Executive Insights

This Cape Town business believes office pets, a games room and a lack of HR make it more efficient

Business Insider SA

Ziggy the Golden Retriever and Finn the German Shepherd.
  • Online retailer RunwaySale has a unique office.
  • Here you can expect to be greeted by a Golden Retriever, a German Shepherd and a cat.
  • They also have a games room, massage chairs and hold yoga sessions three times a week.

Online retailer RunwaySale has a unique approach to office life. For starters, pets are allowed. In fact, Ziggy the Golden Retriever, Finn the German Shepherd and Shiloh the cat are considered part of their team in Woodstock, Cape Town. The business even went as far as offering on-site puppy training.

Research has shown that pets, particularly dogs and cats, have a major impact on relieving stress levels, bringing a team together and increasing productivity, and CEO Karl Hammerschmidt believes it is also part of creating an office that seamlessly integrate work and life.

The workplace needs to adapt and is no longer simply a place in which to get the job done but one that fosters a strong work ethic, team experience, co-operation and, of course, fun, says Hammerschmidt.

“We don’t want anyone to feel guilty about not getting to gym or having to take time to go to the hairdresser or beautician, which is why we bring these into the office. Not only does it save us all time but it helps lift the mood and brings in some fun.” 
Shiloh and Ziggy.

The company offers yoga and pilates sessions three times a week, and a beautician and hairdresser make office calls to ensure that weekends are free to enjoy with family and friends, Hammerschmidt says.

The company also has a games room where you can sing karaoke; a massage chair; a secret library, which is a "whisper-only" zone; and a "chill room“ with various refreshments and an honesty bar. 

Shiloh is hard at work.

While it is not all fun and games, performance expectations are very high.

“We don’t function like a corporate company. Everyone understands the importance of his/her role within the organisation and what is required so we don’t micromanage or clock watch. Staff takes responsibility for getting the job done."

The company also doesn't believe in "traditional HR".

"Team members prefer weekly catch-ups so we ensure that managers are equipped to accommodate this and encourage open conversations." says Hammerschmidt. This allows them to evaluate work and ensure that team members are aware of the working aspects that need improvement, or the areas they are succeeding in.

"We don’t believe in quarterly reviews. However, we have one-on-one completely honest catch up sessions with team members at least twice a year, in what is a 2-way street setting. It’s about being fully transparent in communicating about the business and expectations and making sure everyone is happy."

It’s not surprising that the office works on flexi-time.

“Our team, to some extent, selects their working hours,” said Hammerschmidt. “This ranges from a 7am start through to a 6pm finish. It allows them to avoid traffic snarl ups or leave early enough to enjoy the longer sunny days in summer.”

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