Google is very well known for offering amazing employee benefits and taking a great care of its people: wonderful office spaces, free delicious food, (almost) free onsite massage, onsite gyms, game rooms, nap rooms, cooking classes (and all kinds of other classes), very generous insurance policies, maternity & paternity leave policies, fun employee events – you name it. Those perks are quite well known and highly desired by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.
But today I would like to talk about the things that are not directly monetary (because the food or massage or gym you can theoretically buy yourself and those benefits can ultimately be seen as financial benefits). I would like to share with you my noogler (=new googler) view on the things that make me appreciate my Google badge even when the offices with all its awesome facilities are closed and I sit at home all day long in front of my monitor.
1. Mental health focus
Mental health is a priority at Google. People understand that this pandemic (or other life events) can take a toll on an individual and it is vital to create awareness of emotional well-being. During different company wide calls this topic is always top of mind and there is so much comfort for me in seeing that the company understands and supports us during this hard time. We have special trainings, lectures and different resources (like free access to Headspace or yoga classes) to help us cope with it. It is okay to be down or even feel depressed and people are talking openly about it.
2. Sharing of resources
When the pandemic started and offices were shut down googlers were very quick to create all kinds of internal resources and guides to help us all survive this lockdown. We have internal Google docs with easy and delicious recipes to cook at home, docs with links to free online yoga classes, docs with ideas how to entertain your children, docs with tips and tricks how to survive the home-office etc. People just proactively start a doc, share it with all Google and other people start contributing. This culture of creating and sharing is just awesome! Recently it was announced that we got some budget to expense on some home-office stuff. In a matter of hours a new doc was created where thousands of people contributed which keyboard/mouse/etc to buy. In a matter of a day new regional docs were created (all neatly linked from the main doc) to specific docs for Japan, Germany, Switzerland, UK etc. with links to their local shops for recommended equipment. It just blows my mind how cooperative and proactive googlers are.
3. Fun initiatives
Our east Asian colleagues got hit by the pandemic first and they were the first ones who created a video about working from home. Hundreds of employees created small fun video clips of them working in all kinds of setups with small kids, dogs, cats, on the yoga mat, in the garden, in the kitchen, playing indoor basketball, lifting weights, cooking and god knows what. They were edited into one video with music and it was sooo much fun to watch! Other regions have followed. When you see the videos of all these colleagues working in all kinds of conditions (sometimes fun sometimes difficult) you truly feel that you are all in this together. Another initiative that made me laugh and cry was “Work from home talent show”. Again googlers from all over the world recorded short videos singing, playing guitar, playing piano, playing whatever, dancing, juggling and doing all kinds of creative stuff which were then edited into one video that was purely awesome. It is just so uplifting and encouraging to see all these humans behind simply colleagues and it creates such a great sense of belonging!
4. Overcommunication and openness
They say during the crisis the leaders should overcommunicate: always talk to their people and inform them every step of the way. I think Google does it even during the normal times and I think it’s great! We have so many regular calls on all kinds of levels: starting from my bi-weekly team call and going up through many levels to the monthly all-Google call. We get so so so much information about what’s going on in the company and this again creates a great sense of belonging. The truth is that you even have too many of these calls and sometimes (many times) you will not even have time to watch it all. But guess what (this is my absolute favorite feature) they all got recorded and you can watch them any time you want if you happen to learn from a colleague that some cool stuff was discussed. Another thing that I love is the open documentation culture. When I need to find something I just go to our internal search engine and most probably I will find exactly what I need. It’s like an internal internet where you can fire any query and it will search across all the resources and find you something. When I think about my previous experience where every document was kept in a special folder shared with just a few people and getting to this document would require multiple rounds of requests I just cry. At Google I can search for anything and land in design documents, presentations, discussion boards, tickets in internal bug tracking system… I can see what has already been done in the area, look into the documentation, read which problems people identified and discussed, find out what the next steps of the project are. All this information at the tip of my fingers does not seize to amaze me.
5. Video conference culture
At Google the default for an online conference is camera on. It is a completely different experience if you just hear the voice of your counterpart or if you see each other. It’s a much deeper level of connection and understanding that I don’t want to miss. I have to admit that I turn off my camera during larger calls where I just listen and don’t actively talk and communicate (I often go and stretch on my yoga mat or just walk around a bit to introduce some movement into my day). But a lot of people have their cameras on even during the calls with 100 people and I think it is cool!
6. Fun colleagues
Last but not least. We have a lot of chats and sometimes the discussions turn into a very creative and fun exchange of opinions. People would post something funny or just comment on something and a long thread of the most hilarious conversation starts… I laugh so hard sometimes when I read our internal chats! Furthermore, we have an internal meme generator called memegen. Googlers post there the most adorable memes all about life at Google and in the world. If you are feeling down or just need to unwind a bit – memegen is your place! Another thing that I love is the idea of “virtual coffees”. Now during the pandemic we can’t have our coffee breaks with colleagues and we organize the virtual ones. So simple but yet so powerful to connect! Normally we do not just come to the office and work all the time, we take breaks and stop now and then to exchange some words with other people. During the lockdown it is even more important to socialize at work and that’s why we have those virtual get togethers. I just invite colleagues from time to time and we talk about life and news beside work – it makes you feel less isolated and gives you a meaningful pause during the work day.
Those might seem like small things but they make a ton of difference to me. Does it mean that Google is a wonderful fairyland and perfect in every way? Obviously not, no one is. =) But I wanted to share my thoughts on what the company does incredibly well in terms of connecting people and bringing us together as a community. This is nothing like I’ve ever seen before and I wouldn’t like to be anywhere else during this hard time.