Google’s main Global headquarters are based in Mountain View California and is part of the gigantic Silicon Valley region. The campus is over 2,000,000 sq ft of space and is one of many massive campuses that the tech corporations of Silicon Valley have built. On the surface the campus seems incredible, with restaurants serving free meals, fitness facilities, laundry services and a bowling alley to name just some of the features present. Google even have a policy of employees never being more than 100 meters away from food. This is probably why they receive so much acclaim and are branded the best place to work in the world.
I will admit to being a cynical person when it comes to these giant tech companies, having seen over the last few years just how exploitative and evil they can be. But even my imagination starts to run wild reading about these things in a workplace. Then I’m brought back down to earth when I remember that these corporations, like those in the 1980s, still run on a shareholder focused business model and their focus is still on efficiency and profitability. This starts to put all the wonderful things Google offers its employees into perspective. Google offers free shuttle services for those that live in the nearby San Francisco and have free bikes and even a valet service on the campus. They offer free breakfast and dinner meals as well as free food all day across the campus. They have recreational activities like beach volleyball and tennis courts. They have laundry services and places to sleep and rest. This all makes for an enticing place to work, especially in comparison to what many of us are used to. But this campus is made like this for a reason, so that you never leave. What reason does a Google employee ever have to leave the campus, not for food, not for fitness and recreation, not to socialise. It’s all on the campus and free to employees. This means that a work life balance is completely ignored before you even start working there. Once you do start working there the massive workload and the fact that your surrounded by thousands of other people grinding away, means you quickly get caught up in the culture. Long workdays that far exceed the 9-5 don’t seem so bad when your given three free meals a day and you can do your laundry at work. Then you get your break, where you would usually have a relax, a bite to eat and reset. Not at Google, instead of discussing the latest sporting or popular culture events, you are encouraged to carry on the work by holding unofficial work meetings and continue discussing projects and work.
This is all before we even discuss the living arrangements of Silicon Valley employees. You would think that Silicon Valley having one of the US’s highest paid workforces would spare these employees from financial worries. But San Francisco is one of the most expensive places in the world to live. The other surrounding cities and residential areas are also extremely expensive. The influx of hundreds of companies into the valley area as well as the ever-expanding current residents has caused a huge spike in demand for housing. The price of houses and the cost of rent have skyrocketed, with the average San Francisco rent of $3,700 being two and a half times the national average of $1,463. This means that a 6-figure salary professional often has to resort to living with roommates just to afford rent. So, Google’s free meal service may be a necessity for survival rather than a nice perk for its thousands of employees.
This is the kind of workplace I want to fight against, the pretend-to-be-a-nice-place-to-work workplace, that has all the showy features but is run by a company still creating a manipulative workaholic culture and ignoring the humans that work for it.
I’m Aidan Moore, a Graphic Design student at University Centre St Helens.
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Based in St Helens, Merseyside, UK