Trade Me staff adopt slide time

Last updated 05:00 02/08/2014

TradeMe staff member Jeff Hunkin shows us around the new central Wellington office, MTV Cribs style.

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KIWIANA CONFERENCING: Communications chief Paul Ford in front of the caravan boardroom – ‘‘a slice of outside which gets creative juices flowing a different way’’.

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Ever since Google opened its "Googleplex" headquarters in California in 1998, it's become obligatory for big tech companies to have quirky and colourful offices - and Trade Me's new home is about as colourful as they come.

The company's 268 Wellington staff have been in their new HQ in the Xero building for a little over a month. They have ditched some stairs for slides, grey carpet for multicoloured, and silence for the likes of The Black Keys playing from speakers dotted about the office.

In addition to 180-degree views of Wellington Harbour, the new office has three barista coffee machines, table football, arcade games, a pool table, beer on tap - and a karaoke stage.

As in most offices, there are meeting rooms - but Trade Me's comprise an old caravan, fitted with sprinklers and smoke alarms to conform with safety requirements, and two "picnic" rooms, complete with fake grass on the floor and a lawnmower in the corner.

"I think it's just a hat-tip to kiwiana and something a bit quirky, a slice of outside which gets creative juices flowing a different way," communications and community representative Paul Ford says. "It's a cool room to have a really boring meeting in."

There are also spaces with a second-hand, retro vibe - taxidermy, goat-skin mats, lampshades and tartan-covered cushions. "Yeah, it's a mash-up of secondhand and new, which is what Trade Me is about, after all."

He insists the company is not trying to be like Google, it is simply trying to be like Trade Me.

"I get that some people might say it's like Google and that kind of stuff, but it's not what we have modelled it on. Our starting point is our company culture and I think if you hit up anyone here they'd say it's ‘informal but focused with a sense of fun'. We wanted to bring that alive in an office."

Chief executive Jon Macdonald says the fresh, new work space has increased energy and optimism.

"The stairs and slides are fun and add to the vibe, but they actually have a real purpose which is to make three levels feel like one space."

He says he uses the slides and makes his own coffee at the machines daily.

Ford, who previously worked for a big accounting company, says it would be hard to return to a "normal" working environment.

"I'm a pretty flexible person, never say never, but it would be hard, I mean Trade Me is an extraordinary company. It touches the lives of so many New Zealanders.

"But at the end of the day you can have the coolest office building and really cool stuff, but if people don't say hi to each other in the lift then it doesn't really count for much."

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- The Dominion Post


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