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Why Beanbag Chairs Don’t Make You a Cool Place To Work

Inside Naver Corp. Headquarters Ahead Of First-Quarter ResultsInside Naver Corp. Headquarters Ahead Of First-Quarter Results
Employees lounge on bean bags next to statues of characters from the messaging application Line, operated by Line Corp., at the Naver Corp. headquarters in Seongnam, South Korea, on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Photograph by SeongJoon Cho—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “How can you help millennials feel like they’re part of the company?” is written by Lisa Maki, co-founder and CEO of PokitDok.

One of our company’s smartest moves was in hiring a chief people officer shortly after we closed our Series B round of venture capital funding. This role helped us establish philosophies around the way we do business, which are attractive to the millennial generation.

Here are three ways to make millennials feel like part of your company:

Make flexibility more than a cliché

Yes, we have beanbag chairs, an open working environment, a rooftop space, and a choice of working in the heart of Silicon Valley or the warm beaches and culture of Charleston. All of these perks are grounded in the concept of lifestyle and flexibility that millennials expect. Beyond a flexible workspace, what does flexibility really mean?

Since we were founded with bicoastal offices, our company embraced and built a virtual culture from the beginning. As it turns out, this fits well with millennials’ resistance to the standard 9–5 rut and too much unproductive, mandated face time at the office. Instead, we emphasize flexibility through an autonomous, self-directed culture.

At our company, you’re responsible for getting specific priorities done and judged on results. That means if you want to kite surf because the wind picked up, go do it. If your second grader has soccer practice, take her. Or if traffic sucks, adjust when you get in that day.

I don’t care if you code in your pajamas, as long as you work as a team and build a product that people want to buy.

Debate freely

Millennials succeed by freely and openly debating ideas, a practice that we encourage at PokitDok. Our company is allergic to hierarchy and we reinforce that value through open communication. Our team vigorously debates ideas, problems, and projects from inception to completion on the Slack internal messaging application.


Chaos occasionally reigns on this forum, and once in a while I find baby boomers and Gen Xers becoming uncomfortable when challenged by team members half their age. Regardless, the end result is a better product built by employees who feel heard, and an emphasis on objectivity and outcomes, not authority.

Involve them in tough projects

Millennials want to be inspired by their work. Instead of being cogs in a wheel, they’d rather solve tough problems.

For example, PokitDok is working with healthcare companies to modernize their technology infrastructure. Solving this ambitious problem involves a lot of work behind the scenes. Involving millennials in initiatives like this makes them feel that they have a hand in powering a new kind of healthcare system.

So make sure that your millennial employees know they have a stake in your business, and they’ll feel like they’re part of the company.