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Wacky Startup Workplace

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"It was the type of environment carefully calculated to make creative types feel comfortable. Like a gorilla enclosure for nerds."

For decades, office life was portrayed as a drab, grey existence full of identical cubicles and employees who had no desire to be there. They were practical and utilitarian, and didn't offer much in the way of fun.

Then, in the early 2000s, we saw the emergence of the Wacky Startup Workplace.

Rather than beige cubicles and drab walls, these offices are brightly colored, brightly lit, fashionably decorated, and bursting with amenities, often with the goal of improving esprit de corps, teamwork, and quality of life. As well, by saving employees time with on-site free meals and fitness centers, firms hope to increase productivity. Instead of white shirts and ties, the dress code is casual, and employees can be seen lounging around in flip-flops and shorts. The office is filled wall-to-wall with air hockey tables, skateboard ramps, slides between floors, and employees goofing off and enjoying themselves.

Expect to see plenty of dogs, a complementary snack bar and coffee shop, nap pods, and maybe even a full bar and DJ on Fridays. The cafeteria has gourmet food prepared by a chef and it's free. Massage therapists visit regularly. Office Sports are not on the down low but probably encouraged. There may be a climbing wall and yoga classes. Basically, it's the office version of the Coolest Club Ever, though as the examples below attest, this doesn't always make it a nice place to work. The unspoken bargain might be "we made the workplace cool, so now you have to work late every day and come in on weekends."note 

This is especially common with tech and media startups that are flush with venture capital (like the Shallow News Site Satire), as these industries are often seen as the land of the Tech Bro, the Bunny-Ears Lawyer, and younger employees looking for a fun workplace. Due to the competition in the tech industry for talent, these additional amenities can be enticing for job applicants who have been offered similar salaries by other companies. However, even business giants can get it on this; Google is an example of a major player with fun offices.

Contrast the Standard Office Setting, see also the Soul-Crushing Desk Job.

Not to be confused with Crazy Workplace, where the premise of the work focuses on a wacky work environment where nothing is off the table.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Aggretsuko: The CEO attempts to invoke this with his idea to install a slide that dispenses hot noodles in the office, "like a crazy tech company." Fortunately, Washimi is there to remind him they're not a crazy tech company.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Internship, which is set at Google, portrays the working environment as fun and full of amenities like nap pods, massage rooms, beach volleyball, free food, and even Quidditch games.
  • Stratton Oakmont in The Wolf of Wall Street seems to regularly have strippers and human-sized dartboards on the premises, and all of the staff drink heavily while engaging in bizarre stunts.

  • In Legion: Skin Deep Stephen visits the headquarters of a technology startup called I3, which has things like treat bins in the halls, as well as a foosball table and arcade games in the lounge. As he comments in his internal monologue: "It was the type of environment carefully calculated to make creative types feel comfortable. Like a gorilla enclosure for nerds."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Played for comedy with Deke Shaw's unnamed company in Season 6. It has an enormous open floor plan, with coffee bars and employees riding hoverboards indoors. It starts as a video game company, with plans to branch out into food production and other tech. However, nearly all of the tech is actually plagiarized from SHIELD.
  • Arrested Development: Spoofed in "Senioritis" when Michael is introduced to his (made-up) startup "Fakeblock" office, which is an empty hangar with employees riding around in golf carts and on bicycles.
  • The work environment in Bizaardvark strongly fits this trope, as it's a youth-oriented studio. A number of wacky webvideo series often interfere with the making of the protagonists' webvideo show.
  • Grace and Frankie: Parodied when the title characters try to pitch their business concept to a super-trendy startup incubator. The office laser tag game and other workplace recreation look cool, but its representative explains that they care about looking cutting-edge and progressive, not about actually incubating new businesses.
  • Halt and Catch Fire repeatedly deconstructs the Wacky Startup Workplace.
    • In season 2, Mutiny basically has a frat house atmosphere where employees are encouraged to play video games and come up with radical ideas for their own games, but the company is one disaster away from bankruptcy and a significant amount of most of its employees are secretly being underpaid while founder Cameron pockets most of the profits.
    • In season 3, Mutiny gets new investors and many of the employees mistakenly believe that this means they can party even harder, but in reality, the investors end up staging a coup, ousting Cameron, and forcing Mutiny to launch an IPO, where it gets eaten alive. Within a year or two, Mutiny is all but dead.
    • In season 4, Comet has a considerably smaller dark side, as co-founder Gordon Clark knows that he's dying and just wants to enjoy his final days doing what he loves with similarly-enthusiastic geeks, but after his death, partner Joe MacMillan takes over and runs the company into the ground on a quixotic project (creating a search engine that would be optimized for Netscape, which wasn't publicly available back then.)
  • Odd Squad: The titular organization has precincts all around the world, and with those precincts come Headquarters. A majority of them are more fun than they are more of an example of a Standard Office Setting, having various rooms such as a Ball Room and a Golf Room, although they have the general look and feel of a typical office in some aspects — a bullpen where agents can interact, an office for the Director in charge, and office desks with no cubicles, among other things. The "fun" parts of Headquarters are meant to represent the fact that Odd Squad's sole employees are children who act like adults, and not straight adults.
  • The Office (US): Michael's general attitude surrounding Dunder Mifflin heavily suggests a desire to create a "fun office" type of environment, but his efforts are shown time and time again to come at the expense of his employees' sense of workplace familiarity and prospect of goodwill towards him, with the majority of his staff seeing him as more of a manchild. This is even more prominent in the original British version, where David's staff openly resent him and David himself finds it increasingly difficult to hide the fact that his attempts at invoking this trope are more out of deeply-entrenched personal insecurity.
  • Parks and Recreation:
    • Exaggerated with Entertainment 720, a business that doesn't seem to ever actually do anything and exists primarily so Tom and Jean-Ralphio can fill an office with cool fun stuff and have a good time. Deconstructed as well, as it becomes clear that Tom and Jean-Ralphio have no idea how to run a business and care more about having the appearance of this. Due to their pointless excess, the company is haemorrhaging money at a rate of millions. Between them focusing more on having a fun business over a functioning one, and their refusal to listen to Ben Wyatt's warnings, the two quickly go bankrupt and are forced to close down.
      Ben: I mean, I would guess they'll be bankrupt by the end of... this sentence.
    • Gryzzl, an actually successful tech company, has fewer useless amenities than Entertainment 720 but still cultivates this vibe. Its employees dress in hoodies and graphic tees, there are brightly colored murals of vaguely inspirational quotes, and the staff hangs around playing the board game Cones of Dunshire.
  • Silicon Valley is full of fun, amenity-filled offices. The energy drink company Homicide is perhaps the most extravagant example, appearing to basically be a warehouse filled with skate tracks and stunt cars. When Pied Piper gets to move into a proper office, the crew find the common area filled with salespeople playing games because Richard's refusal to build a product that can be marketed and sold means there's nothing for the sales staff to do.
  • Succession: Vaulter, the trendy media brand recently acquired by Waystar Royco. While we see their utilitarian open-concept office, Roman comments they have 'beehives upstairs', implying other trendy amenities we don't see.
  • Superstore: Downplayed. When wealthy corporation Zephra acquires big-box store Cloud 9, dashing their hopes of unionizing, its weary employees are treated to a new cereal bar. While the other characters lampshade that it makes the environment like that of a lively modern office, Jonah muses that it may be the company's way of making them feel cared for while still denying them a living wage. Also, Sandra starts demanding self-driving cars.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Giztoob, the tech startup founded by one of Kimmy's classmates at Columbia, is a match for Kimmy's own personality. It's got a ball pit in the office, colorful decor, arcade games, and Kimmy at one point busts open a door bearing nerf guns. This is zig-zagged because the employees are mainly introverted nerds who are uncomfortable with Kimmy's exuberant personality.
  • Sharper Image's offices in W1A have plenty of amenities for the staff. They even have an in-house DJ for spontaneous raves.
  • A downplayed example can be seen in Wisdom of the Crowd. When wealthy tech innovator Jeffrey Tanner creates a cutting-edge crowd-sourcing hub called "Sophe" to solve his daughter's murder, he acquires a disused warehouse in Oakland to serve as the base of operations. While the working portion of the warehouse is overflowing with stripped-down computer equipment and server stacks needed to host Sophe's web-based interface, the employee lounges and conference rooms are much more trendy. They've been retrofitted with a juice bar, espresso machine, retro arcade cabinets, pop-art inspired murals, refurbished-chic bar stools, lighting fixtures straight from Restoration Hardware, and egregiously hip hanging-egg-chairs.
  • Zoey's trendy San Francisco tech office, SPRQ Point, on Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist is very visually striking: it's open-concept, has lots of glass windows, colorful and outright odd furniture, and a cereal bar. The bar is later shown to frequently change to different kinds of food. The CEO, Danny Michael Davis, even visually resembles Mark Zuckerberg.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • Sally works an office like this for a while in Sally Forth (Howard), with the source of humour being that she's used to more a traditional office environment.
  • In 2023, Jeremy from Zits got a job as a "search engine optimisation tech" for a startup that makes energy bars, a job that his parents are bewildered seems to mostly consist of mucking about on his phone.
    Jeremy: I rollerbladed over to a marketing meeting, then we all played volleyball until the Ultimate Frisbee tournament started. Another day in the life of Joe Lunchbucket.

    Video Games 
  • Going Under is a Dungeon Crawling Roguelike and parody of startup culture, so its gameplay revolves around fighting your way through these, the offices of failed startups, filled with “quirky” features and infested with monsters that used to be their employees. Your Hub Level/workplace is also one, and it’s clearly a terrible place to work, mostly because the guy running it keeps making awful decisions.
  • The Life Invader headquarters in Grand Theft Auto V, being a parody of Facebook, features numerous in-office gyms, entertainment areas, and yoga classes in the hallways. Employees also apparently frequently use their computers for porn, and apparently hacky sack skills are a part of the job application process.
  • The Nudle Office in Watch_Dogs 2 resembles an office-sized children's play-place, including a functional slide.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Founder", when Richard is mistaken for the founder of ChanEx, he attempts to turn the company into a wacky workplace, with pizza ovens and hammocks in every cubicle, elevators with DanceDanceRevolution-style controls, and slides replacing stairwells. It goes about as well as you would imagine.
  • Deconstructed with Mark Beaks' workplace in DuckTales. On the surface, it appears to be this, with trampolines, slides, and free snow cones for employees, but all of this is to distract employees from how much of a Mean Boss and Control Freak Beaks really is, and he prefers to breed a competitive working environment rather than a cooperative one.
  • BoJack Horseman: The office of the "Girl Croosh" blogging site (which parodies sites like Buzzfeed) includes a slide, a scratching post, cheesy affirmations written all over the walls, and "cool-down yoga stations" to replace the apparent oppressive nature of cubicles. A mild Running Gag is that the seating constantly changes between various unconventional designs, and Diane always struggles to actually sit comfortably in them.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Deconstructed in the episode "Baby You Can't Drive My Car," Homer gets a job as a tester at CarGo, a self-driving car startup whose office includes perks such as free banh mi, rock-climbing walls, a game room, and an ice rink which the employees never use... until Homer encourages them to enjoy themselves, which is encouraged by the executives. Unfortunately, after Homer discovers that the car he's testing is collecting his personal data, Homer, Marge, and Smithers use some Hollywood Hacking to shut down the company.
    • The show also already spoofed the early 2000s iteration of this in the season 13 episode "I Am Furious (Yellow)" where the cool office includes a toilet paper dispenser loaded with a roll of stocks for the company.
  • Family Guy: One episode sees the Pawtucket Brewery undergoing sweeping renovations into an open-floor plan courtesy of a "weirdly charismatic" European businessman; among the promised changes include the addition of nursing pods, pinball machines, a chef who prepares vegan meals, and hammocks and scooters replacing desks. The episode ends with the Brewery exactly as it was at the start because the businessman turned out to be a scammer.

    Real Life 
  • Phase-Connect meetings are held in a company Minecraft server, using Discord for communication.
  • Google in particular is known for this, featuring extensive amenities, bars, and nap rooms for employees.
  • Video distribution company The Chive features a full bar, giant bowling, and a slide from the top floor to the bottom.
  • This was a common criticism of businesses that started when the Dot Com Bubble started, and quickly blamed for the reason the bubble burst, as people considered the businesses to be focused more on feeling fun than actually putting out a quality product.
  • Atari was like this at the beginning, complete with hot tubs and a very informal culture, including employees openly using drugs at work, before the Warner Bros. acquisition. This was due to founder Nolan Bushnell's belief that work should be fun. Bushnell left after disagreements with the suits at Warner Bros., who instituted a more conventional office culture after Bushnell's departure.
  • Ion Storm, the company John Romero founded after leaving id Software, moved into the most extravagant offices that their founder's money could buy and spent even more money on decorating them to his liking, complete with a massive company logo laid on the lobby's terrazzo floor. Apparently one of the things he'd hated about his time at Id was that before they hit the big time with Doom they were working out of an office whose main redeeming quality was that the rent was within their budget and he really wanted some nicer digs this time around. Unfortunately, the suite he rented turned out to be Awesome, but Impractical, with a glass roof that let in lots of natural light... to the point where it became too much of a good thing because the glare made all the screens illegible at certain times of day. The office was also loaded with toys and games that ended up slowing down progress because staffers became preoccupied with having fun. The in-office movie theater was another distraction and an expensive one at that. Because no one knew how to actually operate the projector, its specialized bulb kept blowing out forcing the office to pay for pricey repairs and replacement bulbs. These issues ended up being just a portion of a long series of bad decisions that led to the immensely Troubled Production of Daikatana.
  • Apple gives employees discounts on Apple products, free fruit, occasional concerts and “beer bashes,” reimbursement for commuting, money for tuition, and "a wellness center with dieticians, chiropractors, and other medical professionals."note 
  • At the Samsung headquarters in San Jose, there is a "music room for jamming, recording, [and] learning" songs.note 
  • In 2023, Montreal software company Lightspeed Commerce Inc. wanted to lure workers back after the COVID-19 pandemic, so they doubled the size of their office space and added a restaurant with "free meals, a smoothie bar, and a barista to craft custom drinks." A "gym and a courtyard...with foliage and a fountain are planned. note 
  • Elements of this have trickled onto college campuses, with more and more institutions adding luxury amenities such as lazy rivers and golf simulators to entice more students to enroll.
  • WeWork was a startup that specialized in renting these kinds of spaces for smaller startups, and had their own internal office culture in this mold.