The firm inaugurates new premises. It currently has 2,000 employees and is aiming for 5,000. Guided tour.
Google’s offices are often said to be among the “coolest” in the world. The media were able to judge for themselves yesterday: the Californian internet giant invited the press to the inauguration of its new premises in Zurich. A press conference framed by a marked security device.
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, was to go there, stressing the importance of the site in the eyes of the multinational. Federal Councilor Johann Schneider-Ammann also jumped in to praise the “love story” between Switzerland and the multinational.
In 2004, Google had two employees in Zurich, employed in a “chaotic” environment. Thirteen years later, the firm claims a community of 2,000 “Zooglers” – the nickname for Google employees in Zurich – of 75 different nationalities. This makes the banks of the Limmat the home of the company’s largest development center outside the United States. Eventually, Google plans 5,000 workstations in all.
Located next to the station, the new Sihlpost site offers 300 work places spread over three floors of a listed building owned by CFF. The amount of the rent and the cost of the renovations are not communicated. But this is the start of a new phase of growth. Over the next few months, the group will invest in other buildings in the rapidly developing district of Europa Allee.
work, eat, play
Contrary to what has been achieved in its other Zurich premises, on the site of the former Hürlimann brewery, Google has kept Sihlpost rather sober. There are no cable car cabins, jungle or slides here. But the firm says it has stuck to its core philosophy: to create a workspace “that encourages creativity and innovation.” A specific theme also guided the decoration efforts. Google was inspired by the history of the places, formerly occupied by La Poste. Everywhere, references to the yellow giant have been integrated. At the entrance, an old PTT bicycle rests against a wall while a yellow mailbox has been hung on the reception desk.
Continuation of the visit: a corridor leads to a large restaurant, with a coffee bar. Employees can sustain themselves morning, noon and evening. Right next door, a “micro” kitchen, apparently always well stocked, allows you to quench your appetite at any time. Cooking classes are also organized there.
From the cafeteria, a corridor reminiscent of a post office leads to the workspaces. It is dotted with small meeting rooms, created at the request of employees. They have indeed had their say. On the other side, in the open space, Zooglers hard at work talking in English. The visit being limited to a single floor, we will not see the common rooms higher up, where employees can play board games or have a game of ping-pong to clear their minds.
A dream to work in such conditions? Originally from Friborg and trained at EPFL, Pascal Fleury, 47, says he did not hesitate when he saw that Google was recruiting computer engineers in Zurich. He is not disappointed. “There is comfort, of course, we work in a very pleasant environment. But I also appreciate the freedom we are offered in our tasks and the fact that our employer listens.”
At the Sihlpost premises, the engineers are responsible for the development of Google Calendar and Gmail, among other things. On the Hürlimann site, they take care of the Google Search, Maps and YouTube services. And in June, the firm set up a skills center in Zurich dedicated to the field of “machine learning”.
“Rooted” on the banks of the Limmat, the multinational plans to offer apprenticeship places this fall. “We want to invest further in Switzerland. The goal is clear: the country must remain a center of innovation,” said Patrick Warnking, director of Google Switzerland. For the latter, Zurich is the “ideal” host city for his firm, thanks in particular to the presence of the ETHZ, with which it collaborates. He did not mention taxation as a possible argument. Google does not say how much tax it pays in Switzerland.
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