Google is widely regarded around the world as the #1 company to work for anywhere. Being a great place to work is as integral to Google’s brand as its search engine, and that value is being upheld at the company as much by its policies as by its office designs. This makes Google an intriguing case study on how office amenities differ in contrasting real estate environments. The famous Googleplex in Silicon Valley is located in a sprawling 46 acre plot in California, but the largest single property owned by Google is actually its Manhattan office, a 2.9 million square foot building in Chelsea that is currently the 4th largest building in New York. How is Google able to consistently create work environments in vastly different settings that all uphold and demonstrate the value this company puts on happy employees?
The value Google places on attracting and retaining employees have been integral to the company mission since day one. Part of this was out of necessity. The tech industry in 1998 was expanding faster than any other industry in the history of the world, and companies were driven by talent coming predominantly from the younger generation with unique demands for work satisfaction. The other part was out of Larry and Sergey’s strong belief that a happy workforce is the key to ensuring sustainable success. One of the key departments in Google’s Human Resources is the Department of People Analytics and Compensation, who’s sole purpose is to quantify the effects of all Google’s perks and benefits. As Google built itself up from two cofounders to the over 50,000 employees who work there today, engineering employee happiness has consistently been a cornerstone of the company’s business model.
The Googleplex Headquarters in Silicon Valley is home to some of the most legendary perks in the workforce today, many of which Google have pioneered with seen subsequent emulations from countless others in the tech industry and beyond. Salon and spa facilities, gym facilities, meditation and break facilities, free food, daycare, bring your pets to work, minigame setups across the campus, bikes and scooters to get around, the list is endless. The Googleplex is truly a unique workplace that many see as perhaps overly indulgent or new age in value, but the rationale behind each feature of the facilities was carefully considered in the designing of the Google campus. As justified on Google’s description of its corporate culture, “Our commitment to innovation depends on everyone being comfortable sharing ideas and opinions… because we believe that each Googler is an equally important part of our success, no one hesitates to pose questions directly to Larry or Sergey or spike a volleyball across the net at a corporate officer”.
Google offices are different across the globe, with each satellite office reflecting both Google’s corporate culture and the aesthetics of the local city. In contrast to the Googleplex, Google’s Manhattan building at 111 Eight Avenue is challenged with packaging Google’s signature facilities in a vertical setting instead of the sprawls of California. The quirks of Manhattan are well represented in the interior designs of the office space. Walls and alleyways are designed with intentional New York sceneries, such as graffitis and images of taxis and buildings that “complete” views otherwise blocked by the walls between windows. A number of collaboration rooms are designed to mimic small studio apartments in New York City. Some hallways even have subway shafts and fire hydrants as decorum. Despite the many ways the building is distinctly New York, 111 Eight Avenue shares the same fundamental design rationale as the original Googleplex. Key facilities such as spas, wellness centers, free food, and social lounges scatter many locations across the massive 3 million square foot building. What remains consistent in the designs of both the Googleplex and the New York office is Google’s commitment to facilitating free sharing and serendipitous interactions amongst employees.
Ultimately, what makes Google successful at creating the best workplaces in the world is not necessarily the quirky designs or the new age wellness facilities. What makes Google successful is that they are consistently able to manifest their corporate culture in a material way with every workplace they design. The design of Google’s workplace immerses employees in the company culture every day in a strategic yet seamless ways. From the free food that enable casual interactions to the meditation rooms that facilitates social bonding, Google offices are designed to encourage employees to freely inspire, collaborate, and share ideas. Google demonstrates that optimal workplaces are not created by implementing a standard list of features; it is instead the result of marrying the intangibles of coporate cultures with the material designs of the office environment.
See you at the next exploration!