Culture, Startups

10 Offbeat But Cool Startup Culture Hacks

Employees are the biggest asset to an organization, no one understands this more than startup companies. Keeping up the employee morale and office atmosphere lively has its own perks in the long run, for which companies develop some offbeat traditions. As the startup culture is gradually developing in India, we bring to you 10 of the most interesting cultural hacks.

1. Hubspot’s Desk Exchanges

image source: boston

Shown Above: Hubspot Office – Image Source

Every quarter employees have to sit at a new, randomly assigned desk, says Founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah. This mixes up teams and changes the people they sit near. It also forces everyone to clean up their workspace .

This is not the only cool culture element Hubspot has, it also has a Facewall in its office, which is essentially a huge screen with photos of all its team members with details, so that everyone knows everyone in the growing organisation. Along with that there is also unlimited vacations and any kindle books the employees ask for.

2. Quora’s Vacation Tax

Quora’s ‘Vacation Tax’ isn’t a regular tax but a tradition where the employees of Quora who have been to exotic vacations have to bring interesting food from those places for other employees when they return.

3. Facebook’s Hackathon Month

After working on a particular team for a while (typically 1 year), Facebook tells you to pick any other team at the company and for 1 month, you’ll have a project on that team. If at the end of the month you liked the team and the type of work, then you can stay on that team. If you didn’t then you can go back to your old team or maybe even pick a new team to try out. Hackathon allows engineers to gain knowledge and experience with all of the different parts of Facebook. Also it ensures that your job isn’t siloed to one particular team and task like at many large companies.

4. Zipmatch’s Music Competition

 Zipmatch makes their employees compete in a musical contest called ‘Zipmatch Unplugged’. Each team has to play 3-4 songs, and are given a few weeks to practice. Competition can be one department vs another department or random teams.

5. Hacker-at-large’s ‘Nerf Gun Wars’ and ‘DJ of the Day’

Nerf Wars, the company handed out nerf guns to all the people at the company, and at 5pm one of them would begin a war by randomly shooting at someone. It would naturally devolve into random attacks on everyone else and a totally fun shootout. Some of the more ambitious employees began bringing in bigger and more sophisticated nerf guns, according to Anurag Mandhekar, entrepreneur at HAL.

They also have a DJ-of-the-day activity. People volunteer to become DJ of the day and are allowed to play their music out to the rest of the company for that day.

6. Fresh Tilled Soil’s Workations

Boston-based Fresh Tilled Soil provides its employees with ‘Workations’ where they send their staff to exotic locations like Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. The idea is for them to try working remotely from some unusual location. Company pays for their air ticket, accommodation and food – as well as surfing lessons or something that gets them out of their comfort zone and it’s not counted as vacation time. They do have to work a full day but they also get time to “surf, do yoga, or whatever they want.” says CEO Richard Banfield

7. Expercity’s Office Bell

Expertcity, a company sold to Citrix a decade ago, found success in boosting employee morale and company culture by putting up a bell in the office premises.

If anything remarkable has been done by anyone, they strike the bell hard to let everyone know about it and cherish the moment with the rest. If the bell has been rung with no good reason then the person responsible as to buy lunch for the rest of the office.

8. Softwire’s Music Lessons

London-based Softwire offers its employees an unusual perk: music lessons.

“We have a drum and a singing teacher who come into the office regularly to teach lessons to whoever wants one – we also have a couple of bands within the company,” says managing director Zoe Cunningham.

If music isn’t your thing, the company has a “Morale budget” where it arranges for other kinds of on-site lessons, like sushi-making.

9. Commerce Science’s Starter Kit

American startup Commerce Science follows a tradition for an employee’s first day at work.

The last person to join the company is responsible to create a ‘starter kit’ for the next one to join. Each kit is totally different and personalized (depending on how creative the last person is) ranging from funny jokes, interesting books to Nerf Guns and coffee capsules.

10. Maptia’s office in Moroccan surf town of Taghazout

Startup Maptia moved its office to Morocco, for a low-cost way to have an office on the beach.

Maptia’s graduated from the TechStars Seattle program in US at the end of 2012 and then the Founders’ visas expired. Instead of going home to London, they wanted a cheaper place where their $100,000 in seed money would last until they launched their beta. They are building a travel discovery site.

So, they spun the globe and found a cheap apartment only ten meters from the Atlantic ocean in the Moroccan surf town of Taghazout. All five Maptia team members live there. They stop work when the surf is up and the cost of living is so low, they can feed themselves on $10 per person week.

All the responses and ideas have been sourced from this thread on Quora unless otherwise specified.

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One comment

  1. 1

    Being a startup is a lot of work and it’s so inspiring to see how hard all these companies are trying to bring their teams together through positive motivation. I bet there are a lot more stories out there like this.

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