Stories From Google New York

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A treasure hidden in plain view, the expansive Google New York building engulfs an entire square block of the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan. But, while the building is hard to miss, gaining access to what lies within those four concrete walls is a much more difficult feat. 

On the surface, the 2,900,000 square foot building boasts all of the amenities that we have come to expect of a Google campus. Free artisan snacks stand beside your corner store favorites in micro-kitchens, chill pods can be found behind hidden walls, and a healthy dose of whimsy runs throughout it all. 

The Exchange gained special access to the Google fortress for a one night event entitled Google Stories. An event focused on the people at Google, how they came to be, and how they will shape the future of how you use Google products. Because beyond the free sodas and colorful walls, Google has something even more valuable, the people who work there every day to make the company run. Few people could say that Google is simply surviving in today’s technological landscape, with innovations like the Google Glass and the even more recent Chromecast, Google is thriving in a market that is becoming more saturated by the minute. 

This people first philosophy isn’t anything new for Google, and New York certainly wasn’t their first iteration of the idea. Employee wellness and happiness is the goal of the comfortable, amenity-rich, work environment.

So much so, that Google employs a nutrition team to decide what, and where, certain food items go in the many kitchens scattered around campus. Earlier this year, nutrition-conscious Googlers realized, through data of course, that their fellow employees were eating an absurd amount of peanut M&M’s. At the time, the tasty and chocolaty candies were housed in clear jars on one of the middle shelves, which just happened to be at eye level. It begged the question, are M&M’s really more delicious than some of the more “artisan” snacks that Google provided? Not necessarily! Studies have shown that people tend to choose things out a fridge or shelf that they see first, are the easiest to reach, and generally can be consumed the quickest. M&M’s at eye level in a clear jar fit this description almost exactly. 

So, Google nutrition staffers did some rearranging. Rather than eliminate unhealthy choices from the kitchens, they simply put healthier options at eye-level, while moving high-fat and sugar snacks to opaque jars on a lower shelf. Almost instantly, Googlers consumption of M&M’s dropped!

This was no surprise for Google staff, as this theory has been shown to work in people’s homes, time and time again as a weight reduction strategy. Human behavior is the same, whether you’re at home, or at Google New York. A comfortable, home away from home, might just be what is necessary for a company, and staff, who are consistently pushing out some of the coolest and most innovative projects that we’ve ever seen. Hello, Google Glass! 

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.