The average new-grad that Google tends to hire finds themselves thrust into a bunch of newfound adult responsibilities for the first time: find a place to live, figure out 401ks, do your taxes, manage finances, pay your bills, share chores with roommates, find friends, get health insurance, impress your new teammates. Lots to think about!
A big part of productivity is simplifying the unnecessary parts of your life or delegating/automating/removing time-consuming decision making. My favorite Google perks are the ones that simplify my life and free up a lot more time to spend hanging out with friends, learning stuff, and building cool shit.
Food is a big one. It’s true that the dollar value of 3 free meals a day is not as valuable as, say, making $100k more in comp from a competitor (cost to Google about $7 per meal according to a previous answer on Quora), but it’s time saved that is truly valuable. I don’t have to think about what to do for dinner every night or spend time with meal prep because there’s always a Google Cafe available a few hundred feet away and I can eat there if I’m busy thinking.
I don’t need to think about where the nearest laundromat is, because Google campus has machines and I can get my laundry done before morning breakfast is over.
There are a ton of internal company docs and group forums (shared by fellow Googlers) on anything from financial advice (e.g. if you can afford it, contribute to an after-tax 401k and use the backdoor Roth IRA conversion!) to listing and buying furniture from each other. It also helps that Google’s insurance policies, payroll, vesting schedules and other logistical HR stuff are all run on autopilot for me.
Free life perks are almost as good as being rich. Part of the reason why wealth enables people to be so quick & efficient is that the financial cost of decision making (where to eat, which mode of transport to take) is directly tied to the mental cost of decision making. Wealthy people simply choose the options that take the least time because their decision making time is that much more valuable.
Want to head up to San Francisco? Don’t need to think about Caltrain schedules because there’s a Google shuttle. In Paris for a day and need to grab a bottle of water while taking a stroll? Google Offices are always in prime real estate locations and loaded with snacks. Much less planning needed when you can always count on a local spot for free lunch. Not as awesome as being so loaded; more like having free vouchers for everything.
One more thing to consider is that productivity has network effects - an employee’s is higher when their colleague’s productivity goes up, so Google likely benefits tremendously when all their employees are freed from the task of deciding what to have for lunch. Sometimes on especially busy days I’ll have meeting conversations with colleagues, continue the conversation while standing in line for food, all the way through lunch, and then 30 minutes later we are walking back up the stairs to the office without missing a beat.
Finally, it goes without saying that free coffee is an essential perk… no, a constitutional right.