A friend from Kentucky will be visiting soon and she asked if it’s possible to see the Googleplex while she’s in town. Yes and no. Google’s (or more specifically “Alphabet’s“) actual main headquarters in Mountain View, California just south of San Francisco is a marvel of modern security. If you want to get inside you need to be escorted by an employee of the company with all the usual protocols. But there are several lesser Google campuses in the area that are relatively accessible to mere mortals. I poked around the Google offices at Moffett Park in Sunnyvale out of curiosity. The short version is that – aside from some superficial bells and whistles – the Google workplace environment isn’t much different from any other suburban office park anywhere in the country.
The periphery of the corporate office park is plain vanilla highways and parking lots. The high pay and special perks associated with a successful technology company like Google are offset by the banal suburban landscape.
Here’s the Googleplex as seen on… Google Earth.
Here’s the PayPal campus as viewed on Google Earth.
Here’s the Facebook campus as seen on Google Earth. Architecturally the building form isn’t much different from a premium outlet mall that’s been juiced with steroids.
Softly spot lit corporate plop art (non political, non religious, non representational, non controversial, but clearly expensive) adorns the campus amid drought tolerant plantings.
Indoor and outdoor dining options compliment subsidized meals from breakfast to late night dinners for employees. Inexpensive high quality food is both a perk and an inducement to keep people on the job beyond the usual 9 to 5.
Since many employees are attached to their pets dog parks are provided near offices for lunchtime walks. If people aren’t preoccupied with getting home to look after fury friends they tend to linger and do more work. It’s common to see dogs sleeping under desks or stretched out in common areas.
Google bicycles are available throughout the campus for quick jaunts between buildings. Nothing is locked, the bikes are free, and every bike is always in proper working order.
Basketball courts and batting cages are available for team building group activities or the casual pick up game.
The so-called Google Bus is available for commuters who don’t want to drive to work. Since Human Resources knows where everyone lives it wasn’t hard to optimize bus routes specifically for employees who opt in to the system. The Google Bus is free complete with WiFi and security.
There’s a light rail station right on campus. For people who live near the train line commuting is a genuine possibility even in the suburban context.
Multiple parking garages provide for commuters who arrive by private car.
Group rideshare vehicles and carpool parking get preferred spots.
A fleet of Google branded electric cars and charging stations are on offer along with a serious supply of private electric vehicles.
And if you have physical impairments or happen to be an expectant mother there are special spots right near the door just for you – complete with electric charging plugs.
Occasionally there’s evidence of employees who don’t do tech work, but who are engaged in the quotidian tasks of cooking, taking out the trash, gardening, and keeping office supplies stocked. These folks are paid relatively well, but the gap between tech workers and cleaning crews is enormous, particularly when the cost of housing in the area is factored in. Google didn’t create the economic bifurcation, but it exists nonetheless.
So that’s what the Google workplace looks like. Just in case anyone was curious.