Boss’ new directive: More toys!

Marketplace Staff Dec 11, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: If you spend a full eight hours on the job every day. that adds up to a third of your life between college and retirement. That’s a lot of time on the clock. And for some companies, way too long not to be having any fun. From San Antonio, Texas David Martin Davies reports.

DAVID MARTIN DAVIES: Rackspace Managed Hosting is a fast-growing, high-tech company that’s on track to do over 200 million dollars in business this year. But although it’s a big successful corporation, Rackspace’s San Antonio headquarters is not stuffy. Mark Morga is a Rackspace software engineer.

MARK MORGA: I’ve got a light-saber here because it’s the law. If you’re a programmer you’ve just gotta have one of those. Yeah, the Nerf guns are here for self defense, it’s just a practical matter in this environment—you need to have a little protection.

At times, the offices of Rackspace seem more like a frat house than an oppressive cubicle farm. In a corner there’s a shrine built to the TV show Gilligan’s Island, paid for by the department’s own budget for weird decorations. There’s a method to this madness: Rackspace believes letting the employees have fun while they work is part of the reason for its success.

HOWARD PAPUSH: Toys and playfulness in the workplace reduce stress and enhance creativity.

Howard Papush calls himself “Doctor Play.” His clients call him a workplace and business consultant. He says having toys in the office makes for a better work environment.

PAPUSH: You know, make your office like a sandbox—you know everybody’s climbing into the sandbox and we’re all gonna just have the best time.

In his book “When’s Recess?” Papush urges organizations to embrace the concept of fun. He says the more people are in touch with their childlike qualities, the more creative and productive they become. And this is good for business. It’s also good for the business of selling office toys.

WILL BERMENDER: One kit that we carry is called “Pimp My Cubicle”—you know, to decorate your cubicle.

Will Bermender is the president of KlearGear, an online company that specializes in toys for the workspace. His firm started out selling computer equipment with a few toys on the side—but the demand for the toys grew so large, KlearGear doesn’t even bother with the hardware anymore.

BERMENDER: A lot of companies are actually buying this, these types of things for their employees—they’re buying missile launchers, you know, a half dozen or a dozen missle launchers for a team.

At the Rackspace offices, all those flying toys make the work day seem like a non-stop game of dodgeball, says Account Manager Casey Casseb

CASEY CASSEB: There’s about a hundred kushballs and footballs being thrown at any time—so you just have to be on the lookout if you’re on the phone with a customer that you could get pegged in the back of the head.

And the supervisors don’t object.

CASSEB: They’re not so much concerned as what we have on our desk as the quality of work that we’re putting out. And they actually give us the freedom to have fun and blow off steam because they trust us.

In San Antonio, I’m David Martin Davies for Marketplace.

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