How Hoodies & Flip Flops Became The New Blue Collars & Rockports

Remember stock business photography of people in suits smiling, pointing at a desktop computer, all gazing intently at something important? Or people sitting around, gripping note pads & #2’s during a business meeting, where you imagined them throwing around business jargon like “bandwidth,” “business processes,”  “PM’ing,” or ” ROI?”

For Millennials, this was the picture painted for us when we imagined pre-2000’s companies like IBM, GE, or Unilever:

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I’ll even put money down that this was seen as “cool” in some regards. The monochrome walls, black headsets, Stafford dress-shirts, pleated khaki pants, black Rockport’s, and speed dial phones. THIS was the future. THIS was “office vogue.”

But then 15 years ago, something changed. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Zappos took the formal business culture and threw it against the wall. They asked one question: why?

Why do you need to wear ill-fitting sweaters and black Faconnables slacks to be a great employee? Why do you need a man purse or a hard angled desktop computer? Why not get rid of that tasteless, mass-brewed coffee in that harsh, fluorescent-lit break room and instead install a Skittle dispenser, Captain Crunch cereal bar, and DeLonghi espresso machine?

Why not take out that painfully sterile break room and put in a kitchen equipped with marble islands, modern décor, soft lighting, and gas-flame stovetops? Why not knock down those cubicle walls and erect “think tanks,” couches, and standing desks with treadmills? Why not convert that office that’s always empty into a nap room littered with Tempur-Pedic pillows, plush blankets, and dimmable lighting?

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Tech companies are disruptive by nature because they seek to constantly make life better: the computer, the cell phone, e-commerce, Bluetooth, ride share, iTunes, drones. The list goes on. And in the process, they’ve not only been innovatively disruptive with products, but with the physical spaces where the products come to life.

Welcome to the new corporate culture. Retire that 5-foot water cooler, put away those landline phones, and embrace the avant-garde era of corporate culture.

It’s true: Mark Zuckerberg’s flip flops, sweatshirt, and basketball shorts was merely the poster child for a new wave in the work space.

What’s your office space like? Tell me about it in the comments below.

~JK

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