Think Differently with this Inspiring Office Design at Google HQ
If (like us!) your idea of a fantastic workspace is to have a slide in the middle of the room, a games room for brainstorming, an aquarium with a bath as a bed with dim lighting for chilling out and relaxing – with lots of free food (employees must be within 100 metres of food at all times, its Google guidelines!) – and ski boxes for meeting spaces, and beehives for quiet rooms….well, we may just have found the perfect inspiring office design for you in Google.
Although not everyone can indulge their fantasies as much as Google, there are some serious messages about office design behind their thinking:
Work as a social and fun experience
Essentially, encouraging people to play and exchange ideas improves innovation. Additionally people want social environments, they go to work to learn, interact with smart people and enjoy themselves, not just pick up the paycheck. So there aren’t too many walls, everything is open plan to let the knowledge flow as quickly as possible, everyone is mobile and can work where they like.
Challenge conventional thinking
Putting a slide in the office isn’t just so people can get to one floor to another quickly. Its almost supernatural to see a slide, that you’d normally see in a playground. In an office environment it encourages the observer to think different about solutions to everything in day to day life….we also challenge you to use the slide without smiling…it’s impossible!
Dotcom companies are defined by beanbags and pizza but Google, a company that came to prominence after the bubble had burst, has taken that image to a whole new level.
Meeting ‘pods’ in the style of Swiss chalets and igloos, fireman poles to allow easy access between floors and a slide to ensure that people can get to the cafeteria as quickly as possible are all part of a design of its new European engineering headquarters in Zurich Switzerland.
The building was designed for – and partly by – the 300 engineers who will work there.
The wacky office is both a showcase for Google’s unconventional approach to business and a symbol to prove that Google is no longer a US-centric firm.
Google does, without doubt value its staff very highly and engineers are particularly important – over half of the company is made up of them. They are best served, according to Nelson Mattas, vice president of engineering, by both a creative work environment and a flat, open working structure. At a press day to launch its new research and development centre, he explained the serious point behind the ‘fun office’. “The lava lamps, free food and games are all part of the Google culture. It is informal and a structure that isn’t dictated from the top,” he said.
Breathe the Corporate Culture into the business and employees
The unconventional design of the office represents what Google hopes is a free flow of information through all parts of the company. “I was very surprised that on day one of joining Google I had access to every piece of code, design document and confidential information, said Mr Mattas.
A database of all ongoing projects allows engineers to easily locate expertise and a scheme known as 20% time offers engineers the chance to take that amount of time off from their key objectives to “go do something new”. It has proven itself, spawning features such as Google News which was built as a 20% project by an engineer frustrated about the availability of news following the 9/11 attacks.
For Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management at Google, the balance of work and fun is just about right. “Beyond the good food and cool office it is the case that every conversation that you have here is one of substance,” he said.
Above all, if you were a bright young thing fresh out of school, top of your class with a choice to work anywhere, and maybe you hadn’t heard of Google and went along to their offices for an interview….which company would you choose?!