Novato office-fun company plans serious Petaluma expansion

PETALUMA -- Short-staffed office workers feeling the squeeze of deadlines increasingly are reaching for Office Playground Inc.'s growing line of silly-styled squeeze toys and other daft diversions, so much so that the Novato-based business plans to significantly grow size in a move to Petaluma.

Office Playground (415-483-1196, leased 17,500 square feet of excess industrial space in the North Bay Drywall & Plastering building at 715 Southpoint Blvd. in Petaluma and is planning to relocate from 83 Hamilton Dr.  in Novato in the first half of July.

[caption id="attachment_55727" align="alignright" width="390"] Office Playground's catalog includes (clockwise from top left): Sandbox Combat Mission, Laughing Stress Ball, Zen Garden, Time Warp Clock, Slingshot Chicken, Executive Decision Maker and Balancing Bird[/caption]

"It was great to find the opportunity to expand without a lot of extra fixed cost," said Bill Ross, Office Playground chief executive officer. Because of lower lease rates in Petaluma, the rent there will be about as much as what the company is paying for less space, he added.

Job stress is a growing workplace productivity and public health problem, according to the American Psychological Association. In a 2007 survey by the professional group, three-quarters listed work as the biggest source of stress in their lives, and half said it affected productivity. The cost to business annually from absenteeism, turnover and insurance claims totals more than $300 billion.

Among the association's recommendations for dealing with work stress is taking 10- to 15-minute breaks away from job tasks and doing the same for lunch. Therapeutic playtime is Office Playground's marketing hook. 

[caption id="attachment_55728" align="alignleft" width="350"] Office Playground founders Kiersten and Bill Ross[/caption]

Except for flat sales growth in 2009 and the first half of 2010 in the aftermath of the economic recession, revenue has been rising since Mr. Ross and his wife, Chief Financial Officer Kiersten Ross, started the company in 1999. Sales for the past two years have been soaring like one of the collection's slingshot flying stuffed animals over office cubicle walls.

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