'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.
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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.