Frontly and Bladder Inc., a copper tubing manufacturer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is making waves with its innovative new workplace environment modeled after a slaughterhouse.
Troy Merk, the man behind the vision, credits an article he read about Temple Grandin, renowned author and slaughterhouse designer. “Ms. Grandin is all about keeping animals calm and killing them efficiently, making the process easier on everyone. So I thought: why shouldn’t the same apply to our workers here? Not that we’re killing them!” he added hastily. “We want them to be calm for their metaphorical death. Which, in our case, equates to a one-to-two percent increase in profit margins.”
One calming measure is the altering of the office’s clocks. “When a cow sees itself approaching slaughter, it panics,” explained Merk. “The exact same thing applies to an employee who can see eight hours in a cubicle sprawling out in front of them.” To get around this, all office clocks display 3:45 all day long. “Research has shown this to be the ideal time,” said Merk. “Employees can see the light at the end of the tunnel, so they get invigorated and feel like they have just enough time to make one last push and finish one worthwhile task.
“They can exist in this state all day long,” he added. “They don’t seem to realize that time isn’t passing.” He attributes this in part to another key element of the new setup: the promotion belt. This consists of a sling that holds an employee and his or her computer and other bare essentials. Every hour, on the hour, each sling is moved one position along a belt that runs through an entire floor’s worth of cubicles. At the next position is an incrementally but noticeably better desk.
“This steady but meaningless progression gives the employees a sense of self-worth and positivity toward the company.” says Merk. But doesn’t the belt run in a circle? “Yes,” he admits. “Once an hour someone goes from the corner office with a Keurig to the folding table next to the bathrooms. But we’ve found that promotions come so quickly that most people don’t have time to feel down before they’re moving up again. Occasionally, somebody can’t handle it, and then we kind of do become a slaughterhouse.” Laughing, Merk added, “Please don’t put that last part in. I’ll absolutely lose my job.”
The new model is proving a huge success and is set to expand to Frontly and Bladder’s Lansing branch office within the month.
Photo credits: Meat hanging in the first cooler room of the processing facility by Watershed Post, Boss in a bad disguise by Mark Turnaukus, For your safety (cubicle) by David; all licensed under CC 2.0