What If Offices Were More Like Kindergarten Classrooms?

I had an odd experience a few days ago.

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw a photo a friend had posted about her son selecting the kindergarten he’ll enter in the fall. The photo was of her son standing in a kindergarten classroom.

As I looked at the photo, this wave of something hit me. The classroom evoked a feeling that wasn’t quite nostalgia. Rather, it was closer to the intersection of comfort and happiness. I’m still looking for the words.

Here, maybe looking at this will help you understand:

What is it about a kindergarten classroom that feels so right? Is it how everything has a place? The miniature size of the furniture? The bright colors? There’s just something warm and kind of magical about the use of space.

I think it might be a feeling that’s completely unique to kindergarten classrooms. But does it have to be? What if offices were designed with the same principles in mind. Bright, cheery colors. Desks made to share. Cubbies for your shoes. And maybe even reduce the size of everything a little bit, just to put people in the creative headspace of being a kid. Do you think that would work?

I’m curious if others share this feeling and can put it into better words.

10 thoughts on “What If Offices Were More Like Kindergarten Classrooms?”

  1. Many silicon valley companies have this approach, there are slides, nerf guns, stuff plastered everywhere, google had a graffiti artist come in and paint a wall, the problem being once you start growing and getting bigger, some of this culture often falls by the wayside.

    I would recommend reading the book “Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley” if your interested in some of the culture that results sometimes in an office atmosphere like this.

    • Sean: Thanks for sharing that book. Those types of offices came to mind, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s some difference. I think it might be that kindergarten classrooms don’t use toys as a way to given kids a break from learning–they toys are part of the learning process. Or maybe it’s something else? There’s definitely a parallel, but there’s something a little different about the two versions.

      • Definitely something different as I believe the kindergarten and preschool ages have toys that used to develop motor skills, reasoning and concepts, and host of other things. While the other offices are built around providing a distraction to allow the brain to rest in order to come back to a problem, or to build comradery and teamwork.

  2. Jamey,

    Over the course of more than two decades in the military, I can tell you that we’ve adopted a few of these things…most notably better color palettes, standing desks (some even on wheels to move around the “bull pens”), and a more open environment where folks on the same team can work much more collaboratively than in the past. Actually, one of my colleagues at the FBI took a daring step and started making stars with his team members’ names written on them and posting them around the office to display the hard work and accomplishments of those whom he supervises. It’s great for morale and it brightens up the place.


    • Joe: Thanks for sharing the military perspective on this! It definitely opens my eyes to what the modern US military is.

  3. I work for a large medical software company in the Madison area. Our company has put a ton of research and effort into fostering an environment of creativity. We’ve been building our campus bit-by-bit for about 10 years now. We specifically sought out architects that have done work with Disney. The older buildings all have themes, like video games, Fantasy (D&D style), Asian, Jungle (Complete with an indiana Jones tunnel. Later buildings have themed groupings, like the Farm campus that is all themed with farm equipment, etc… the “Wizard’s academy” which is totally not Harry Potter includes a Kings Cross cafeteria, Library, observatory, and fortress. We have a storybook campus with themes from classic literature, Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Jules Verne, etc.. We even have a treehouse meeting room for team retreats.

    We fill the buildings with unique art, design elements, and little bits of fun. It’s not quite the same as a kindergarten classroom, but I think it’s designed to spark the same environment of learning and exploration.

    The one big difference is that we are firmly against the Open Concept office, a fact about which I’m thankful. Each employee has an office with walls and a door. some employees share an office with one other person, but the campus is all offices. You can wander the halls, get inspired, but then you can get back to your office, close out the distractions, and get some work done.


    • Wow. That’s a stunning office campus. I’m blown away by how awesome it is. Does the novelty of it wear off, or does it impact you every day?

      • Yeah, it wears off a bit. It felt like I was in Disney World for a few months, but eventually, it feels like work again. That said, it still has an impact on a day to day basis. I often stop to look closer at some piece of art, or if I need a break from my office, I’ll take my laptop and sit in one of the common areas for a while. And there are still certain hallways or staircases that you walk down and just feel cool.
        I think the biggest thing I notice is after visiting another company’s offices, and seeing a cubical farm or similar, I appreciate the effort more then.


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