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How the Googleplex Works

Googleplex Facilities
Some of Google's buildings have geeky names, like Building Pi.
Some of Google's buildings have geeky names, like Building Pi.
David Paul Morris/Getty Images

With more than 20 buildings as part of its Mountain View headquarters, finding your way around the Googleplex can be a little intimidating. Many of the employees at Google started work straight out of college. Their young age adds to the impression that you're on a college campus. The heart of the campus is a group of four buildings: Buildings 40 through 43.

As soon as you walk into a Google lobby, you know you're not in a typical office environment. Lava lamps provide a groovy vibe and in some lobbies a piano waits for a skilled musician. Most lobbies have a large computer screen that displays search terms in real time as people around the world use Google to find search results. Google filters the stream of terms so that offensive searches don't pop up at embarrassing moments.

Other interesting decorations you can find in the Google offices range from enormous whiteboards filled with brilliant ideas and irreverent jokes to a replica of SpaceShipOne. There are even interesting items in the hallways. Google advocates a green-conscious and healthy lifestyle among its employees, so it's not unusual to see bicycles parked in Google buildings.

The offices don't resemble a typical corporate environment. Google arranges the workstations so that groups of three to four employees who work together sit in the same area. During the design phase, architect Clive Wilkinson faced a challenging problem: how do you group people together and still give them an environment in which they can concentrate on work without distractions? And how do you do it without turning Google into a labyrinth of cubicles?

Wilkinson decided to use glass walls to divide the space into clusters. This design cuts down on much of the ambient noise inside the office. It also allows sunlight to filter in through the entire office. Each glass enclosure has a tent-like roof made of acrylic-coated polyester which contains the room's lighting and sprinkler systems.

Google executives want employees to be able to bounce ideas off each other. It's the c­ompany's hope that by encouraging interaction, workers will have greater job satisfaction and may even create the next big Google product. Employees can personalize their workstations as much as they like, and even bring dogs (but not cats) to work if they want to.

Google's workspaces may be appealing, but that's just scratching the surface of the perks at the Googleplex. Some of the perks can lead to undesirable consequences. There's a dreaded condition called the Google 15 that many new employees grapple with when they first start at the company. Find out more about this threat and its cause in the next section.