A slightly dissenting view of the cool and groovy Google office

I’ve seen these sorts of stories/videos about the offices that Google has around the world before:

They are inviting and cool and groovy and everything, and believe me, I’d rather work in a space like this than the shit-hole that is Pray-Harrold Hall. (BTW, if you the time, do follow that link to the “EMU Historic Tour” entry on Pray-Harrold. I think its pretty darn funny. Notice the “earlier”– presumably when they building opened in 1969– picture is not a whole lot different than the “today” picture, except that it looked a little more shiny in ’69. It’s like that on the inside– once shiny and new, and now kind of overcast and harshly lit. And the architecture style described as “International;” is that code for “Orwellian?”) Education at all levels might work better if it was a bit more playground-like, though frankly, I’d settle for just a window, a reasonable heating/cooling system, and a space that didn’t smell like old building.

But as inviting and cool and groovy and everything that this Google office actually is, I have to wonder if it would actually be a good place to work in the long-run. I am sure that someone has done some kind of study or analysis of this, how spaces in these “don’t be evil” corporations like Google actually are kind of, potentially at least, evil. One obvious draw-back of this design is that it’s set up this way so you never have to or want to leave– all the toys to play with, the slides, the exercise facilities, the free food, etc. Besides the fact that this is also the premise behind prison– though prison is obviously a lot less comfy and a lot less voluntary– isn’t this a problem for people who have families and lives outside of work? And don’t companies like Google want workers who have some kind of outside of work lives? Or if they don’t want those kinds of workers, isn’t that kind of a problem?

I have to wonder if I could get anything done in there. If I had to work there, I’d be the old man yelling “hey, turn down you damn X-box and stop playing ping-pong– I’m trying to freakin’ WORK here!” Damn kids…. And thank you, but stairs and elevators work better for me than poles or slides in going from floor 2 to floor 1.

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2 Responses to A slightly dissenting view of the cool and groovy Google office

  1. As someone who used to work in that world (although not Google), I can say that no, they don’t really want someone with outside of work lives. As the founder of Cisco once said, “dedication *starts* at a hundred hours a week.” (He wasn’t kidding.)

    Places like Google are all about making work as fun and painless as possible, so that you will do as much work as possible, and so you won’t leave for a better offer elsewhere. (The fun part’s important — it helps keep people from getting burnt out.) And it IS fun.

    Remember also that they also have a tendency to provide a larger chunk of their compensation in stock options. More work = more money.

    BTW, the prison analogy is a bad one — prisons make no effort to make you want to be there (it sort of undermines the point, after all).

  2. Annette says:

    When I was a 22-year-old journalist working, most often, 70+ hour weeks I would have LOVED this space and would have practically lived in the office. I pulled “all-nighters” as a journalist all the time, going home for three hours to sleep a little bit and take shower. If the newsroom had had a shower and a sofa, I just would have stayed there.

    Now that I have a child, my first response to the video was “Where’s the day care center?” — It is kind of surprising that such a, um, friendly company would not prominently feature things like day care centers and private rooms for moms to nurse in, etc., but perhaps that’s the point — they want your co-workers to be your family.

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