about the outside of the building. Many companies have buildings that are sleek, modern, architectural glass-steel-and-cement sculptures on the outside – and cubicle wastelands on the inside. These companies need to remember that most employees tend to work inside the building.

With that in mind, here’s some eye candy from 10 different innovative, well-designed workplaces.

(Also check out my post on 12 Ways to Pimp Your Office).

Pixar

Could you sit in grey cubicles and come up with stuff like The Incredibles and Finding Nemo? Naaaaah… And that’s why Pixar’s offices look more like this:

pixar2 pixar3

pixar1

The last picture shows a row of little huts, each of which is an office. The pictures are from this cool photo tour of the Pixar HQ.

Kathy Sierra’s trailer

Kathy Sierra, who writes one of the best blogs in existence, created her home office in a vintage trailer.

trailer1

trailer2

trailer3

What a great way to create a fun, different home office. Kathy talks about it here.

Red Bull London

Here are some pictures from Red Bull’s London office. Shiny!

redbull1

redbull2

redbull3

The last picture shows a slide that people can use to go between floors. Yee-hah! There are many more pictures here.

Mindlab

Who says government offices must be boring. Mindlab at the Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs in Copenhagen, Denmark is a meeting facility available to all employees.

mindlab1 mindlab2

mindlab3 mindlab4

The heart of it is an egg-shaped meeting room inside which all the walls are whiteboards – you can write on any surface in there. This was designed by Bosch & Fjord.

The Happy At Work Project

We (=The Happy At Work Project) wanted something simple, fun, flexible and practical for our office. The central piece is a high desk where three people can comfortably work side by side. You can stand or sit on high office chairs. Up to 8 people can meet around it. Everything you see there is from IKEA, and setting up the whole office with workspaces for 3 people cost us about 1000 euros.

haw2

haw3

haw1

While it’s not as fancy as some of the other offices shown here, it works great and it shows how much you can do for almost no money – In just one room we have workplaces, meeting space and plenty of floor space for workshop exercises or plain old fun.

Conference bike

conferencebike

conferencebike2

This has got to be the coolest idea in a long time. 7 people pedal along, one steers. It’s the conference bike and I want one!! While it’s not a workplace, it would make a great meeting room!!

Menlo Innovations

Menlo Innovations is a software development company in Ann Arbor Michigan. They do all their programming work using eXtreme Programming, and while their offices aren’t particularly fancy to look at, they are ideally suited to the work they do.

Menlo Innovations

Menlo Innovations

Menlo Innovations Menlo Innovations

Being situated in a nice area of town, they can even take meetings outside on the sidewalk. Again, this shows that creating a fun, innovaticve office environment doesn’t require a huge budget – just a little common sense, creativity and a willingness to risk doing something different.

What If? Innovation

What If? Innovation were celebrated as the UK’s happiest workplace in both 2004 and 2005. I visited their London HQ last week for a grand tour, and here are some of the highlights:

What If? Innovation
Looking in the window on the combined reception and meeting space. A great idea that creates a hub for everyone in the company.

What If? Innovation
Praise for employees is written across the walls and ceiling in the hub area.

What If? Innovation What If? Innovation
Spider cow and a meeting room.

VW Phaeton plant

But what about industry? You could never create, say, a really cool car assembly plant could you?

Sure you could. Check out the Volkswagen Phaeton plant in Dresden, Germany:

VW plant in Dresden

VW plant in Dresden

VW plant in Dresden

Who says a factory has to be ugly and dirty? That plant is simply beautiful! The photos were taken from this photo tour where you can see many more cool pictures. There’s also more at the plant’s website.

Google

Yes, yes, I know – using Google here is almost too predictable. But they get it, dammit! Their HQ, the Googleplex is seriously cool and creative.

The Googleplex The Googleplex

The Googleplex

The Googleplex

The upshot

The physical workspace is one of the most ignored, yet most important factors in creating good workplaces. None of the ideas shown here will apply to every company, but most companies could stand to improve a little. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money but it does take a little creativity and courage.

What could your workplace learn from some of the designs shown here?

UPDATE: Having this post on reddit, digg and lifehacker at the same time was too much for my server and mysql crashed – I apologize. I’ll look into fixing this, so it won’t be a problem in the future.

I’ve also created a flickr set with all the images of cool workplaces.

If you enjoyed this post I’m pretty sure you’ll also like these:

521 thoughts on “10 seeeeeriously cool workplaces”

  1. It’s amazing what an impact your office space can have on your productivity. Thanks for sharing these 10 inspirational workplaces. Lots of ideas for people to adopt!

  2. You forgot about where I work… Interpunk.com! Browse through the Picture Of The Day and you’ll see we leave some of those places in the dust!

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  4. I’ve seen both google plex and yahoo’s hq, they are not that different in term of design, so why is google listed here? there’s really no breakthrough/mindblowing feature…or is it because anything google is cool…? Personally, I am sick of people over-valuing google…(not saying google sux, but c’mon, let’s stop that “oooh, google spreadsheet, that’s fantasticulous!”

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  7. Thanks for all the great comments people, I loooove it! Keep’em coming!

    Meri: I completely forgot Fog Creek. They deserve honorable mention for creating something really cool on a small budget and for doing so very consciously! Thanks for the reminder.

    Owen: Exactly, it matter immensely and I hope people will be inspired to spruce up their own workplaces, be it the home office or the corporate HQ.

    Furnace: How could I forget Interpunk :o) The wokplace looks cool and fun – but some of the people look scaaaaary :o)

    Kareem: Man, that’s another cool workplace. With so many cool ones out there, why would we ever settle for grey and boring again!

    Anders: Thanks for the link, that article makes a great point, especially when combined with this one:
    http://positivesharing.com/2006/09/smile-and-have-ideas/

    William: You’re right, I’ve totally fallen into the “Google is cool by definition” trap. Yahoo’s offices are as cool as Google’s and they deserve equal praise for creating a good work environment!

    Marston & Estorde: That’s the spirit!! Hang on to that dream!

  8. I’m so bored at work!! Why can’t my office be anything like these…
    My boss is fat and looks like a monkey!!!
    I’ve got a big nose!!
    Eye candy Andy

  9. I like the Mindlab, but yes, I say that government offices MUST be boring. This is to discourage people from the process of governing.

  10. Some great offices in there, but is the last image of the Googleplex essentially a regular office cubicle with loads of crap stuck to the sides?

    Love the slide at Red Bull.

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  12. I don’t understand how the picture of the Google cubicle is “seriously cool”. A cube is a cube.

  13. Gee the fella at google sure managed to clutter his place with all the soft toys he could lay his hand on.

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  16. Many of these look like the workplace in the Merchandise Mart when I worked at Navteq. NOT THAT PRODUCTIVE , really. Too many spoiled yuppies worrying about why their stock options bomb while they perform no actual work. The field people who are working their tails off actually performing the services that pay the bills get the short end of the stick while the executives spend the cash trying to impress Wall Street. I like reality vs. fantasy, regardless how ‘attractive’ some may think a place may be.

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  18. Thanks a gain for all the great comments and suggestions of other cool workplaces.

    There seems to be a strong desire for workplaces that stimulate us and make us happy.

    Andy: I feel your pain :o)

    tamberg: SKAT doesn’t look too shabby…

    Marc: You’re right, what was I thinking!

    Damon, DCB: Yeah, I guess it is mostly just a cube. At least it shows they have freedom to decorate them as they want and to bring in the nerd toys…

    texile: calcio balilla is essential. I became a pretty good player myself in my IT days.

    Duncan: The slide is amazing. Gotta put a smile on your face to be able to slide to meetings :o)

    Andrew: Thanks for the tip. What an amazing idea to have your offices in a church.

    Jamie: I’d go for the slide too :o)

    TheHobbyGuy: I agree – http://www.esto.com/grassl03_01.htm

    Josephus: Chiat/Day was pretty cool too. I’m not sure they still are, though now since they were bought up.

    Joe: You raise a good point. A good workspace helps – it doesn’t do it alone.

    Andy: The bicycle bar made me laugh out loud. I wanna try it.

    David: Thanks for the Yahoo video. Niiiice!

  19. I’ve contracted for Menlo Innovations. It was a lot of fun. It’s a very high energy place. You to have some tolerance for a lot of noise going on, although oddly it’s pretty easy to tune out other conversations when holding your own conversations with your pair-partner. They just moved to a new, larger and even cooler space only a block away from their previous location.

  20. The most surprising is definitely the VW Phaeton plant! The Pixar images I had already seen in a video tour on some Pixar/Disney DVD. Very beautiful…

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  22. Boongers: The 10 worst? That might be fun. Got any suggestions?

    Lisa: Thank you – good to hear that it actually works for Menlo!

    Joris: The Phaeton plant IS amazingly cool.

  23. Happiness at work cannot be obtained with slides, free drinks and video game stations.

    Happiness at work is defined by employees who feel ownership over both problems and successes that a company experiences as opposed to the usual blame game between “labor and management”.

    Further, happiness is demonstrated by employees who actually care about the company product, the customer, the service they deliver and how the company can constantly improve all of the above.

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  25. What a beautiful, and inspiring environment to work in! However, some of us are not so fortunate – so I pose the question, If you live in a fairly regimented pod-based cubicle world, how do you make your own space creative?

    Congrats on a great blog too – I’ve only just discovered!

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  27. Yahoo (Sunnyvale) struck me as a fun place to work. Wait, did I just use fun and work in the same sentence? Outdoors they have tennis, volleyball, and bocce, indoors are pool tables, ping-pong and foosball. They have teams of people that organize special events. It’s a wonder anyone can get their done.

    I was impressed by the facilities as well as the complete lack of a dress code (well, within reason). Shorts and sandals are the norm, I stuck out like a sore thumb when I showed up with slacks and a tie. In short, a very relaxed college campus-like atmosphere (only this campus has some serious cash to spend on keeping their employees happy).

  28. Heyyy this was an awesome, thought-provoking, and inspiring post. I’m starting a software company that primarily does government, public-sector type stuff…and it’s mostly young people. Now, I know how to set up our offices! We’ve got to keep it young at heart, mind, and at the keyboard. w00t.

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  30. You don’t mention it but the top-most picture to the right (the one that looks cool!) is from the Danish company Coloplast in Humlebæk. And its actually also made by Bosch & Fjord, the same ones who made the Mindlab for the Ministry of Economic & Business in Copenhagen. Way to go Denmark! :-)

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  32. As some have mentioned, I sometimes wonder if any research is done on workspaces and ROI? Some sort of quantitative and qualitative analysis other than ‘I think it looks cool’ and ‘its different’. You can imagine how much is spent on some of these and you then wonder how much it contributes to the competencies of the organization…

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  34. I was curious to how I could find this information on a scholarly site so I can use it as a source for a presentaion I’m doing? I’m sure the information is accuate but I need to get primary sources.

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  36. While the rooms themselves look quite cool, I find it highly amusing that not a single one of those images contains a dual- or triple-monitor computer system — especially not the ones specifically touted as being “ideal for XP.” I don’t care how inspired you are by your environment — the more hunting and clicking you have to do to switch to the window you want, the less attention you have available for your actual work. (=

  37. It looks reeeeally cool…but only a few images are appearing…all other links r dead..
    plz correct it.

  38. Whatever. I work at a “seeeeeriously cool workplace” where the CEO and Pres put alot of energy into funky things like $500 plastic chairs and contrasting paint colors on the walls. It’s a FUN environment, as the Pres always, forever, and endlessly reminds us. He tells loud jokes, we laugh, he walks away, we roll our eyes. Yeah yeah, we’re all kids in the sandbox. Too bad the toys all belong to the boss.

  39. I would like to say how good your Webb site is, perhapes you would like to have a lok at mine & send me some feed back as to what you think, this is my first time on the Internet & I am trying to promote my business, if you can mention me I will be only too happy yo come & do you a FREE consultancy at some time to suit us both.

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  40. I agree with Darling above. Just give me a decent salary, benefits, boss, and a foosball table (along with 3 comparably skilled players) and I’m happy. A window doesn’t hurt…

  41. I really love the Red Bull offices looks a nice place to work. I recently placed a large order for office furniture with a company called http://www.saxen.co.uk And the experience i had with this company was fantasic from order to completion the whole process was perfect and I would recommend using them for purchasing office furniture to everyone. They also have some very funky stuff

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  43. First – lets all be aware that all these places run on money that went out of your mine and everyones pocket – we are the customers.
    Second – Somebody is good in manging that money.
    Third – this money spent by that fellow will generate more value for the money that will flow out of our pocket, someday.
    Now – pals pay up!!! but only to the smart guy???

  44. These are listed as 10 seeeeeriously cool workplaces but i kind of disagree they may look nice and have some interesting astectic features you wouldnt find in most office jobs but still have the elements that most office jobs have desk paper pushing etc.

    Ive worked in some paper pushing jobs but worked out pretty quickly that they for me and my interest werent cool jobs. so to me a seriously cool work place is 500m underground in a coal mine with boarers covering you in coal dust while removing overburden or on deck of a tuna fishing ship heading out after a cyclone through ruff surf. these are a step above for really cool workplace at least in my work time experince

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  46. Hi, I am YK from Korea.
    Your pictures from ’10 coolest place to work’ are really cool.
    Would it be ok to put them in my company’s in-house magazine?
    The magazine is non-commercial. We don’t make money out of it.
    I am just writing an article for the magazine on “creativity at workplace” and thought your pictures would be a real eye-opener for us here in my company.
    You know the intellectual right stuffs…
    I figure a permission from you is in order before I decide them to put in my company magazine.
    Let me know what you think.
    I appreciate your positive answer.

  47. We at ido incorporated take our environment to heart – visit us at http://www.idoincorporated and view our LEED (Green Building) buildout.

    An environment that is not only healthy for us, but promotes creativitiy in the community surrounding us. Innovation in design, inspiration in action.

    ido Inc- LEEDing the way to a greener, healthier environment for us all.

  48. Fotografias de las instalaciones de varias empresas conocidas. Quizás si tuvieramos que ir a alguno de estos sitios cada día lo haríamos con mejor cara que a nuestro trabajo actual… porque… ¿a cuál de las fotos se parece tu sitio de trabajo? ;-)

  49. Add TBWA in LA to the list…don’t have any pics but that place is AMAZING. How about a half court in the middle of the office?

  50. I wonder if you found examples of cool, hip and inspiring workplaces in Asia?

    Ironically, several of the international locations of otherwise innovative companies such as the BBC, Google, or Apple simply do not appear to have as much thought put into them.

    They say the User Interfaces of a company’s products indicate a lot about the state of the overall company. A stronger indicator of innovative/stagnant companies would be the signature style (or the lack of) in workplace design!

    -Amit

  51. Yes, Amit has a good point.

    The headquarters of those companies may be fantastic, but what about other locations?

    One interesting point…..I am about to work for a company listed on the latest Fortune magazine’s top 100 companies to work for. I don’t know, but I am assuming that the benefits and other things Fortune looks at are based on US employees? But I am about to work at their new branch in Hong Kong. Will see how it goes…

  52. You should see this place! The DRIVE (Development, Research, Innovation, Vision and Excellence) Center is the place to work, meet or just visit. Located just south of Atlanta, Georgia in Stockbridge.

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  54. The environment we work in is definitely important. The ancient Vedic science of Vastu describes the living space (or work space) as a mandala, and the body as a mandala, and how to design the mandala of the living space so that the health of the body and mind is greatly supported. Sometimes dramatic changes in the feel of a room result from applying Vastu principles. So there is definitely a subtle energy component to our living and work spaces that affects our well being.

    Vastu is a deeper and more correct science than Feng Shui. Feng Shui has some of its roots in Vastu.

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  57. it seems really cool but apparently i dont believe in these work places they are just imagination but for google workplaces. so keep on dreaming u might get it hereafter.

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  59. I figure a permission from you is in order before I decide them to put in my company magazine.
    Let me know what you think.
    I appreciate your positive answer.

  60. hi I like the one with the slide that is so cool and on the top with the question this one or this one. and I pick the second one

  61. You forgot about where I work… Interpunk.com! Browse through the Picture Of The Day and you’ll see we leave some of those places in the dust!

  62. absolutely non-sense stuff.People those who need this much of drama to work efficiently are absolutely not a self driven person.Making office like a exhibition stall will distract others and indicate that the person need undue attention.Without certain level of decipline you can’t achive anything.One should enjoy work more than the office.Beauty and enjoyment is inherent and can’t be superficial.

  63. Friend you blow my mind with this idea. I feel at home with your designs … I feel my joy will be best if my comments were in my native language. I think I would best work in the pictures, wherever they are.

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  65. it is true work places are very important it gives the worker the energy and the ideas, those are one of the nicest modern designed office I’ve seen, but I prefer a more simple white with tinting blue, because it relaxes me much more

  66. C’mon folks…these spaces are almost commonplace for a typical ad agency these days. There’s nothing that groundbreaking in this list, although I have to admit I’d like to use that slide! The sad fact about this blog is, it proves that people are so used to work in crap corporate hellholes, almost ANYTHING out of the ordinary excites them!

  67. interesting how most places in the US aren’t like this. US companies don’t know how to treat people for the most part.

  68. These are listed as 10 seeeeeriously cool workplaces but i kind of disagree they may look nice and have some interesting astectic features you wouldnt find in most office jobs but still have the elements that most office jobs have desk paper pushing etc.

    Ive worked in some paper pushing jobs but worked out pretty quickly that they for me and my interest werent cool jobs. so to me a seriously cool work place is 500m underground in a coal mine with boarers covering you in coal dust while removing overburden or on deck of a tuna fishing ship heading out after a cyclone through ruff surf. these are a step above for really cool workplace at least in my work time experince

  69. The ‘Happy at Work’ project is just the result of some panic buying at Ikea. And that conference bike is the lamest idea I’ve ever seen…I’m afraid I’d have to steer it off a ravine. The Red Bull slide is a nice touch though.

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  72. Love these places. The field of the psychology of space started when I was in grad school and I was captivated. Love the slide!!! Also in sacred architecture they teach that curvilinear space supports female energy and linear space supports male energy. Great companies need both. I always buy my home for the business and must have curves and arches as well as vaulted ceilings and skylights for higher level thinking! Access to natural light is also crucial. Fluorescents, the cool whites, are a health risk.
    Dr. Linne Bourget MA MBA Ph.D.

  73. I love this article! I found the story when released to be the biggest joke I had ever heard. I got a good laugh and moved on. Thanks for showing that I could laugh again at the story.

  74. The best work environment is the one that you create. You know what your wants and needs are. Companies do not care! The care about their share holders. Period. When you go for someone’s plan for you your in deep yogart. Because they really do not care. Take care of your greatest assest. That is you!!!!

    Sir Gregory
    The Ambassador of motivation

  75. Another great offering. My focus is office desks which for most people is such a tedious thing to talk about. You cover the subject in such an original way its such a breath of fresh air. People spend their lives in these dreary offices when there are all these other really cool offices where they could be, as shown by your photos. Perhaps someone should tell them!

  76. I always said when I was little that I NEVER, ever ever wanted to have an office job – I always just thought of the boring, gray, tiny cubicles portrayed in movies & TV shows. But maannn, I wouldn’t mind being in an office that looks like any of these!

  77. The above images of the various working offices are wonderful. I understand that it costs more to design and construct such a workplace, but I truly feel that the cost will more than make up for it in employee satisfaction. I learned that there are three levels of employee satisfaction. The first is dissatisfaction, due to low wages or bad working conditions. The second level is a neutral feeling. This occurs when the employee is getting a reasonable salary, as well as reasonable insurance, etc. but he/she is not finding his job to be motivating. The third and final level is a feeling of intense satisfaction, in which the employee feels he/she is doing something important and worthwhile. They find happiness in doing their work, because they feel they are a part of the big picture. Although its definitely reasonable to just keep employees at a “neutral” point where they have no complaints, this results in the employee becoming stagnant and non-productive or with decreased productivity. However, the third level will maximize productivity and even bring into light the potential of the employee. This, I believe, is important for an organization. It is always easy to find neutral individuals, but it is definitely harder to find the ones with more potential than what they are using. By having such a fostering and creative environment, I feel that will help push an employee from being just “stagnant” and “neutral” to being happier and more satisfied about his/her job. In the long-term, this will help the organization.

  78. Living in Dresden for almost two decades I can tell you that the Phaeton plant (Gläserne Manufaktur) is really a cool think :-)

    And there is definitely more possible in this city of bustling creative minds.

    Good work always need the suitable structure, similar to a fruitful agricultural field. Only here it is the social field that counts. Often it is just the small and unnoticable things that make the difference.

  79. These are all great examples of fun working environments. I think that these can be very good for employee morale, and may work as a recruiting tool for top talent that does not want to work in a suit and tie environment. If you can keep you employees motivated and having fun, then you will see large increases in employee morale.

  80. A fun working environment is essential to inspire a workforce, and particularly useful to the creative industries. Offices shouldn’t make you feel oppressed, after all, you usually have to spend 8-10 hours of your life in them every day of your working life.

  81. good article – i just tore everything off the walls of my cube and cleared the decks. shopping tonight. tomorrow, pimpin’ out my cube.

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  83. Alex,
    nice offices listed here, what about the people? I’d rather work with nice, emotionally mature people than egotists, self centric, megalomaniacs in fancy offices. Any suggestion on how to judge the kind of people you will work with, during the interview?

    I ask because I am good at setting up my office space very well myself, but people who are mean really tip my balance off.

    any thots will be helpful, thx.

  84. Really a cool site to make you think “W…………..O………….W”..Many useful articles shared.Appreciate the good work!!!!

  85. Just SO DAMN COOL. Make me wanna cry looking at mine, but hey, so many offices in Asia look like hell boring tunnels with sour bunnies huddled together and nibbling one another.
    Love Pixar.

  86. I agree that, office design is super important to the productivity and well being of staff… but part me also thinks that poky gray offices are going to the retro chic interiors of the future :)

  87. If you want to work for Red Bull, you have to work in their headquarter which is located in Austria in close vicinity to Salzburg. A spectacular cool building located in a stunning surrounding. That’s where you understand why the founder came up with the bull as a the name/logo of the product..

  88. I feel the environment your employees work in reflects their productivity and ability to carry our their jobs well. We are moving our new offices to a rural working farm. The building has amazing character and beautiful countryside. The whole team are really excited about it as it is something totally different to a typical office type environment

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  90. If you think these are cool, u should check out virgin medias new office, just opened in Birmingham, its amazing! They have spun chairs and amazing decor! It’s crazy!

  91. I have never worked in any wacky offices. I suppose I am used to mundane and plain as a place of work. I particularly like the Red Bull office, although you may have a a bit of a head rush when writing out your reports after sliding down two floors!

    But any of these office would inspire creativity and staff unity in the work place!

  92. As a UK supplier of Office and Home Office furniture we are pushing many of
    manufacturers to come up with brighter products for our customers. No longer should users have to accept boring Grey, Why not offer Pink, Purple, White or Lime green as a standard option, a colorful office chair or filing cabinet can make a statement in a small office.
    We cannot all be Google or Pixar but we all dream

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