How to Create a Workplace People Never Want to Leave, by Google’s Christopher Coleman

How to Create a Workplace People Never Want to Leave, by Google’s Christopher Coleman

By Christopher Coleman on April 11, 2013

The No. 1 thing is to listen to what employees need. We found that they need a lot of diversity. There are so many ways to work—as a team, solo—and so many kinds of workers, from introverts to extroverts and so on. We create many different places so people can be as productive as possible—from formal and informal conference rooms to open spaces to stretching and yoga areas and gyms. One trick is to design spaces with a diversity of scale, light, and mood. It’s really hard to do, and it looks like we’re just making up these crazy spaces, but it’s very scientific. We have information from Googlers on what works and what doesn’t, we do post-occupancy surveys, we ask questions, and we listen very closely. When we design a space, we usually offer a few solutions people can react to. We go back to the drawing board, go down to two or three options, and pick one. Next we define aspects like mood, lighting, and furniture. Then we build it, and people are happy—hopefully.

With all this input, they’re basically designing their own space. One of the earlier amenities we provided were micro-kitchens. It was an amazing, vibrant place where people connected before they started their workday. Now we have micro-kitchens that are libraries, micro-kitchens that are game rooms. Also, health is very important. A few years ago we introduced sit-stand desks, and they’re used extensively now. It changes the worker’s environment all through the day and gives them flexibility to work how they want to work.

We look at every single detail through the Living Lab, which is a space where the Real Estate and Workplace Services team can experiment with innovative ideas for the office. We’re trying out three ventilation systems, six lighting systems, and furniture from 10 manufacturers. In the end, though, we’re actually very frugal in our approach to design. It’s more about creating character than money spent.

• Coleman is global design director at Google (GOOG). As told to Venessa Wong

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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