A Look Inside the Big Four Offices
Big Tech Headquarters
Big tech companies are prominent across the globe, and some of these companies headquarters have become an attraction in their own right. The aim is not to be architecturally gifted, but to have high tech products and services as well as their employee perks that are known worldwide. Including massages, volleyball courts, doctors and is stocked with free gourmet food all onsite.
Silicon Valley is the birthplace of this kind of office, drawing in visitors from all around the world who want to experience it firsthand. Companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook have created their office environment to be an experience that draws in tourists and all have a high employee enjoyment rate. Below is a summary of each Big Tech headquarters, followed by what we can learn from each of them.
Googleplex is the most famous Google headquarters located in California. More of a campus than an office (given it is spread out over 48,000㎡) Google offers its employees free ‘G Bikes” to get around. With gardens, tennis courts, and various sporting fields, it is no wonder that tourists are intrigued.
In front of the main building is a T-Rex skeleton, to remind ‘Googlers’ that they should stay relevant and not become dinosaurs. Employees have access to fitness centres, massages, gyms, onsite doctors, micro kitchens, high-tech nap pods and plenty of outdoor seating to work in the sunny California heat under some signature primary coloured umbrellas.
The offices are not arranged like a typical corporate environment in the Googleplex. Instead, the workstations are in groups of three to four employees who work together in the same area. This was done so people could work together, while still having the space to concentrate on work without distractions. Glass walls divide these clusters, to avoid a labyrinth of cubicles and isolation. This allows sunlight to filter through the entire office, and not just those lucky few with desks near windows.
Another incentive in the Google offices is the 20 percent program. Google allows its employees to use up to 20 percent of their time during the week to work on their own personal projects. Meaning that employees can use up to a full workday to do something unrelated to their usual workload.
What can we learn?
- The incentive for employee happiness (i.e. having activities for downtime – sporting centres, free food, natural resources)
- 20 percent program – allowing employees to follow their passions in a safe and productive environment, to keep them focused and allow them some freedom.
- Organised work areas, to keep teams together and also allow for individual work.
Apple Park is one of Apple’s newest headquarters. The ring-shaped building that resembles a spaceship is entirely decked out in panels of curved glass.
The building is surrounded by 9,000 drought-resistant native trees and grassy fields that Apple planted after removing 5 million square feet of concrete. There is plenty of natural scenery including an orchard, meadow and pond on the grounds for employees to enjoy.
It has one of the largest onsite solar energy installations in the world, according to Apple and is powered by renewable energy.
Being the largest Apple product ever made, it’s the second campus built by Apple. It was one of the final products pitched by the late CEO. Named after its shape, The Ring is located at One Apple Park Way and is regarded as the “Spaceship Campus”. It can be configured to create very large open spaces or lots of small private offices, the building was made to be flexible and able to evolve as needed.
The Ring has base isolation to protect against earthquakes, which is common in California. The system is made up of 692 steel saucers two stories underground and is modified from a Japanese version. It uses natural ventilation to aid in making it one of the greenest office buildings in the world, with no heating or cooling for nine months out of the year.
What can we learn?
- Lots of natural resources for employees to explore and enjoy during breaks.
- Flexibility in working conditions, whether teams need to work together or individually, workspaces can be arranged quickly and easily.
- Lots of natural light for employees to enjoy as they work indoors.
Facebook – Menlo Park
Facebook moved into Menlo Park in 2015, with its green roof that loops among trees and native plants. Throughout the roof cafes, communal spaces and workstations can be found. Inside the building is an open-plan workspace, featuring large murals and art installations from local artists.
There are large open areas for employees to sit in without dividers or walls – fitting in with the companies ethos of openness and staying connected. The space includes cafes and kitchens to create casual meeting areas for employees to catch up and brainstorm.
The park includes a ‘main street’ as well as office ‘neighbourhoods’ that section off the main area. Employees can gather in the town square or gardens to have some downtime throughout the day. The aim was to create a campus that felt more like a tight-knit village of people coming together for the same purpose and mission.
One of the specific buildings called the MPK 21 Offices, was designed to reflect Facebook’s company culture and its mission of bringing communities together. With a sense of energy and connection in a building built for collaboration, this building is the hub for people.
What was once a collection of plain buildings, is now a dense urban environment. While it looks like a ‘work-in-progress’, the headquarters meets the goals of communicating Facebook’s scrappy, creative culture that they project to their employees and customers. With a mix of collaboration and individual work areas, employees are given a wide range of choices for their work environment.
What can we learn?
- Open plan layout, with art and murals for both visitors and employees to enjoy as they work create an interesting and engaging space.
- Variety of work areas for employees to switch from throughout their workday, giving employees a change of scenery a few times a day.
- An office space/campus that reflects company values and work culture.
Amazon HQ1 & HQ2
Amazon has its main headquarters, the HQ1 that blends into its surroundings – making it hard to pinpoint the exact building they occupy. The famous Spheres: Day 1, Doppler and Meeting Centre, blend into the cityscape. They are a place for employees to work, or unwind, while immersed in nature. They were inspired by a concept called biophilia – meaning the human desire to connect with nature.
It’s common knowledge that Amazon tends to avoid filling workers’ days with meetings whenever possible, giving them the freedom to move around as they please. The buildings are filled with many common areas where independent and small businesses occupy the creative spaces, whether they are coffee shops, food vendors and marketplaces. The company encourages small teams to work together, limits meetings, and allows dogs to come into the office to keep employees engaged and comfortable.
This building is only a concept currently, but it’s interesting to see where Amazon is heading with their visions. The building deemed “the Helix” stands out as it is a swirling glass tower covered in trees. They plan to build three 22-story buildings around the Helix, creating a green space, as well as a dog running track that’ll be open for public use. Featuring gardens and native flora, walking paths, hiking trails and dog trails. Although only a concept, it’s interesting to look at what these Big Tech companies are planning to keep up their innovation for employee happiness and productivity.
What can we learn?
- Natural areas for employees to enjoy as they work and plenty of natural light to bask in
- Common areas to relax in or having meetings that vary from private to public depending on the situation
- Limiting mandatory work meetings to not burn out employees, as well as allowing dogs in the offices to keep employees entertained as they work.
If you’re interested in how to create an office that sparks employee engagement and high morale, then contact one of our consultants and we’ll get you on track.