Google '20 Per Cent Time' Is All But Dead

'20 per cent time' — the ability to spend one-fifth of your time working on a project utterly unconnected with your day-to-day job — was always one of the most famous perks associated with working at Google. The bad news? While not officially dead, the perk isn't something most employees can take advantage of any more.

Picture: Getty Images

Quartz reports that Google managers are now so driven by metrics that if you do ask your boss for approval for a 20 per cent time project, chances are it won't be approved. When the perk was first introduced, it was essentially a right for all employees; the mere act of requiring approval makes it much less likely anyone will do it.

If, as a manager, you are being judged on the overall productivity of your team, your willingness to let them work on unrelated projects is likely to be fairly small. That has led to what Googlers now call '120% time' — a recognition that side projects can't be done in normal work hours.

The lesson for everyone else? Workplace perks are meaningless if you can't actually exercise them. When assessing job satisfaction, what you can potentially do doesn't matter — it's what actually happens that counts.

Google's "20% time," which brought you Gmail and AdSense, is now as good as dead [Quartz via Business Insider]


    Perhaps it just needs a change in the top-down policy to allow this.

    E.g. 20 percent time to be enforced by upper management and cannot be countered by middle-management.

    Sad news, but I can't say it's particularly surprising.

    Regarding the original article title... 20% time that brought you gmail is dead, isn't surprising. gmail's dead, too. Have you seen that abomination of a compose window? In marketerspeak "full screen" mode, I can see EXACTLY THREE LINES OF MY MESSAGE BODY when composing a message. They have a lot of nerve to refer to that as full screen, LOL. Useless. If I wasn't so into Microsoft not getting my email contents, I'd switch mailbox providers. As it is, I'm on the lookout for a new client solution. Sorry google, now I won't see any of your ads, because your UI has made my life too unpleasant.

    Also, I had a similar issue with perks at Microsoft. Sure, they'd pay thousands of dollars for education, and paid for an expensive gym membership, and gave you travel perqs. When you're working 70-100+ hours a week EVERY WEEK for 2 years straight, it's not like you're actually going to have any time to use those perqs.

    Oh, and you also had access to their machine shop if you were of the maker persuasion. I never had time to check it out. :-(

    It was a policy that was suited to a growing company, not a mature company (which Google now is).

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