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Google is hoping to lure employees back to the office with pinball…and Lizzo

April 13, 2022, 6:05 PM UTC

Before the pandemic, tales of the wonders of the Googleplex inspired awe. Now the search giant is looking to restore its campuses to their former glory.

It’s not the only big tech company going all out in attempting to make coming back into the office an enjoyable experience for employees. But this time it’s not by doling out colored lanyards to depict comfort level or assembling a hygiene theater. Instead, Google is going big on investments in new offices, as seen with the $9.5 billion investment plan announced on Wednesday, and they’re going big on experiences in those offices, too. 

Google employees in its Bay Area office have been invited to attend a private Lizzo concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater later this month. The company will also be holding a series of pop-up events, The New York Times reported, with, in the words of the search giant, “every Googler’s favorite duo: food and swag.” 

At Google’s office in Boulder, Googlers are being encouraged to balance work with play, particularly by paying a visit to its on-site arcade. In a supposed attempt to poke fun at the attempt to bring employees back in, the Times reported, the company handed out mouse pads with the image of a sad-eyed cat asking, “You’re not going to RTO, right?”

‘We get to rethink for the next 10 years’

The grand return to Google offices best known for being fun and quirky has been a long time coming for Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai.

“I think the future of work will be flexible,” Pichai told the Wall Street Journal in February. “I think empowering [employees] to have that flexibility will bring out the best in them, for themselves, personally and professionally, which will work for the company as well.” 

But he didn’t hedge, later saying he believes it’s important for employees to come in about three days a week, though his team is “embracing all options.”

“I think we can be more purposeful about the time they’re in, making sure group meetings or collaboration, creative collaborative brainstorming or community building, happens then,” he added. “I’m excited. I think people and teams are going to figure this out, but overall I feel energized that we get to rethink for the next 10 years.”

Google is not the only large tech company spending considerable money on perks employees can only experience if they come back to the office. But these might be at odds with the bottom-line goal. Plus, it’ll be difficult to sell employees on bells and whistles—only 3% of white-collar workers want to go back full-time.

Last year was the most profitable year for Alphabet, Google’s parent company, since 2007, and that was with most of its workforce working entirely remote. It remains to be seen how the encouragement of arcades and concerts may impede that laser focus.

“Don’t all these ‘fun’ things just distract from the actual work?” one Twitter user remarked. “In essence, these employers have CHOSEN less productivity to bribe people into a physical location? This is counterintuitive, which means it makes total sense to the out-of-touch CEOs.”

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