According to the Great Places to Work index, Google is once again the top 1 employer this year. So as an international Well-Being Researcher, I headed towards Mountain View, California, and visited them to find out: is Google the happiest workplace on Earth?
How is it to work for the company that steers the world’s leading search engine as well as Gmail, YouTube, Android, Chrome, Maps, Translate, and literally hundreds of other applications? With many more in the pipeline, including self-driving cars (I’ve been inside one), contact lenses that measure your glucose levels, internet balloons, home automation, individualized medicine, life extension technology, etc…?
Are Google Employees happy indeed? For sure, Google has been known for its many employee perks. There are free laundry facilities, children’s day care, you can even get a free haircut.
We know from research that physical movement is good for your subjective well-being. And indeed, Google offers all kinds of free sports facilities, including free gym, Yoga and fitness classes and a central beach volley court, just to name a few.
Google’s free multi-colored bikes are everywhere: as an employee, you just grab one to move from one building to the other. From country-level research, we know that using bikes is strongly correlated with happiness. But using bikes at Google is not only healthy and happiness-inducing, it’s also practical: Google Campus is so huge that on foot, you can keep walking for half an hour straight and still be on Google grounds.
The food trucks and cafeterias offer free and healthy food. Their interior is simple but effective, and remind me of my favorite Alma Mater student restaurant. As many employee facilities here, they offer plenty opportunity to network and be among other people – one more factor that we know from research as essential to our well-being.
Google has a clear mission statement: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Until recently, the unofficial mission statement had been ‘Don’t be evil’. Recently this has been replaced by ‘Do the right thing’. Which, psychologically speaking, makes sense: most parts of our brain cannot process negative utterances, so I suppose there was the danger that with a statement like ‘Don’t be evil’ only the ‘evil’ part keeps sticking…
Google claims to actively embrace diversity, and that is visible: the workforce is extremely international, you hear all kinds of languages spoken on campus, facilities abound when you’re a parent or pregnant, there are gender-neutral toilets, etcetera.
One of my quirks is that next to investigating everything there is, I also love to look for what is not present. So it struck me that one category of people is clearly underrepresented: the elderly.
Thomas, a former Googler from Belgium, explains: ‘First you do your thing at Google for a few years. Then your work experience is becoming so valuable, that you can seize better opportunities at other companies. That’s also what I’ve done. But generally speaking, Google is indeed a great place to work.’