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April 19, 2016

What can we learn from Google’s offices about workplace design?

Office putting-greens, vintage subway cars and revolving bookcases are among the zany features that can be found in Google’s charismatic offices. Google is renowned for its unusual and extraordinary workspace designs as part of its model of motivation.

Although the offices may look cool, there is in fact reasoning behind their take on workspace. In this blog, we will explore the ways that Google makes use of its office space to “create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world.”

Those that sit together, work together

Over the decades there has been a great deal of research investigating the importance of physical space within the workplace and how it affects employee motivation. Studies showed that within a workplace that encourages collaborative working, that productivity increases by 15%.

In contrary to old fashioned office structures designed by hierarchy (senior management on the upper floors and juniors on the lower floors), studies show that it’s necessary for people of all levels to work together to create and share information. This concept has slowly, but surely, started to infiltrate office culture.

Employee motivation – the Google way

At Google, office culture promotes “casual collision” between employees. This is paramount in demonstrating how collaboration promotes creativity and drives production.

Google’s culture focuses more on their employees rather than the results themselves. While Google also provides the standard perks including no-cost health and vacation benefits, and in keeping with its philosophy that “life at Google is not all work”, what contributes to this culture is its unconventional workspace design.

Is this unconventional design productive?

While some of Google’s offices across the world may seem somewhat alternative: an office putting-green and authentic jungle (Dublin), beach volleyball and climbing walls (California), an authentic New York apartment styled conference room and a virtual library with secret, revolving bookcases leading to other departments (New York), such extremity does have its benefits. But, how does work actually get done?

To ensure that Google creates the perfect workspaces for their employees, everything from the corridors and ornaments to the colours of paint are carefully analysed.

Each workspace is designed to stimulate creativity and ultimately encourage social interaction with members from structurally separate teams – someone who an employee wouldn’t normally network with. Google intentionally hires people who are ambitious and that have established accolades of fantastic achievement. They can therefore be confident that through a combination of vigilant hiring and delivering an employee-friendly workplace environment, their staff will always perform to the best of their ability.

The 150 feet from food rule

If we take a look at Google’s New York headquarters, Googlers believe that there is an energy of diversity in the city itself and that is reflected in the workspace. No part of the office is more than “150 feet from food”. Whether there is a restaurant, coffee lounge or cafeteria, employees are encouraged to snack more, chat more and, most importantly, inspire more.

This ‘casual collision’ reinforces that all employees are there to work and help one another, just as New York itself is a hub for interaction. Regardless of common interests and values, neighbouring colleagues are more likely to get on.

And in an office where ‘casual collisions’ are encouraged (Google’s New York office has a number of notoriously slow elevators forcing workers to use ladders and corridors), people from different departments are more likely to engage in unexpected conversations and generate new, inspiring ideas.

Are these ‘out-there’ designs worth it?

So, what can we learn from Google’s wacky workspace designs? The design of an office has to reflect today’s evolving work environment, and collaborative working is becoming increasingly popular. And as the world’s number one search engine, Google must be doing something right!

At Workspace Design, we understand that collaborative working could coincide with your
office’s culture. Here are a number of key features that make for a collaborative workspace:

• An open plan to encourage collaborative collisions
• Additional common areas – coffee bars, cafeterias, lounge rooms etc.
• Areas that are designed for more than one person, rather than single-occupancy

For more advice on how to make the most of your collaborative workspace, get in touch today.

And if you can think of any more benefits of Google’s unique workspace designs, be sure to send us a tweet or send a message on Facebook – we always love to hear from you.