Google’s ‘20 per cent time off’ policy falls victim to work
Staff can only pursue their own ideas on top of their punishing formal schedules
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Wednesday 28 August 2013
Google’s “20 per cent time”, the policy of allowing its staff 20 per cent of the working week to focus on a personal project, has been all but abolished, according to its former employees.
The one-day-per-week allowance has been an integral aspect of the tech giant’s corporate culture since its early days, and led to the creation of innovative Google products such as AdSense, Google News and Gmail. But Silicon Valley message-boards were abuzz this weekend following a report by the website Quartz, in which former members of the firm’s staff claimed that while the policy was not officially moribund, the majority of employees now found it impossible to take time away from their core responsibilities at the company.
Google staff reportedly refer to 20 per cent time as “120 per cent time”, suggesting they can only pursue their own ideas on top of their punishing formal schedules. Google’s casual, collegiate working environment has long been held up as a model for the firms of the future, and 20 per cent time was one of many employee perks intended to attract entrepreneurial workers.
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and the company’s former CEO Eric Schmidt, are all said to have taken advantage of the policy, while other tech firms have introduced their own version of the idea.
Twenty per cent time has always been an informal programme, rather than official company practice. Yet when Google went public in 2004, Page and Brin wrote in an open letter: “We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20 per cent of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google. This empowers them to be more creative and innovative.”
Google responded to the Quartz report by claiming that 20 per cent time was “alive and well”. Last year, however, it emerged that staff were required to gain approval before embarking on a 20 per cent project.
Fruits of down time
Google News (launched 2002)
Google News runs on an automatic aggregation algorithm, which selects the most up-to-date data from the web on any topic, drawing from thousands of news sites.
Gmail (Launched 2004)
Google’s webmail behemoth began as an internal employee email service. For its first three years it was an invitation-only affair. After it went public in 2007, it ballooned. By June 2012, Gmail had more than 425 million users worldwide.
Life & Style blogs
Surgeon backs 'good death' plans - and reveals his own
NHS hit by stealth cuts of £2bn as tariffs received for medical procedures are reduced
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter
Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
- 1 Woman 'suffocates newborn baby in plastic bag and puts it in her desk minutes after giving birth'
- 2 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...
£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: European Recrui...