Office design is critically important to creativity and collaboration. Mobile technology and flexible scheduling means the traditional model of one desk and one chair in one office is obsolete, and Google has long recognized that. But their work environment goes beyond the basic ergonomic chairs most of us would think are a nice benefit to a design aesthetic that inspires.
According to Google, “Here’s the secret sauce to our benefits and perks: It’s all about removing barriers so Googlers can focus on the things they love, both inside and outside of work. We are constantly searching for unique ways to improve the health and happiness of our Googlers. And it doesn’t stop there–our hope is that, ultimately, you become a better person by working here.”
As you can see, these design elements not only have a visual “wow” factor, they also build morale, improve employee health and wellness, and inspire the employees to achieve.
Secret #1: Embrace the Local Personality
Google doesn’t make the mistake of simply copying their California offices in other cities. Instead, they adapt local materials, styles and identities into each new location. For example, a Google’s office in Pittsburgh, PA features a nod to the Steel City’s history by including a massive photo of a bridge mid-construction. I wonder which of the famous three rivers this bridge spans?
Secret #2: Hedge Your Bets in London
Fresh air is a fantastic natural stimulant and a dedicated outdoor space for employees is a boost to morale. Of course Google wouldn’t be satisfied with the typical picnic table behind the parking lot that most employers offer. Instead, they’ve created a secret garden with private and public seating on the roof of their London HQ.
Secret #3: Padded Cell Meeting Room
Do you shy away from conflict at work? Maybe you wouldn’t if you could meet colleagues in a padded room, like this one in the 160,000 square foot Google London HQ.
Secret #4: Remember Your Roots
Google’s founding in a garage was the inspiration for the company’s Amsterdam offices, designed by D/DOCK. The garage-chick look is carried throughout the offices, including this conference room.
Secret #5: Book Nook
Google’s London HQ uses fun and quirky names to describe each of their rooms, including the LaLa Library. Employees can continue to learn and develop professionally while lounging on this couch with a good book. You can thank interior designers PENSON for the beautiful look of the London offices.
Secret #6: Meeting Room Magic
In Madrid, Jump Studios designed a large conference room that meets the technical needs of a global business but also had a little fun with binary code on one wall. The missing code reveals the word “Madrid” on the wall to add a little hometown pride.
Secret #7: Hammock Hang Out
Some workers can’t be creative in a faux leather chair at a particleboard desk. But in a hammock the ideas flow. Google’s office space in Pittsburgh, designed by local firm Strada, gives new life to the phrase “Google Hangout.”
Secret #8: Work up a Sweat
If you expect your employees to put in extra hours, they need a way to burn off energy and clear their minds. And given the rising cost of health care, it also makes financial sense to invest in employee wellness. Google provides exercise areas, ergonomic workspaces and even exercise balls in meeting rooms. Here is a shot of the fitness center in Google’s Tel Aviv headquarters which houses treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines, and more, all with a beautiful view of Tel Aviv.
Secret #9: Smirk While You Work
Some of us can only close the door to our boring square office when we want to be alone. This phone or reading booth in Amsterdam, designed to look like a mobile home, would be a much better place to seek out privacy. Unlike traditional offices that stick to a professional (some might say stuffy) aesthetic, Google isn’t afraid to have a laugh in their design choices.
Secret #10: Move Beyond the Water Cooler
Google is famous for offering its employees food perks. They also offer mini-kitchens and break rooms that are perfect for a tete-a-tete over coffee and put the traditional water cooler to shame. This pantry space at Google-owned YouTube headquarters in Tokyo is a break space most employees would die for.
Secret #11: Always Branding
If you haven’t noticed from the pictures already, the Google brand is ever-present in the company’s design choices. From repeating the company name to using the blue, red, yellow and green that appear in the logo, each office is branded perfectly. When Google opened their offices in D.C.,
Susan Molinari, the vice president of public policy said, “We want to allow people who come in here to get themselves to a place that the message of innovation is problem solving, and it’s told in so many different ways.”
How does your current workspace reflect your brand?
Secret #12: Let There Be Light
As you’ve seen, there’s plenty of natural light in Google workspaces. But when there isn’t, or when nightfall comes, the designers don’t rely on the tired fluorescent lighting that comes standard in most offices. Check out these flower shaped floor lamps that complement the use of outdoor themed wall art and natural fabrics. Whether the lights are turned on or off, they contribute to the beauty of the room.
Secret #13: Cheers!
You probably could have guessed that this pub is a feature of the Google offices in Dublin. Designed by Camenzind Evolution, the Dublin HQ spans four buildings for a total of over 500,000 square feet, all of which are meant to mirror the bustling city it calls home.
Secret #14: Relax
For most of us, work is the opposite of relaxing. We might even spend our weekends trying to decompress with exercise, salon visits and pedicures. But at Google’s office in Zurich, these relaxation rooms contain massage chairs and even relaxation bathtubs filled with foam.
Secret #15: Not Your High School Cafeteria
The food is so good (and free) at Google that some jokingly refer to the “Google fifteen,” referencing the fifteen pounds employees are sure to gain once being surrounded by munchies and meals. But look beyond to the food to recognize that this gives employees yet another way to come together, collaborate, and communicate.