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Google Is Redefining an Industry Again; This Time, Office Culture

In a story for the Atlantic, entrepreneur Naeem Zafar writes about how Google has created a unique office culture that encourages innovation.

He breaks down three distinct aspects of the complex that make Google stand out from other companies: A proud emphasis on tradition, a playful atmosphere, and the importance of close quarters.


Passion for tradition
In every facet of Google’s office, they show their commitment to innovation and new thinking: from the quartz-stone flooring that’s more durable than wood or carpet, the solar panels that provide 30 percent of their peak power needs, and the LEED-certified furniture. There are also reminders of Google’s purpose and history – including screens in the lobby showing Google searches from around the globe and the company’s original server, circa 1999. In fact, the campus isn’t called a campus at all, it’s called the Googleplex. Google employees aren’t called employees, they’re called Googlers, which in and of itself creates a sense of belonging and purpose that other offices lust for. And there are plenty more nods to the company’s roots throughout the Googleplex – a British phone booth painted in signature reds, blues, yellows and greens and writable surfaces in every room used to jot down ideas or master plans. All of these details remind Googlers of the company’s vision each time they walk through the doors.


Being playful
Google’s offices are decorated in the Web giant’s signature primary colors. They’re filled with bean bag chairs and large exercise balls, which not only encourage people to sit down, but also to relax and laugh. There are bicycles and scooters available to efficiently travel between meetings. Need to give your brain a break? Settle down in a massage chair and stare at a lava lamp while petting your dog (every day is take your pet to work day). There are foosball tables, pianos, video games, yoga classes and more – all available to employees who need to recharge. Natural light and better air circulation also contribute to a healthier atmosphere.

Incubating collaboration
A smaller workspace for multiple employees encourages a team-like atmosphere and helps people feel like they know what’s going on (especially because they can overhear their co-worker’s conversations). Small, informal gathering places throughout the office — whether by the coffee pot of a few bean bag chairs — invites people to stop, talk and hopefully innovate. The company wants everyone to wear multiple hats and to be a hands-on contributor to their mission. To do this, they’ve created an environment where everyone can feel comfortable sharing ideas and opinions – whether they’re speaking to an executive or the person at the next desk. To further emphasize an open culture, each of their conference rooms contains two projectors: One which displays the presentation and the second which displays the notes taken in real-time to show everyone what is being recorded.

But does it work?
Google and other like-minded tech companies like Facebook and Twitter have turned the idea of a traditional office on its head. Say “bye bye” to private offices and cramped and cluttered cubicles. But do bean bag chairs and open spaces really help productivity? According to a study by research-based analysis firm Bosti Associates, factors like air quality, lighting, acoustics, aesthetics and ergonomics all have an impact on employee satisfaction and retention rates.

Studies aside, the internet search giant’s success is pretty good evidence that they’re doing something right. The company attracts the best and the brightest in the field and continues to expand.

Posted by James Wilkie

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