12 Coolest Office Spaces in America

by Sam Perry on December 15, 2009

Being in an office space that makes you happy is one of the keys to getting and staying productive:

From places that look cool, fun, or just plain crazy, to environments that let you be yourself, take time for relaxation, and reward your hard work with peace of mind, an office that doesn’t feel like an “office” is good for you and your employer.


Here are a dozen such places that might just refresh your spirit, reward your work ethic, and do justice to your skill-set…And they’re all hiring…

You had me at “eight-story-gift-basket”


No, this picture is not Photoshoped: Newark, Ohio’s $30-million Basket Building is home to the Longaberger Basket Company. And while we imagine there are only a handful of IT jobs up for grabs in this 180,000 square-foot picnic receptacle, it’s a prime illustration of what you should be looking for in a building (and a company) in which to work. In a two-year fiasco that might have come straight from a Simpsons episode, Dave Longaberger was urged several times to alter his plans for this ambitious testament to his thriving company (“Sir, you need a load-bearing wall there…”), but he insisted on an exact replica of the real thing. Even on the worst mornings, you just have to giggle a little on the way in the door.

More images of the Basket Building:

The model ‘cool office’


Outside, this renovated warehouse in the center of St. Petersburg, Florida, looks like the Initech building from Office Space. Inside, the Power Design Inc. office is 70,000 square-feet of glossy concrete flooring, exposed walls, cafes, game rooms, and enough hip lighting to give J.J. Abrams lens-flares for three Star Trek movies…with lens flares to spare. A stock-ticker projected onto the walls runs announcements and updates about current projects.

More images of the Power Design Inc. work space:

We should all work in hilarious cartoon houses


Why sit in boring grey cubicles when you could be programming away in an indoor city of cartoon-like shacks, with couches on your front porch and “It’s A Small World After All” Playing 24/7 (just kidding about the last part.) At Pixar’s main studio, every one of the huts you see here is an office. Though the open-concept works so well in so many situations, staff at Disney’s pride & joy found that giving each creative techie their own personal space actually helped communication and creativity.

More images of the Pixar office space:

Play hard, do some good


Not only do the execs at NetApp dispense with the dead-weight of excessive paperwork (the #1 company on Fortune Magazine’s Top 100 Companies To Work For list recently scrapped a twelve-page travel policy for the phrase “Use your common sense.”) but it also encourages employees to have fun at the office and give back to the community: As of 2009, NetApp allows employees to take five days off per year (paid) to do volunteer work. Some of the beefier elements of its benefit package: Up to $11,390 in adoption aid.

Careers at NetApp:

Good times (and good eats) at the Ciscoplex


Software engineers at Cisco earn an average yearly pay of $131,703 and fewer than 5% of staff choose to leave each year. Its offices in California, North Carolina and Massachusetts enhance the company’s hefty health plan with onsite gyms and healthy menus in “Farm to Fork” restaurants where all food is sourced within a 150-mile radius. The Market Café at Cisco’s San Jose headquarters opens for dinner from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., when you can burn the midnight oil, or do take-out to eat at home.

Careers at Cisco:

Motivation on the front lines


Factory workers make about $47,000 a year, while electrical design engineers make an average of $125,000 annually. But that’s not what makes working at Texas Instruments the coolest. The Dallas-based firm offers the opportunity to work on the front lines of technological innovation: From ultra-small sonogram semiconductors for the medical industry to implantable devices, and “smart” bandages that warn a patient if their cut becomes infected.

Careers at Texas Instruments:

Serious work, serious rest


Need a rest from your regular work schedule? eBay’s San Jose-based operations are housed in nifty-enough buildings. But it’s the paid downtime that makes the office a delight: On top of regular paid vacation, maternity leave, etc.., full-time employees can also take a four-week paid sabbatical every five years. You can also catch a company shuttle to eBay buildings or take public transit, subsidised at a rate of $100 per month.

Benefits for eBay employees:

Get outta here!


The coolest part of this corporation’s office space is that it’s [often] your home. Juniper Networks encourages its employees to be mobile. As many as 75% of its workers telecommute at least semi-regularly. And just to be extra fair, Juniper supplies employees who work at home with a laptop, BlackBerry, printer/fax/scanner, AND ergonomic furniture. The coolest example of this office policy is Juniper global mobility unit manager Steve Jacquess, who works from his home…in Hawaii.

Careers at Juniper:

Let’s meet over by that hot dog vendor…


While not a perk-heavy Fortune 500 company, Ann Arbor Michigan-based software developer Menlo Innovations stands out by prioritizing workplace peace for its employees: Programming is done with an honest know-where-you-stand flow (using eXtreme Programming http://www.extremeprogramming.org/), and the higher-ups empower employees to constantly risk doing things a little different. Among other unique aspects of this office space, employees are encouraged to take pens and flipcharts outside to hold meetings on the sidewalk.

Jobs at Menlo:

A cubicle with a view


Working in a beautiful new building with views of landscaped gardens and reflecting pools is a nice-to-have on any IT employee’s list of 9-5 plusses. At Qualcomm’s San Diego operation, add stock options, 100% health insurance coverage, and a free primary-care clinic (which recently quadrupled in size.)

Careers at Qualcomm:

IT Nirvana at the Mountain View ‘campus’


Last on our list simply because you knew it’d be on it: We’d all probably like to snag one of the approximately 300 new positions at Google this year…and do 770,000 other people. The big draw at the famed Mountain View Mecca is that Google is the IT employee’s dream in every way…You can live like you’re back in school (your transportation, food, laundry, and fun are all taken care-of), you can select many of your own assignments AND (unlike school) you get paid for it all. Among some of Google’s drool-worthy perks, employees are allowed to spend about 20% of their time on personal pet-projects. The Googleplex building contains an entrance with a piano and live screen showing current Google searches, a huge gym, eleven cafeterias, a sand volleyball court, a dinosaur and a full-scale model of Spaceship One.

Check out this video on life at Google:

Honorable mention


It’s not in the U.S. but for the love of God, Red Bull’s London office has a slide to get you to meetings…(Not a sliding scale, not S.L.I.D.E. as an acronym for something…a good ‘ol-fashioned, giant, playground slide.) Apparently, this is meant to be an alternative to going down the stairs or elevator (who would EVER take the stairs or elevator with this as an option??) The company itself (especially in the U.S. and UK) helped revolutionize branding by getting its employees to design and implement situations where its drinks would get “left around” in prominent places, empty next to DJs at clubs, handing the drinks out for free for those who looked like they were “in need of energy”. Basically, employees are encouraged to see their work (in the office and out in the world) as an opportunity to play.

A closer look at Red Bull’s work and business culture:

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Victoria December 15, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Outdoor meetings with sidewalk chalk sound good to me. At least in the summer, but not on a sub-zero Minnesota day like today!

Sam Perry December 16, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Jeez Victoria, I don’t know how you handle the sub-zero temperatures. Here in Florida we luckily don’t have to deal with that issue!

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