Tech giants are hiring less and engineers are largely working from home, but Google has just opened futuristic new offices in Silicon Valley designed to meet all of its employees’ current and even future needs.
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In Mountain View, 1.5 km as the crow flies from its headquarters, the Californian company has erected two huge buildings that look like tents made of glass and metal and are covered with solar panels in the shape of dragon scales.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, did not disclose how much this “Bay View campus,” which will house up to 4,500 employees, will cost.
“I don’t think any of our buildings will be empty. We’re not worried,” joked Michelle Kaufmann, head of research and development at the company’s headquarters, during a visit to the press.
“We’re more worried about whether we’ll have enough space. Because the company keeps growing,” she added.
At the end of March, Alphabet had around 164,000 employees worldwide (+17% in one year). In the San Francisco Bay Area alone, 45,000 people work for the tech giant.
Its neighbor Meta (Facebook, Instagram) and other big digital companies (Microsoft, Amazon, Nvidia, Snap, Uber, etc.) recently announced a slowdown in hiring pace due to the unfavorable economic environment, after hiring at arm’s length during the pandemic.
connections and disconnections
Several companies, like Twitter in San Francisco, have left the door open to remote work because many engineers prefer this way of working. Some are also struggling to bring teams back in person, particularly because of Covid fears.
“I think 10% of employees (at Google) have decided to work primarily from home,” noted Michelle Kaufmann.
She hopes the new offices, designed well before the pandemic, will meet the expectations of other employees who split their week between face-to-face and remote work.
The ground floor consists of restaurants, cafes, gyms, and meeting spaces spread around several “public spaces” — from the “Dinosaur District” to the “Neon Nature” — lined with sofas.
The floor houses modular offices, separated by various pieces of furniture but no walls, so teams “have the privacy they need” while “remaining connected to the rest of the community,” according to the architect.
Google hopes to encourage creativity and teamwork as more lonely tasks can be completed from home.
But beware of technology addiction: In the toilets, a note advises not to become addicted to the phone and also warns of “email apnea” (if you hold your breath while checking e-mail).
Purified water, natural air
It took five years to build these buildings with ambitious environmental standards. Alphabet has even pledged to be completely carbon-free by 2030.
This campus is carbon neutral “90% of the time” thanks to solar panels and geothermal batteries. All non-potable water needs are met with on-site produced recycled water.
And the ventilation systems use 100 percent outside air, “instead of 20 percent” on average in offices, explains Michelle Kaufmann.
A feature that comes at the right time in times of the pandemic.
“Fortunately, many things that we had planned are working out beautifully in relation to the Covid,” notes the architect. “We thought we had 10 years left for some elements, but the virus has accelerated the process.”
It ensures that workspaces have been designed with the flexibility to meet demands that no one can yet imagine.
The “opera-like” acoustics do not bother many employees for the time being, as the new campus has only just opened.
Employees from other Google locations can stay for a few days in one of the 240 apartments that have been built directly across the street when visiting.