What Google Headquarters Taught Me About Productivity

Paula & Jay with Gopi at Google

Last week I decided to use the 4th of July weekend as an excuse to go on vacation. I have always wanted to go to San Francisco and figured now was the time. My husband Jay and I toured around the city — saw the Golden Gate Bridge, walked up Lombard Street, strolled along Fisherman’s Wharf and even tasted some amazing wine in Napa and Sonoma Valleys.

While there – we were amazingly lucky to get a tour of the Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA.  That’s about 50 minutes south of San Francisco.  Anyone can check out the grounds but to get a real look inside the buildings an employee has to take you around.  I was lucky to be introduced to Gopi Kallayil by a mutual friend and he was our very gracious host.  He’s the Chief Evangelist at Google for Brand Marketing — isn’t that the coolest title ever?

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Outdoor cafe at Google Headquarters

As soon as we drove to the Googleplex (seriously, that’s what it’s called) we saw Google bikes and electric cars everywhere.  The compound is amazing! It more like a college campus than a workplace. I even saw people playing volleyball (with their shirts off!!) There were Googlers (that’s what they call themselves) doing yoga outside, some relaxing in a meditation garden, others were playing with their dogs (yep pets are allowed at Google,) or eating at one of the 40 restaurants on the grounds.  We visited one of several gyms where classes were going on and every single treadmill was taken.

The more time I spent there, the more I realized that everything had been designed with productivity in mind. When you have a lot going on outside of work, it can be difficult to stay focused on your actual work.

Stairs display real time Google searches

Stairs display real time Google searches

At Google they take care of all those everyday annoyances. They have gym facilities, pods for taking a nap, laundry facilities — and you can even get your haircut at work! It’s true — there’s a bus that goes around the campus and you can pop in for a trim.  All the meals served in the restaurants are free — breakfast, lunch and dinner.  That takes the expense and decision making out of eating.  You can wash your car, get an oil change or even visit the on-site doctor if you have the sniffles.

Google also provides a shuttle bus that picks up workers from San Francisco, so you don’t even have to worry about your commute. Oh and I forgot to mention — you can get a massage on campus too.  In fact, Google employs more massage therapists than any other company.  Wow.

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A lot of fun and games at Google

Googlers are encouraged to work whenever they’d like — so you don’t have to sit at your desk.  Instead you can hang out in a cafe outside or lay in the grass with your laptop.  Gopi told me that employees are encouraged to share their passions with the community.  That’s why he started a program of Yoglers, eight years ago.  Yep – those are Googlers who do yoga.  Gopi teaches a yoga class every Monday no matter which Google campus he’s on and it feeds his soul to be able to share his love with his peers.

By taking care of everyday stresses, Google allows their employees to relax and focus on the tasks at hand.  It’s such a stark difference from your ordinary office, it’s pretty jarring initially. But the effort Google has put into making it’s employees more comfortable has definitely paid off. Everyone I encountered seemed so happy!

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We just typed my name into a computer and this wall populated every photo associated with me online!

Google is certainly on the forefront of innovation in terms of the workspace it’s offers it’s employees. But after I left I found myself contemplating how much more productive we could be if other big corporations followed in Google’s footsteps.

Not all of us are going to drop our jobs and go work for Google.  Altho they are hiring for lots and lots of positions.  So how can you integrate some of this motivation and ease some of the everyday annoyances that you encounter to be more productive?

1. Outsource:  Laundry, car maintenance, food shopping — these are all things that can be outsourced to make your life easier.  Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  The time that you waste doing these tasks could be better spent being productive doing something that either you love or that makes you more money.

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An air hockey table like no other. Type in a name or subject and up pops YouTube videos. You push those over to the other end of the table to play them. This is one of my YouTube videos for ListProducer.com

2. Combine Tasks: Cooking for the week on one day and having meals to heat up when you come home from work will make your life so much easier.  Taking the annoyance out of having to cook when you come home from a long day at work will mean you’ll eat healthier and save money too.  No more takeout!

3. Schedule Down Time: Not all of us can just get up from our desks and join a yoga class outside like at Google. But we can be sure to spend time doing the things we love if we schedule and plan for them.  So instead of saying “I wish I could get to a yoga class” — schedule it.  Put it into your calendar, sign up for the class in advance and get there.  Pushing yourself to do something you love can be all the motivation you need sometimes.

4 replies
  1. Dianna
    Dianna says:

    Sorry Sara, not impressed that Google provides all of these wonderful amenities to employees, yet those of us who pay for their services, still refuse to allow users to for instance alphabatize or otherwise organize email. Simple enough. Twenty years ago even AOL could do this. Google is unresponsive to suggestions or complaints. Perhaps if the company did not focus so much on their Employees and instead focus on their Paying Customers, I would have more respect for Google.

    Reply
    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Sorry you’ve been having trouble getting Google to troubleshoot for you. Wish I had a solution other than just switching providers if you’re that unhappy with the service. Good luck!

      Reply
  2. Camilla Hallstrom
    Camilla Hallstrom says:

    What a great post, Paula! Google has probably put a lot of money into researching all of this so it’s so true that there are ideas you can apply on your own life – outsourcing being one of my favorites. It’s so much easier to outsource these small, everyday tasks these days and doesn’t have to cost you that much (in fact, it almost always gives a great ROI if you use the time you save on your own work).

    I’m amazed at those stairs, that photo wall AND the fact that they have 40 (!!) restaurants on campus. A friend who is a Googler told me that they have these amazing snack bars with lots of healthy snacks and already that sounded like heaven.

    Reply
    • Paula Rizzo
      Paula Rizzo says:

      Thanks for writing in Camilla. It was such an extraordinary place! Yes, the food was healthy and they had different color systems to let you know just how healthy. There were some cookies and cakes of course but mostly good stuff.

      Reply

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