Since coming to college and being exposed to finding friends while simultaneously landing hard-to-come-by internships and jobs, I, too, have dreamed of pursuing occupation in D.C. after graduation. I had heard this city was a place filled with young people eager to make an impact and hungry for an opportunity to do so. I imagined a city of “Ameritocracy,” full of the best and brightest, where hard work allows for position mobility regardless of age.
After already spending several – and what feel like short – days here in the city on SMU’s Hilltop on the Hill program, I can attest that all of these seemingly ideal characteristics about D.C. are true. However, on this trip I have learned that there is an integral part of the equation that I was missing. What most caught me off guard about D.C. is what I have come to consider quite a significant piece of the success of its workers – the design of their workplaces.
(In photo, right: SMU students Caroline, Sarah and Ashley reach for the skies during Hilltop on the Hill. Below: Catching up on D.C. news.)
Our first stop on the agenda was the Google Office. Bright blue, red, yellow and green were everywhere, in an otherwise sleekly white space. Modern furniture, lighting and electronics filled the space; two kitchens (stocked with every kind of candy and snack food imaginable) and a cafeteria; a game room/ lounge with TVs, beanbags, ping-pong, foosball – you name it – all for just 30 people.
A not-so-ordinary room of cubicles and offices that were totally see-through is where the employees actually work. The cubicle walls were extremely low, making the room seem open and relaxed, and hanging from above were dozens of colorful little paper lanterns. Space is hard to come by in D.C., so Google has reserved half of its office for parties, events, gatherings or for play – a huge open room surrounded by glass walls allowing you to look out on the city.
Why such the sweet digs? Frannie Wellings, Google’s federal policy outreach manager, referenced our age’s “Blackberry Culture,” in which we are constantly working. Employees stay late at the office, work on weekends, work at home and work from their Blackberry phones on the go. Since our generation is working significantly longer hours than others before us, why not make the office an enjoyable space?
Google and most other D.C. offices have it right – a creative environment cultivates creative ideas. Washington, D.C., has said goodbye to the office space that I expected – formal, traditional, corporate, and bland – and has said hello to the new and more effective (and dare I say fun) work environment.
Check out a video tour of Google’s D.C. office here.