Google’s Perks (vineyard anyone?) either lead to workaholism or incredible fulfillment — you decide

It’s been all-Google, all-the-time, in my life lately.

(Though maybe not as all-the-time as for the beleaguered residents of San Jose’s Crescent Village apartments, aka Google’s intern dorm.)

Take Sunday: First, I go on KAWL-FM radio with career coach Marty Nemko, who among other things wants to talk about what it’s like to work at Google. My first thought: I wish I knew. Kidding, boss.

Then I become the last person in Silicon Valley to see “The Internship,” the story of two 40-something, laid-off salesmen who land summer internships at Google and all the madcap adventures that ensue.

(By the way, that scene where Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are tested while taking tech support phone calls at the Googleplex? Can someone get me the phone number you can call to get tech support from Google? Thought so.)

And, of course, there was my colleague Brandon Bailey’s excellent story about Google’s new campus on Moffett Field, where the company is building “noodles,” or edifices of noodle-shape, creating an elevated walkway called the “infinite loop” (get it?) and contemplating installing a zip line, wind-driven music farm and a rooftop vineyard (Salud!).

“And while Google has kept a tight lid on many details,” Bailey writes, “company officials promise the new campus will have the outlandish amenities Google is known for — including gourmet cafeterias, an elevated bike path and maybe a zip line — and a design that’s friendly both to workers and the surrounding baylands, with lots of windows for natural light and optimum views, native landscaping and a cutting-edge water treatment system.”

Look, the existing Googleplex  is a perk-filled palace, we all know that — buses to and from work, free food, sleep pods, massages and on and on. And “The Internship” gets a lot of mileage from that.

That was to be expected from a film that in some ways was a giant product placement vehicle for life at Google.

But with the perks come big expectations. And, of course, working in the Silicon Valley version of the biosphere, where all your earthly needs are met, means less time away from work and getting work done.

It was that ulterior motive that Nemko asked about as we chatted. My initial take was that a clever boss might indeed take advantage of workers who never need — and maybe never want — to go home. It seemed to me that the perks, as nice as they are, could be a work/life balance obliterator.

But Nemko, who noted that he’s counseled 4,000 people about work and career, had a different view. One that has me at least thinking about the positive power of fulfilling work.

Nemko says that some people, himself included, like to work — a lot. Long hours are a tonic, he says.

“In general,  the people who are most content with their lives, are those who are working the 12-hour days,” he said. “They find it incredibly energizing to work on a project, and having to stay up to 2 in the morning. They talk about, ‘time just passes.’ There are exceptions.”

” It really depends on priorities,” Nemko continued. “I profoundly believe that if you’ve got a great work life, the overall sense of your life’s meaning doesn’t centrally reside in family. If you have just an OK  job, or a less than OK  job, then yes, of course, then your wife, your children became primary.”

Something to think about in the few hours you might have to yourself away from the office.

(Artist’s rendering courtesy of NBBJ)



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  • sd

    Nemko has an interesting take on the virtues of working long hours. I suppose if I were in a workplace full of interesting projects that tends to lead its industry, surrounded by oodles of money and the best of the best coworkers and a steady stream of perks, I’d be happy working more hours, too.

    Most of us don’t work in places like that.

  • Greg

    I’d have to disagree, family is everything, and always primary. Few people at the end of their life wish they had worked more and spent less time with family.

    • Jeral

      True, few people think that, but some do. Those with really fulfilling jobs might. For example, I bet there are cancer researchers who think that maybe, if they’d worked a little harder or a little longer, they might have found a breakthrough. Similarly, other people might be just as motivated about their own jobs. Even if it’s not as meaningful to us as curing cancer, it can be to them.

  • Guy

    Obviously Nemko doesn’t have a family. If he does, I’m sure they’d be thrilled to hear that they’re not his priority.