In April, Google required tens of thousands of its workers to return to the office on a hybrid schedule, which means three days a week for many workers. in the office. Some workers have backtracked, demanding they can continue to work from home. The company, which has always been a leader in creating bustling offices for workers, has done everything from hosting a Lizzo concert to provide more free food and corporate swags to keep workers coming back. Although its new campus, which opened in May for around 4,000 advertising employees, has an array of benefits, workers are questioning whether it makes sense to invest in an office at a time when many of them want to work remotely.
On a typical Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of workers strolled around campus, having coffee, holding hybrid meetings and gathering in central meeting places. But some workers say they’ve proven that during the coronavirus pandemic they can be productive from home — helping Google’s profits soar — and should have more flexibility now, especially as the pandemic and its health risks persist. Workers also want protections and flexibility to extend to contractors, suppliers and temporary workers.
“Workers want more than fancy new buildings,” said Andrew Gainer-Dewar, a member of the Alphabet Workers Union-CWA and a Google software engineer. “We want to be involved in shaping what return-to-office and work-from-home policies look like so that every worker’s needs are met. »
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The Bay View campus was under development years before the pandemic hit. Google says the pandemic hasn’t influenced any of its decisions for the new office, but rather reaffirmed the need to redesign the workplace. As a result, the company believes it has developed the office that can adapt to the changing needs of workers.
“We thought… ‘How can we create a campus that will be functional and vibrant for over 100 years?’ ‘” Michelle Kaufman, director of Google’s real estate research and development team, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “We knew flexibility was going to be important. »
Below are the coolest features of Google’s new Bay View campus.
What your future office might look like – if you even need to be there
Theme classes for socialization
The Bay View office has approximately 25 themed courtyards, which aim to serve as central meeting points for various parts of the sprawling campus. Each courtyard has a unique theme and is complemented by artwork from local artists.
For example, a yard called “Tea Time” looks like it came out of a page in “Alice and Wonderland.” Oversized faux flowers bloom from the ground, and a giant life-size chessboard serves as the centerpiece. In the Mariposa District courtyard, hundreds of cut-out butterflies hang from and around the staircase connecting the upper and lower floors. And the courtyard of the “Dinosaur District” features a massive dinosaur skeleton adorned with colorful beads, similar to Mexican sugar skulls, while the centerpiece and traditional paper banners called papel picado hang near the staircase.
Google says the different themes are meant to celebrate elements of the local community.
A floor dedicated to development work
Two floors serve very different purposes on Google’s Bay View campus. The lower floor is for socializing, collaboration, meals, and activities, while the top floor offers dedicated office space and small meeting rooms for more intimate team meetings.
“There are always debates that open offices can be great for creative sparks and occasional collisions, but can be hard to focus with distractions,” Kaufman said. “Instead of just going back and forth on this debate, we tried to design a third thing, a new thing. »
But on a typical Wednesday, while the ground floor was buzzing with workers queuing for their coffees, burgers and chatting in open spaces, the top floor was relatively empty with a few workers. A few boxes and nameplates suggest that workers are still moving through space. Yet fewer than a handful of workers were taking advantage of the quiet space that spans a top floor, which slopes toward the center of the building, creating different levels.
The workspace is designed to accommodate, and Google says each pod has moveable walls, meeting rooms, and furniture that can be arranged in days. The idea is that as teams grow or experience changing needs, the office can keep up with demand, Kaufman said.
Collaborative meeting rooms
Google meeting rooms are configured to meet the needs of all participants, whether they are in person or participating via remote video chat.
Inside meeting rooms, Googlers can arrange moveable tables to form a large conference-style table or individual desks. They can choose to hold their meeting seated or adjust the desks to become standing tables. They can attach tablet table tops to padded chairs to hold their laptops or notepads. Some meeting rooms have multiple screens so employees can see the faces of other meeting participants, content that may be part of a presentation, and a collaborative digital whiteboard.
Hybrid work for many is messy and exhausting
A big priority for the Google campus was sustainability, Kaufman said.
“How can we use our buildings to achieve our carbon goal by 2030 of being carbon neutral? “, she said. “We have a bunch of things we are doing in this project to guide us towards that. »
This includes a roof fitted with steel shingles which are actually solar panels. They apparently produce 40% of the energy for the building. The tent-like shape of the building is also structured so that solar panels can collect energy at all hours of the day so that all workspaces receive natural light. Below the building is a geothermal heating and cooling system that Google says works to regulate temperature using 90% less water. The campus has an on-site blackwater treatment center to recycle water so it can be used for irrigation and building restrooms.
It also has smart window shades that automatically open and close based on the time of day and office time. the ventilation system uses 100% outside air.
Characteristic of Google, the new campus has unique and practical benefits for Google workers.
For example, in Google’s “Pedal Park” playground, employees can ride a colorful Google stationary bike, connect their smartphones to it, and charge their phones with the energy they create while pedaling. The campus also has no shortage of food and coffee options sprinkled throughout its lower floor. It also has several terraces on the top floor, where employees can work, and a padded courtyard patio on the ground floor. And, of course, it has a laundry room in case social workers need to freshen up their sons on site, a wellness center and a gym with an outdoor workout area overlooking on nearby ponds.