Background--Can I Get My Laundry Done?



Go back to the main home page to read the long version as this is a much shorter rendering. Seventeen years ago I was contemplating working for a big corporation but knew nothing about it. I then decided to hop on my bicycle and physically visit companies to see if I'd want to work for them. I wasn't so much interested in knowing how much money the company made or its product line but, wanted to find out about its corporate culture. Is there a company cafeteria? How's the food? Does everyone eat together or do executives have their own dining rooms? Would I have a parking space if I drove to work? Would I have to pay or get on a wait list for a parking spot? Is their public transport nearby? How far is the headquarters from the city center?

In the United States I visited many companies with their own corporate campuses. Usually located in the suburbs of a city these places are somewhat isolated and so offer a variety of services for employees. Some have on-site barbershops, childcare, ATM machines, laundry and car wash services and, even chapels.

Is smoking allowed in the workplace? This isn't much of a problem in the USA as laws have been passed to protect workers in the workplace. However, it's a vastly different story in Europe where smokers rule the roost.

What's the workplace like? Is the building rundown or new? Is it the cubicle set-up or do people share offices? Is there a formal or informal dress code? Does the CEO have his office on the top floor, middle floor or bottom floor? What's the surrounding area like? Is it located in a good neighborhood? Can I walk to shops or the train station?

Any employee perks like free passes to museums, discounts on company products or special deals with local retailers? Any onsite recreational facilities? Shower facilities at work?

I wanted answers to these questions. As I started visiting company head offices I found out many had their quirks. Clothier Patagonia (Ventura, California) and Greenpeace (Amsterdam, Netherlands) serve only vegetarian food in the company cafeteria. La-Z Boy, Inc (Monroe, Michigan), a maker of reclining chairs, raises pheasants behind their headquarters -it's a conservation program. Three companies in London have ghosts in their head offices. Toshiba (Tokyo, Japan) has a spiffy fitness facility in its 40-story tower for the 10,000 employees who work there-unfortunately there're no shower facilities. Soon I found there was another reason to visit companies: collect corporate trivia or unusual information about company headquarters.