Now it is a cliche. If you are a startup, you have a ping pong table in your office. Maybe if you’re one of those fancy startups, you also have a foosball table, a slide, or a corner full of bean bags. But for a certain type of business in 2016, a ping pong table is like cell phones or the toilet — it’s a no-brainer.
The table probably sits in the middle of your open plan office, a beacon of fun and youthful spirit among common desks and laptops. To be sure, ping pong tables are awesome — who doesn’t love a game of table tennis after you’ve totally passed the release cycle deadline? But your standard pong table doesn’t say what you think it is. For you, that says “we are a cool young startup who cares about work-life balance.” Just about everyone it says, “We have red cups in our binders. “
Poppin is an office supplies company that promotes itself as the startup helping other startups. It provides staplers, paper clips, desk organizers and now a new and improved ping pong conference table. Poppin calls it the “A-Series” (yes, really) and recommends it for companies with 50-200 employees. These are the types of budding startups where a ping pong table can be included in your perks package, so it’s a smart move.
I wanted to roll my eyes at another work and play design, but Poppin’s table is actually pretty cool. It’s minimalist — all white with a colored stripe in the middle — and it does double duty. The company is quick to say that it is first a conference table, then a ping-pong table. “It’s about creating meaningful corporate furniture that turns into something fun,” says Jeff Miller, head of design at Poppin. Fair enough. The table is of regulatory size (5×9 feet) and can accommodate up to 12 people. The net and paddles are hidden in a compartment that only reveals itself when the two sides are separated. That same compartment has a slot for phones or router wires, and the slot is just narrow enough that a ping pong ball cannot slip out.
For a simple table, it is well thought out. The table is built on the same beam and lever system as all of Poppin’s tables and desks. Miller explains that it would have been easier to simply build the table with a standard sliding mechanism that would allow the ping pong table to open like an average dining table. Instead, he and his team built a custom roll and stand that attaches to the beams under the table, giving it continuity with the rest of the company’s home furnishings. “I think there is a certain appreciation inherent in the fact that the system has been thought out intelligently,” he says. Of course, very few people are going to care how the table opens — they just want it to open, period.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Poppin’s first ping-pong conference table was his second bestseller, behind his binders, which are a less obvious nod to the company’s motto “work happy.” Tables cost $ 3,000. “It’s a great price for a conference table, and it’s very expensive for a ping-pong table,” Miller says. And just in case your business hasn’t quite hit conference table success levels, good news: Poppin is currently working on a coffee table that turns into a set of corn holes.