By now it’s a cliche. If you’re a startup, you have a ping pong table in your office. Maybe, if you’re one of those fancy startups, you’ve got a foosball table, a slide, or a corner full of beanbag chairs, too. But for a certain type of company in 2016, a ping pong table is like cell phones or toilets—it’s a given.
The table is probably sitting there in the middle of your open plan office, a beacon of fun and youthful spirit amongst the communal desks and laptops. To be sure, ping pong tables are great—who doesn’t love a game of table tennis after totally crushing a release cycle deadline? But your standard issue pong table isn’t saying what you think it is. To you it says “we’re a cool, young startup who cares about work-life balance.” To pretty much everyone else it says, “we have red cups in our filing cabinets.”
Poppin is an office supply company that bills itself as the startup that helps other startups. It provides staplers, paper clips, desktop organizers, and now a new and improved ping pong conference table. Poppin calls it the “Series A” (yes, really), and recommends it to companies with anywhere from 50 to 200 employees. These are kinds of budding startups where a ping pong table might be included in your benefits package, so it’s a savvy move.
I wanted to roll my eyes at yet another work-meets-play design, but Poppin’s table is actually pretty cool. It’s minimalist—all-white with a colored stripe down the middle—and it pulls double duty. The company is quick to say it’s a conference table first, ping pong table second. “This is about making a meaningful piece of business furniture that converts into something that’s fun,” says Jeff Miller, Poppin’s head of design. Fair enough. The table is regulation size (5×9 feet), and can sit up to 12 people. The net and paddles are hidden in a compartment that only reveals itself when the two sides are pulled apart. That same compartment has a slit for phones or router wires to go through, and the slit is just narrow enough that a ping pong ball can’t slip out.