Google HQ

Welcome to Google HQ. As the Californian sun shines down upon the Silicon Valley superstar, workers stroll along shaded walkways or hail a nearby golf buggy to carry them across the campus. The smell of gourmet cooking wafts out of windows while employees ease themselves into meditation pods and massage chairs. Beth Leslie, at Inspiring Interns, says for all Google’s expensive chefs and million-dollar gym facilities, their benefits system can be boiled down to one cheap, easy-to-copy formula.

Google’s employee perks are famous for being amongst the best in the world, and the company credits its benefit scheme with its ability to attract and retain so many high-fliers. Many other business owners can see the merit of such a strategy but, lacking the budget of the world’s most valuable company, despair of the possibility of emulating the search engine giant.

Such despair, however, is misplaced. Because for all Google’s expensive chefs and million-dollar gym facilities, their benefits system can be boiled down to one cheap, easy-to-copy formula: appreciate your staff. Follow this, and even the most shoestring of start-ups can reap Google-like success.

Rule one; don’t be evil.

Free Food

A crucial part of the Google experience is that all staff are provided with tasty, healthy, and free meals every day. Plus snacks. Regular business owners might not be able to entice Gordon Ramsey into their staff cafeteria, but providing free food can be as simple as buying up a bunch of porridge and bananas and treating your staff to breakfast.

For bosses who get a warm and fuzzy feeling from seeing their staff happy and healthy, the benefits are immense: free food lowers rates of employee sickness, and one-third of staff who have access to free food feel that it “greatly contributes” to their workplace happiness.

Luckily for peckish employees, however, even savvy Scrooges will provide free food for their staff. This is because happiness and health are two factors that have been shown to significantly raise productivity in employees. Few people who’ve experienced a bad cold will be surprised that even when ill employees bother to show up to work, their productivity plummets. But for every $1 an employer spends providing healthy food as part of a wellness programme, they can save $3.72 in healthcare costs. In short, buying food for employees saves a business money.

Pet-Friendly Offices

Google staff are allowed to bring their furry friends to work with them, as long as the pet is well-behaved and any mess it makes is cleared up. As a policy, a pet-friendly workplace requires zero cost to implement and tends to be incredibly popular with employees.

Plus, putting pets in the workplace won’t just increase your company cuteness factor. Of employees who work alongside companion critters, 88 per cent reported an increase in morale, 86% said they were less stressed, and 67% said they were more productive. The figures include staff who didn’t bring in their own animals but just enjoyed being around them. Employing some Chief Canine Officers can even save your company money by lowering turnover. More than half of pet owners would be more likely to stay at a company that was animal-friendly, saving their bosses thousands of dollars in staff replacement fees.

Nap Pods

Perhaps the most famous of all its office perks, Google’s nap pods allow sleepy employees to take time away from their desks to chill out in a ‘decompression capsule’ which sound and light cannot penetrate. While other companies may not be able to afford such good kit, they can still gain most of the benefits by normalising the culture of catching some zzzs when employees are feeling tired.

For more than a quarter of people, tiredness impacts their daytime activities for several days every month. At work, that means lower output and sloppier work. But a study by NASA shows that something as simple as a 40-minute nap can improve someone’s performance by 34% and their alertness by a massive 100 per cent!

Employers who frown on napping at work as weird or unprofessional would do well to consider why they don’t feel the same way about employees taking a coffee break. Re-energising staff should be considered a priority regardless of the method, because employee drowsiness is currently costing US business $18 billion a year in lost productivity. And, FYI, a power nap is more effective than caffeine in reducing drowsiness.

Super-Break Rooms

Googlers who need to take some time off the clock are spoilt for choice: their offices come equipped with everything from billiards to rock climbing walls. Employees can switch up chilled breaks playing video games or foosball with active breaks hitting the gym, company pool, or volleyball pit. All options, however, encourage them to switch off completely from work.

Letting employees take regular breaks is yet another example of a policy that costs businesses nothing and can end up making them more money. Study after study after study has shown that employees who take time out have much higher productivity than their working-through-lunch peers.

Generally, the more an employee switches off the better, because burnout occurs when we overwork our brain. In fact, studies have suggested that engaging in meditation and mindfulness during the workday will boost your creativity and compassion: making those afternoon meetings go swimmingly!

Active breaks are also good for staff. In one experiment, employees who exercised on their lunch break were 41% more motivated and 27% less stressed than on non-exercise days. Three-quarters of them also reported an improvement in their time management, their mental and interpersonal performance, and their ability to manage their workload.

By Beth Leslie, graduate jobs writer for Inspiring Interns.