After Hours

Google gets creative with its work environments

Thought you were lucky because your company's only vending machine was usually stocked? Take a look at the creature comforts Google offers its employees.

In this blog, I've talked about annoying co-workers and obnoxious bosses who can affect your productivity.  But what about the physical attributes of your workplace?

In the April 2009 edition of Scientific American, there was an article on neuroscience by Emily Anthes titled "How room designs affect your work and mood." In the piece, Anthes tells the story of how Jonas Salk claimed he wasn't able to solve the puzzle of polio until he left his basement lab and went to clear his head in a monastery in Assisi. He claimed the architecture and serene views gave him the right mental conditions for the creative and intellectuals leaps he needed to make.

There have also been studies done on the affect of colors in the office on moods and productivity.

There are other factors to consider besides productivity, however. What if you want your offices to attract members of Gens X and Y, who have grown up with the stimulation of video games and mind-bending movie special effects? A lot of companies are starting to realize that offices don't have to be staid, cubicle farms, that a workplace can be visually stimulating but still be a place to work.

If you want to see some far-out creature comforts, you can look at our gallery of office shots from the international offices of Google. It seems to me that European companies are more daring in office design than their American counterparts. For one example, take a look at this atrium in Google's Dublin office (Figure A).

Figure A

Some companies might not look kindly upon such amenities, seeing them as just a means of distraction for workers. But who's to say that a little distraction can't amp people up when it's time to put the nose to the grindstone?

To see more images of Google's offices, click here.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

12 comments
mendozallan
mendozallan

paraphrasing "When I work I'm good, but when I play I'm better"

minstrelmike
minstrelmike

I was reading an article about the neuroscience program the Aurora shooter had been in (it's a local story for me). One interesting tidbit of info was that they had found the type of cage a mouse is kept in changes the mouse's brain. That means all of the previous brain research (on mice at least) is now suspect.

Computer Dave
Computer Dave

It's easy to have a happy and productive work force when they aren't bothered with support calls from people paying for services that have failed. I use to work for a certain large DBMS company (it's the one that sponsors an aerobatic stunt plane and a racing yatch) at their Chicago office. They providedcoolers filled with just about any softdrink you might want. Good idea, right? The reality was that it took the better part of 20 minutes to get down to the lobby and back. So by having beverages handy you were effectively kept at your desk for the entire day.

mikesf
mikesf

all the offices with windows were reserved for rank and file employees. Center offices or windowless offices were either meeting rooms, spare offices or managerial offices. A very employee friendly company.

Gem in VA
Gem in VA

"There have also been studies done on the affect of colors in the office on moods and productivity." That should be 'effect', not affect. You could say "on how colors in the office affect moods and productivity" but in the sentence as you have it, the effect is the result. Where was your editor??

ondcross
ondcross

There is a philosophy of pleasing people to get results. The problem with this is that if you start pleasing a bunch of idiots(sorry I don't know the Politically Correct term these days), all you are doing is encouraging lavish stupidity. If people cannot focus and need distractions, I can understand that to a DEGREE. But there is a remedy for that that I have heard called DISCIPLINE. Great minds have odd ways of finding solutions, but that should not be confused with mass stupidity.

Al_nyc
Al_nyc

I wish there was a bike lane in my office. A nice work environment makes a difference. I hate being in a cubicle farm. Especially since the design is so dumb.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...but I doubt that will last forever. (Remember PeopleSoft?) Some day, Google will face more competition or the environment will change and that level of lavishness will slowly disappear.

Zorched
Zorched

...be evil in the way it monetizes our data, even though not as bad as facebook, at least it treats its employees well. Better than most American execs where the sole leadership motto is: "The floggings will continue until morale improves."

Barry ZA
Barry ZA

In the movie Con Air, Garland Greene says "What if I told you insane was working fifty hours a week in some office for fifty years at the end of which they tell you to piss off; ending up in some retirement village hoping to die before suffering the indignity of trying to make it to the toilet on time? Wouldn't you consider that to be insane? " So, corporate execs, at least let the insanity be comfortable. I think that Google is doing a splendid job.

Barry ZA
Barry ZA

Most thinking people (unless they are anally-retentive) will understand the context of the post.

macmanjim
macmanjim

Google has bring your parents to work day. I guess they start them on the path to insanity younger...