By Katie Center Brooks
Like them or not, ping pong tables are the quintessential startup perk.
In a Quid network of 990 stories about ping pong and startups from the past year, ping pong tables are so closely tied to startup culture that the Wall Street Journal used ping pong table sales as a way to gauge whether the tech bubble had burst.
But not everyone is a fan. Dayna Evans reports on a recent study of Millennials showing they aren’t that interested in playing ping pong and goofing off — “Screw ping pong!”, the article says. In fact, Millennials are more focused on opportunities to learn, grow, and advance. Ron Rule, CTO of As Seen on TV, in reply to a question on Quora called the startup culture counter-productive. First on his list: ping pong tables.
Laura Hamill of Limeade says “companies need to build an intentional workplace culture that’s aligned with business strategy.” She continues to say that [workplace] culture is not a ping pong table. Among other perks, like margarita Friday, it’s surface level and doesn’t add as much value to employees as a good meeting with their manager and other leaders of their company.
To be sure, workplace culture can’t be built entirely around ping pong. But at Quid, the ping pong table is something of a water cooler that brings people together. I’ve seen our single ping pong table bridge the gap between the sales and engineering teams, for example.
Ping pong balls fly around throughout the day at Quid, even into the evening after hours with people surrounding the table, hooting and hollering. During this year’s Halloween party, the final match in the October ping pong tournament was won by a team (appropriately) called: First Place.
When we looked in Quid, we found plenty of evidence that the ping pong table can foster a positive workplace culture, too.
- A ping pong table can create an enjoyable atmosphere and contribute to a more welcoming workplace.
- A wellness benefit to having a ping pong table in the office encourages an active break time for employees, an opportunity to leave their desks and move around.
- DC Fawcett, owner of Paramount Digital Publishing, encourages fun in his workplace and suggests other companies do the same by setting up a fun/learning room with a ping pong table and training books/materials.
- Two entries suggest converting conference room tables into ping pong tables as a way of boosting energy and creativity for employees or blowing off steam. (One of the top keywords in the interior design cluster is creativity. It seems ping pong is some sort of marker for creativity in modern office design.)
- Keeping employees young at heart with a playful office space improves workplace mood and productivity predicting a higher level of overall company accomplishment. (Fun fact: the word “playful” shows up 24 times in the Quid ping pong network.)
Will ping pong replace your HR staff or save your company culture when it’s gone bad? Certainly not. But it might just give two people from opposite corners of any company (startup or not) a reason to bond.