Google’s new London office, scheduled to open in 2016, will have an open-air swimming pool, an indoor football pitch, a climbing wall and a roof garden from which to watch trains glide out of Kings Cross station toward Cambridge or Hogwarts. Googlers can cycle right into the building and to the cycle store room, which is equipped with showers and lockers. Somewhere in the interstices, there will also be desks to work at.
Conventional wisdom has it that technology has made offices leaner. Manual labor has been eliminated, paper files have been replaced by digital ones, and people can work remotely. Yet that is precisely why Google needs as much space as it does — the swimming pool, the football pitch and the free lunches are meant to entice workers into the office, to keep them there, to eliminate reasons for staying away. Tech companies take as much space as old economy firms — they just use it differently.