The office at Grip Limited, a Toronto-based advertising firm, is as cool as it gets. You can whiz from one floor to another via a big orange acrylic slide, or zoom down the fireman's pole. Or descend the massive staircase that doubles as seating for the approximately 135 employees as they gather for their regular Thursday afternoon sessions in the airy double-storey atrium. That's when draft beer is served from the on-site taps (Labatt is one of their top clients, along with Honda, Acura and Pizza Hut). Anyone from company founders to junior staff can present what they've been working on. Foosball is optional.
"People love the space," says Harvey Carroll, Grip's president and a company partner. "Our clients are very impressed by how open and collaborative it is, and in a lot of respects, how different it is sometimes from their space because often they come from a more structured office environment."
The playful and dynamic work environment at Grip was designed by Toronto architectural firm Johnson Chou to inspire creativity and encourage collaboration. The fifth and sixth floors that Grip occupies in the plain brick building on John Street feature a mix of traditional boardrooms and work stations with lots of meeting space where people can gather without having to book it. Additional space on the ground floor incorporates a photography studio, screening rooms and a huge circular hot tub outfitted with padded orange seating.
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"Our employees love it because it's really open-door and doesn't feel hierarchical," says Mr. Carroll. "Our business is coming up with the best ideas for our clients. We try to have a culture that facilitates being interactive and collaborative. Having a space that's very open allows for that. People feel like they can go and ask anybody a question or bring anyone into a meeting. What we've found is that the best idea can come from anywhere."
While Mr. Carroll has a private office, he says the door is open more than 90 per cent of the time. "I can close it if I have to make calls of a confidential nature, but the doors are glass so you can tell I'm there and anyone is welcome to knock," he says.
Grip's work culture goes beyond slides and poles. Employees gets five days off outside of their regular vacation allotment. It can be spent unwinding, writing a novel or doing whatever they're passionate about.
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"We believe that will help an individual to grow," says Mr. Carroll. "And when the people at Grip grow, then Grip grows."
Little things matter as well, says Mr. Carroll, who wants employees to feel like family. The kitchen is stocked with food and beverages. The company also recognizes the need for downtime with four-day weekends during summer. "We expect people to contribute a lot when they're working, but we also want them to be healthy and have some balance in their life," says Mr. Carroll.
While everyone is expected to help the company grow, and every employee is included in profit sharing, how people work - when they come in or go home - is flexible. "What we really try to focus on is output," he says.
People can work from home as needed, but Mr. Carroll hopes that the environment Grip has created makes people want to be there. He also believes that the best ideas come from a group of people with different backgrounds coming together.
"To do that, you need to be in the office, so most of the time people are working here," says Mr. Carroll. "We expect collaboration. You can't just sit back and expect it to happen. It takes some effort."
Whenever there's significant growth or a win, people get together in the atrium to celebrate.
"It's like when a team wins a game; everyone gets excited and applauds," says Mr. Carroll. "They feel financially part of that through profit sharing, but more than that, they feel they've contributed to make Grip a better company."
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