Today, it’s a Silicon Valley stereotype that innovative tech companies have offices filled with weird junk overflowing from employees’ desks.
But on former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s first day at the office in 2001, he just saw a mess. He asked head of facilities George Salah to “clean up the place,” he writes in his new book “How Google Works,” cowritten with former SVP of products Jonathan Rosenberg.
The next day, Salah got an email from cofounder and current CEO Larry Page: “Where did all my junk go? I want you to bring it back NOW.” It hadn’t made it to the dump yet, and soon everything was back to normal.
Page’s reaction made Schmidt realise that he had mistakenly toyed with the fabric of Google’s culture. He is now a convert to the Google lifestyle, and says that you should let your employees make a mess of their desks if it’s a natural expression of their creativity and doesn’t hamper their productivity.
When she worked at Google, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gave each member of her sales and support team $US50 to spend on desk decorations, Schmidt and Rosenberg write in the book.
Google places such importance on office perks because its main objective is making employees comfortable at work, which can lead to great collaboration. The authors write:
We invest in our offices because we expect people to work there, not from home. Working from home during normal working hours, which to many represents the height of enlightened culture, is a problem that — as Jonathan frequently says — can spread throughout a company and suck the life out of its workplace…
Google’s AdSense product, which developed into a multibillion-dollar business, was invented one day by a group of engineers from different teams who were playing pool in the office. Your partner or roommate is probably great, but the odds of the two of you coming up with a billion-dollar business during a coffee break at home are pretty small, even if you do have a pool table. Make your offices crowded and load them with amenities, then expect people to use them.
You don’t necessarily need to let your employees go full-Google and start decorating the walls with shots from paintball guns (like workers did at Google’s Chicago office), but it’s important to help them feel at home.
“It’s OK to let your office be one hot mess,” Schmidt and Rosenberg write.
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