Google’s “20% Time” That Brought Gmail and Adsense Is Effectively Dead

/ 3 years ago


According to a report by Quartz Google’s 20% time policy is effectively dead under current CEO Larry Page. 20% time was a policy that allowed Google employs to spend one day of the five day working week working on their own innovative side projects, now it is reported that this policy is effectively gone.

Apparently Google started clamping down by requiring manager approval of these 20% time side projects. Now upper management has started to enforce stricter productivity requirements on these managers forcing them to make Google employees “work at 100%”. Google employees responded to speculation that 20% time is gone by saying it isn’t but they now jokingly refer to it as 120% time because they have to meet their 100% work targets before being able to work on their 20% side projects. Additionally an employee commented that you actually need 40% time because after you’ve spent 20% time working on a side project you need another 20% time to sell it to your superiors and make it happen.

“Google’s [performance] management is basically an elaborate game where using 20% time is a losing move. In my time there, this has become markedly more the case. I have done many engineering/coding 20% projects and other non-engineering projects, with probably 20-40% producing “real” results (which over 7 years I think has been more than worth it for the company). But these projects are generally not rewarded. Part of the problem is that you actually need 40% time now at Google — 20% to do stuff, then 20% to tell everyone what you did (sell it)…Calling 20% time 120% time is fair. […] What 20% time really means is that you- as a Google eng- have access to, and can use, Google’s compute infrastructure to experiment and build new systems. The infrastructure, and the associated software tools, can be leveraged in 20% time to make an eng far more productive than they normally would be. Certainly I, and many other Googlers, are simply super-motivated and willing to use our free time to work on projects that use our infrstructure [sic] because we’re intrinsically interested in using these things to make new products.”

Image courtesy of Google

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