Recently I’ve worked with a number of companies that have former Google employees in leadership positions - founders, office managers, c level. I’ve noticed a big difference in working with those type of people, because they have a better understanding of how much impact a well designed office has. It makes my job easier because I spend a lot less time convincing them why they shouldn’t cut corners, or pack as many people as possible into the floor plan.
Here’s the top things that I’ve noticed that former Google employees know that others don’t:
Google founder, Sergey Brin famously commanded that no one be more than 100 feet away from food. This was so that all employees could quickly and efficiently get food and drinks while not interrupting their workflow. Anyone who worked at Google had immediately access to ‘micro-kitchens’ filled with coffee, snacks, drinks, and meals to go - in addition to a full cafeteria. While food is just the tip of the perks iceberg at The GooglePlex - onsite childcare, laundry, dentistry, and lap swimming, just to name a few more - it shows how much detail went into the thinking behind providing the perks for employees.
When working with former Googlers, they understand the benefit of providing their staff with onsite perks. It saves them hours of time, helps them to stay focused on their work, and fosters a strong sense of community amongst their team. Most of the companies I work with are small but are committed to providing services because they know that by providing these services you’ll attract and retain top talent. This doesn’t mean you have to provide it all, but you can choose to provide a few things that are aligned with your values.
Designing the space
Take a walk around an office like Google, you’re constantly reminded of it’s brand, values and culture. Use your office space to remind employees why they are there - why they come to work everyday. Keep them inspired by putting up your Mission and Vision or displaying values in the entryway and common areas.
Create an office space that team members enjoying coming to. It should be a place that they want to get up in the morning to go to. People want to do good work, you just need to set them up for success - starting with the space. The space should support their work, allowing them to be efficient, creative and effective. Top talent gets to choose who they get to work with. Now that many companies allow remote work, if the space isn’t comfortable, ergonomically and acoustically sound, potential hires may choose another company or just work from home. While working from home is a legitimate option, it doesn’t allow for close collaboration between team members.
When designing a workplace, be intentional about setting the space for collisions and unplanned collaboration. Build in spaces that bring people together, this is particularly easy when they get drinks or food - remember Google’s micro-kitchens? Even if you don’t have the budget for a full meal program, casual cafe space near a few snacks or drinks allows team members a separate work area from their desk to work socially, often with people outside their team. It’s in these places - when a Marketing person is chatting with a Developer - that the most creative solutions to problems come about. You get the benefit of two different types of thinking and problem solving. It’s much easier to set the space up to support these kind of interactions rather than using managerial force or implementing a policy.
I can always tell when a former Googler is on a team by the type of workstations and chairs. These people don’t mess around when it comes to ergonomics - Google has full-time Ergonomics specialists in each and every office. So when I walk into the small company and see that they bought height adjustable chairs with lumbar support, height adjustable desks, and have monitors at the correct height (eye level when your looking straight ahead), I know someone probably worked at Google. They knows that the benefits of (literally) supporting your employees are huge compared to the health cost down the road.
Former Googlers may have left Google but it’s obvious that their experience there had a huge effect on them as to the best way to support their employees. Obviously not all companies can provide all of these perks, but ex-Googler’s make these things a priority since they know how important it is to support their team members which allows them to be more competitive when it comes to hiring and achieving long term success