How the Google Singapore office is rethinking meeting rooms

How the Google Singapore office is rethinking meeting rooms

Think tanks

Text: Adibah Isa

Image: Kevin Scott

5 ways the Google Singapore office's meeting rooms are better than yours

Yes, the myths are true. The Google Singapore digs at Mapletree Business City are pretty much the office of your dreams, with complimentary 24-hour gym access, and food and beverages. But the rewards are more than just "free stuff". While we can't lie that unlimited flat whites and chocolate éclairs are enough draws to turn in our resignations and apply for a position, Google's raison d'être lies in its drive to provide cool spaces for its 1,000 employees to collaborate. And we're not just talking bursts of colour to combat the monochrome ennui of the corporate world. Lead by designer Amanda Stanaway of Woods Bagot (the same folks behind Google's offices in Sydney, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Mountain View), the spaces are attuned to encourage conversation, offline engagement and a breather from the norm. Here are 5 ways the Google office is better than yours. Bosses, take note.

1. The spirit of Asia is kept alive
While Google's offices employ a contemporary, colourful aesthetic, the Singapore headquarters boast unmistakable Asian designs. A nod to Southeast Asia, each back of house team works in a kampung, which gives employees a sense of identity and a spirit of community. Kampungs are named after areas within Singapore, while the public-facing meeting rooms are named after places in Asia, such as Everest and Tokyo Tower. The brief was to have spaces that reference Singapore without having graphics plastered everywhere. Instead, the use of plants, materials, fabrics and accessories tell a local story. For example, the subtly-themed Singapore room named 'Ledang' reflects Southeast Asian vibes in the conical hats, Peranakan prints and woven chairs. 

2. An emphasis on being offline
Based on the theory that making something with your hands encourage creative problem solving, five or six of Google Singapore's meeting rooms are completely offline. It's pretty unexpected for a tech giant to bank on offline interaction, but it's exactly what these affectionately named "Butcher paper" rooms are modeled for. After receiving feedback from employees that some rooms in the new space should have no technology, this new concept room encourages teams to brainstorm, scribble, draw and create with nifty blocks and wires. The idea is that people can work on a piece of paper, rip it off and take it back to their kampung to pin it up.

Butcher room

3. You can have a meeting anytime, anywhere
Google Singapore reinterprets meeting spaces for flexibility. Based on employee feedback, the designers found that there weren't enough spaces for spontaneous meetings. The new office allows that within each kampung. When you see somebody and inspiration strikes, the two of you can just duck into a space without any bookings necessary. Moving people from their fixed desk was a key part of the design, with the idea that people have a higher chance of meeting others this way, in what they call a "serendipitous collision". When teams grow, the walls that divide these meeting rooms can be parted to accommodate more working desks.


4. Furniture is not only functional, but smart
Designed in collaboration with the nature of such a business, Google regularly receives feedback from 15 design champions who are representatives from different departments on how their respective teams are evolving. Another concept new to Google is the brainstorm room. Recalling school days of yore, the rooms are fitted with movable white and cork boards for employees to gather, stand, sit or move about as they showcase their ideas. The green Capisco chairs from HÅG are designed so you can sit backwards and roll yourself over to other boards. Google will re-assess the need for these rooms periodically so that they form the optimal space needed for employees to think differently. Some kampungs are also fitted with kitchen tables so employees can gravitate and stand around, suggesting a more collaborative mood as opposed to standard meeting tables where you sit. Different heights of chairs are also used, while timber is an easy favourite in place of white.

Google meeting rooms

5. Themed rooms allow you to escape
Recognising that creativity needs different types of spaces to thrive, Google Singapore's themed rooms provide a visual escape from the norm. The biker bar and junk shop-themed spaces are two stellar examples of how they've reinvented the wheel. An ode to Google's first home in a garage, the junk shop's furniture comes distressed, sitting among memorabilia that'll resonate with any local. Think: Vintage phones, gramophones and televisions as well as both high and low tables and chairs to choose from. Meanwhile, the biker bar features news clippings painstakingly stuck by the appointed architect, with graffiti by local artist Ong Jun Jie.

For more interior design ideas, click here.