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Google's new office is all work, all play

With its quirky settings and colourful ambience, Google's office is designed to promote fun-filled innovation

Manavi Kapur 

The central foyer on each floor has a thematic installation

‘I envy you’ is a phrase most employees at Google India are used to hearing from their friends, mostly in reference to their workplace. The old office at Gurgaon’s Cyber City, which was functional till the end of last month, was quirky enough. So how much more eccentric could the company’s new office be?

Quite a lot, it seems. On the day of its inauguration, Google employees, or Googlers as they fondly call themselves, found themselves at Signature Towers II looking at a big, red bow on the building. A man rappelled down the glass facade and untied the bow to cheers from below. If that was unconventional, it’s just as melodramatic inside. With Google security staff on vigil at automated entry points, the feeling that you’re walking into a sci-fi vault is unmistakeable.

Doing up the the new office took about two-and-a-half years. Employees were asked what they wanted in the new office, and a team of 15 staff members worked closely with an Australia-based design company to come up with a space that would aid creativity. Besides the designers, Google also hired several consultants for different aspects of the office, such as lighting, air quality, food, et cetera.

“Each Google office is unique, but is united in its underlying theme of fun,” a Google spokesperson tells me. Like most Google offices globally, the Gurgaon office is also eco-friendly. “The interiors have minimal synthetic paint and use eco-friendly materials like stone. We have ensured there is maximum natural light near the work stations,” the spokesperson adds. The counter where employees discard their food trays also has garbage bins sorted according to the kind of waste.

Rajan Anandan, managing director, Google India, elaborates further: “Investing in Googlers drives business outcome that we care about — innovation. And we know that happier employees are more productive and do cool things that really matter.”

Google’s offices globally are designed to promote a culture of brainstorming, but the India office is largely based on the sales function. Here, most employees analyse complex data and attend calls. To facilitate this, there are spaces on each floor where Googlers can ditch their desk for a whacky couch. The most popular is the ‘sheep station’ that has sheep stools and tiny cabins for those who want a bit of quietude.

Spanning 160,000 square feet across eight floors, the new Google office affords about 200 sq feet per employee, making the old office appear congested with just 150 sq feet per employee. The building currently houses 450 Googlers and 250 service staff. There’s space for another 250 employees.

But what necessitated a new office? “It is a reflection of our commitment to our employees, who are our most valuable resource,” says Anandan. Could this be a move towards curbing employee turnover? There is no official comment from Google India on employee turnover, but Googlers in the office say that most of them stay with the company for two to three years.

“The office makes you feel very productive and you have to worry about nothing but the work. Google spoils you to the extent that other companies pale in comparison,” admits a Googler who does not want to be named.

Like one gets used to a high-end smartphone, Googlers too seem to have settled in. Do they miss their old office? “I miss Cyber Hub! Besides, being on eight floors instead of two makes the space less interactive,” says the Googler. Ahem, is this a case of the grass being greener on the other side?

Surabhi Agarwal contributed to this report

Google office: All work, all play

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First Published: Sat, September 06 2014. 00:17 IST