Happiness at work at Google

Google employees have it good, as this video shows.

(Thx Erno Mijland).

While perks like on-site doctors, car wash, pool tables and 11 great free restaurants are nice, I still believe that those aren’t the real reasons Google employees are happy. The real reason is that they have fun, get to kick butt, work with great people and have a large degree of freedom.

Perks help, but are not the source of happiness at work, as my previous blogpost about another master of perks, SAS Institute, shows.

8 thoughts on “Happiness at work at Google”

  1. Alex,
    Almost every Summer I used to volunteer in an educational charity: I did whatever was needed from counseling to cleaning. Last year the charity director decided to start paying his staff and I decided to stop going: did he realize he was turning my from a happy volunteer to an unhappy cleaner?! You are very right: perks can help, but they are not the source of happiness at work. Some perks might even decrease happiness: in a landmark and controversial study, Dr. Deci has shown that increased rewards can decrease intrinsic motivation, especially when such rewards are perceived as controlling. Looks like we might be happy Not To receive a raise after all! ;)


  2. Having seen this opulence first-hand, I have to say that, like Marco, I’m also a little wary. Google pay 60th percentile wages for 90th percentile ability. Free food, free laundry. Free haircuts, entertainment and healthcare – why do you need to go home? Stay here with us! You played free pool earlier, don’t you think you need to do a little more work to make up for it?

    At Google, happy hour is 8am to 9pm, the rest of your life be damned.

  3. Marco: That’s a great story and it illustrates the fact that money isn’t the motivator many companies think it is.

    Greg: There is that threat! When work becomes a lot of fun and the environment at work supports this, you risk work taking over people’s lives.

    Managers can actually address this directly and try to make people work reasonalbe hours – here’s how one manager did it.

  4. What some of the commenters don’t seem to take into account is the typical personality of the engineers Google hires.

    I know from personal experience that once you take away most beurocracy and let me work, I’d work all day and all night to the detriment of everything else, just for the sake of work itself! This is what the employees at Google (I’m not one of them) are like. All those perks are meant exactly to give workers the oppurtunity to do something other than work. They’d be just as happy to immerse themselves in the work just due to the interest and complexity of the problems Google lets them solve.

    If the gym isn’t close enough, many would just go without, working anyway. The gym is close to encourage the workers to take care of themselves, rather than “guilt” them into working harder.

    Standard worker psychology does not apply at Google.

    The genius of Google is finding people with this personality type, their whole hiring process it geared towards it.

  5. Good point Michael. Maybe all those nice perks are not about keeping people at work indefinitely, but also about making sure people don’t spend ALL their time working.

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