What’s it really like to work at Google?

Alongside working with hyper-intelligent colleagues, the perks are still held in awe by staffers. “I had access to plenty of perks and more privilege than I’d ever had before, and it was all free – free meals, free gym, free electric scooters to ride around on; it was all very cosy and comfortable,” says Andrew Norman Wilson, who worked as a contract Google video producer until last year.

Employees are also impressed with the work-orientated facilities. “All conference rooms are wired for everything you need to make your life easy,” says Google Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik. “In companies I’d worked at prior to Google, I had to reserve a projector and carry around my power bricks and Ethernet cables. At Google, all the power adapters you need are in the conference room – Apple or ThinkPads; there are two projectors; and most have high-bandwidth videoconferencing.”

The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate

The fabled Friday afternoon company-wide TGIF meetings are also still going strong, with a weekly catch-up offering workers a chance to mingle with management. “The TGIF meetings were quite relaxed, with people eating and drinking,” says Wilson. “It was part celebration of the company, part a weekly catch-up meeting and a way of breaking down the business-social divide.”

Time to grow up

Yet as Google has grown, it has lost some of its adolescent enthusiasm and unruliness – the inevitable consequence of maturing into a company with almost $12 billion in profits in 2011.

Indeed, some former employees believe the company’s culture has transformed beyond recognition. “The Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate,” reads a now-infamous blog post from James Whittaker, a former test director with the company. “The Google I left was an advertising company with a single, corporate-mandated focus.”

Such criticism by former employees does, of course, require an element of scepticism. Trawling forums shows that most staff genuinely enjoy working at the company, and Google has tried to create an environment where people want to work hard.

In 800 ratings from current or former employees on recruitment site Glassdoor, Google scores 3.9 out of 5, which is stronger than the scores of both Apple (3.8) and Microsoft (3.4). It does rely on finding the right sort of person to begin with, however.

Unhealthy work hours?

To the outsider, some of the hours that people are willing to put in might seem unhealthy, but Google selects people who will fit into a culture of working hard, and who believe that doing so can make a difference to the company and its users.

“The semi-structured organisation works when you have a certain kind of person; the people in Google are selected through a very long recruitment process,” says Steiber. “They put in a lot of investment to pick the right people. Qualities of the Google person include being self-organised and self-driven; these people usually don’t need leadership, they need mentorship.

“They need a visionary to pinpoint the priorities, but then they want the leaders to back off and not micro-manage. These people are highly intelligent.”

Google offices actually working

However, to progress, workers need to make an impact, and that often comes at the expense of long hours. Google workers at its major campuses are often on site earlier than necessary – in time to pick up a free cooked breakfast – and leave late, having stayed behind to get their free dinner, too.

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos