Big Brother Google is watch­ing

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - Sarah Rainey

AROOFTOP meadow grow­ing straw­ber­ries, a three-lane Olympic-sized swim­ming pool and sound­proofed “sleep pods” with cash­mere eye masks and duck down du­vets. It sounds like the plush­est play­ground ever built.

But the pampered lit­tle dar­lings frol­ick­ing around in this paradise are not, in fact, chil­dren – but staff at one of the world’s big­gest com­pa­nies.

For these are just some of the out­landish fea­tures at Google’s new Lon­don HQ, a mam­moth 300m-long build­ing which will house the tech gi­ant’s 7 000 UK em­ploy­ees.

Plans for the £1-bil­lion (R17.08bn) 11-storey of­fice space, due to start con­struc­tion next year, also com­prise a run­ning track, bas­ket­ball court and roundthe-clock mas­sage rooms.

Google, last week fined a record £2.1bn by the EU for abus­ing its search engine mo­nop­oly, is known for its ec­cen­tric of­fice spa­ces, with sev­eral of its global HQs fea­tur­ing slides, ball pits and soft-play ar­eas to en­cour­age “cre­ativ­ity” in staff.

But, as in­sid­ers re­veal, the re­al­ity of work­ing for the multi-bil­lion-pound com­pany is far stranger – and at times more sin­is­ter – than a few de­sign quirks.

From mon­i­tor­ing em­ploy­ees’ weight to cut­ting their hair, do­ing their dry clean­ing and man­dated nap times, we delve in­side the weird world of Google…

Get­ting a job at Google is rig­or­ous, with ap­pli­cants sub­jected to five ex­act­ing in­ter­views and bom­barded with com­plex puz­zles to weed out the top brains.

Even those ap­pli­cants with flaw­less CVs are of­ten floored by re­quests such as “How many hair­cuts hap­pen in this coun­try each year?”, “De­sign an evac­u­a­tion plan for this build­ing”, or “If you could choose one song to play ev­ery time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

New staff mem­bers are known as “Nooglers”, while ex-em­ploy­ees, of whom there are an es­ti­mated 20 000 world­wide, are “Xooglers” (ridicu­lous names, it seems, are par for the course at Google).

But hav­ing put all that ef­fort into hir­ing you, Google doesn’t like let­ting go. Leavers are signed up to the Xoogler alumni net­work, which keeps a tight rein on former em­ploy­ees and lures them back for men­tor­ing, pre­sen­ta­tions and net­work­ing events. Google’s hu­man re­sources de­part­ment is called “Peo­ple Op­er­a­tions” – short­ened to “Pops” – and its staff of “Peo­ple An­a­lysts” are far more hands-on than the av­er­age HR team.

Em­ploy­ees are sub­jected to reg­u­lar sur­veys, per­son­al­ity tests and psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing – based on ev­ery­thing from lunch pref­er­ences to how of­ten they use the gym – and the com­pany uses this data to mea­sure pro­duc­tiv­ity and am­bi­tion. Since 2012, a re­search project, co­de­named “Aris­to­tle”, has an­a­lysed what it takes to build the per­fect team at the com­pany. It found that if a Google man­ager greets a new re­cruit on their first day in the of­fice, that re­cruit will be 15 per­cent more pro­duc­tive nine months down the line.

Not ev­ery­one is quite so happy with the all-see­ing Google eye, how­ever, with some former em­ploy­ees deem­ing it akin to Ge­orge Or­well’s “Big Brother”. Last year, a prod­uct man­ager at the tech com­pany claimed work­ers were banned from speak­ing to their spouse or friends about their boss and shar­ing their pre­vi­ous work at job in­ter­views.

Google’s new UK HQ will have £5 000 “sleep pods” made by New York brand MetroNaps, which claim to “im­prove mood, cre­ativ­ity and learn­ing” as well as “boost­ing alert­ness and pro­duc­tiv­ity”. – Daily Mail

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