How Threadless.com Makes Warehouse Work Fun

Apr 13, 2011 9:07 PM  By

Want to keep your operations staff happy and motivated? Make your workplace fun.

It isn’t as hard as you may think, and the rewards can be huge, according to executives from online apparel merchant Threadless.com.

Speaking at the recent National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment in Las Vegas, Threadless.com warehouse manager Bryan Schaefer and warehouse director Lance Curran gave the audience some pointers up upping the fun quotient.

“Try new and innovative tactics, and don’t overcomplicate things,” Curran told attendees. “Listen to employees and give feedback. Love your job. Make it a fun place to work.”

Founded in 2000, Threadless specializes in graphic T-shirts and currently carries 5,000 SKUs. Schaefer said the warehouse employs 26 people—a figure that usually triples during peak periods.

Threadless’s 35,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in downtown Chicago is unique and fosters an energetic atmosphere coupled with a “sense of ownership,” Schaefer said. “It’s not just a job to these workers.”

What’s so fun about working in the Threadless warehouse?

For one thing, employees get to crank their favorite music. They play basketball inside the warehouse at lunch, and have live bands occasionally entertain them. They also head out at 3 p.m. on Fridays for Happy Hour.

Sound too good to be true? Well, that’s how the warehouse team at Threadless rolls and, in the words of Charlie Sheen, this team is always “winning.”

But Curran was quick to say that, despite all the fun, work comes first and foremost. “There is a sense of pride that helps the whole company. We’re a community first, a warehouse second.”

Schaefer said during the first quarter this year, Threadless.com shipped 19% more T-shirts than the first quarter last year. Everyone in the warehouse does fulfillment, bulk, and quality assurance work, and there is an accountability/productivity program.

Each worker ships at least 500 T-shirts per day, Schaefer said, with a 99.7% accuracy rate and a 2% return rate. “Our biggest hurdle is reducing the amount of labor during peak periods,” he noted.

Curran said the only way to attack the enormous amount of orders is to “keep throwing bodies at it.” But all departments work together, “so someone never feels like just a cog in the wheel,” he said. “We aim to create a passionate environment.”

What’s more, Curran said he and Schaefer always thank their workers. “They all get 10 T-shirts a month and become marketers for our company. We have our awesome times on Friday when we let out at 3 p.m. And we say awesome a lot.”

The mission, added Schaefer, “is to inspire awesomeness.”